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Indian publishers aim to improve workflows between operations

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Indian publishers aim to improve workflows between operations

Caption: From left, Shanth Kumar, Sandeep Gupta, Sharad Saxena, Shriram Pawar and Mukund Padmanabhan at the 26th WAN-IFRA India 2018 Conference in Hyderabad.

Bridging the gap between editorial, technical and business functions of a news organization, for surviving in the media business, is debatable and comes with its share of 'for' and 'against' arguments. 

During the WAN-IFRA India 2018 Conference in Hyderabad, publishers and editors came together to discuss the implications of a divide between the various working links -- editorial, technical and business functions -- in a news publishing company’s workflow.

A panel, moderated by Shanth Kumar (Director, The Printers (Mysore) Pvt Ltd), comprising Mukund Padmanabhan (Editor, The Hindu), Shriram Pawar (Editor - Director, Sakal Media Group), Sandeep Gupta (Executive President, Dainik Jagran) and HT Media's Saxena, discussed the fundamental issue plaguing news organisations – delivering the newspaper to readers on time.

“Every link in the organisational chain needs to take ownership. We started measuring our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at HT Media to fathom the time spent between releasing the last editorial page and starting print,” said Sharad Saxena, Executive Director of Operations, at India's HT Media.

Indians enjoy sipping their morning teas with newspapers and thus expect timely delivery. However, across the Indian print market, expeditious delivery takes place only 20 percent of the time, said Kumar. Does the answer, then, lie in smoother collaboration between the different pillars of the organisation?

“If you’re able to save 10-12 minutes of production time at a large capacity plant, it adds to the objective of having a timely product. At one point, HT was clocking 28-29 minutes, and we worked to bring it down to 7-8 minutes,” Saxena added.

Delays in newspaper delivery can be attributed to late -night news breaks and holding printing to accommodate advertisements, as revenue is hard to come by. One needs to strike a balance between exigencies and on-time production.

Bridging the gap imperative

The objective of a news publishing house is to get the latest news to the readers, and marrying that process with business functions is key, Padmanabhan said. Business, technical and production functions need to work around editorial.

“Planning and processes should revolve around being able to procure every story. We need to see if there are enough presses and circulation vans to get papers to readers. If the backend is right, missing a story or keeping the advertising window open beyond hours would not arise,” -- Mukund Padmanabhan, The Hindu

Gupta suggested the key to smooth production and editorial functioning is backward integration. “Margins need be incorporated in our schedules to accommodate any delays to ensure timely delivery.”

Regular interaction on circulation and product promotion between departments – sales, marketing, production, editorial and business - is desirable to efficiently shape the product, taking feedback from market trends.

While inter-departmental smooth-sailing is imperative, Padmanabhan is uncertain if bridging the gap is necessarily the right way to go about it. Bridging the gap does not mean completely closing it down. “Different teams have different priorities, and there needs to be a mutual respect for the same,” he said. “If the editorial and business priorities are the same, the resultant product would be a piece of puff, not a newspaper.”

Creative tensions are inevitable in a healthy news organisation. It is important to engage in healthy dialogue and work towards a common goal, best suited to the brand.”  

Working in tandem

A brand can have a great product, but it is in vain if it never reaches the consumer on time. A company needs to be certain of the larger goal – timely delivery, profitability, quality of the product.

“It is important for every link in the chain to know what the goal and align to it,” says Saxena.

While profitability might be one of the biggest goals of a news company, it is not the sole goal. Departments can’t work in isolation, in silos. They must work in tandem; interdependence and independence are both important.

It is crucial for an organisation to research, understand the market, and invest time and money accordingly.

“People say Indian newspapers are not aware of their readers in a granular and detailed way. There need to be regular in-house surveys to understand reader preference,” said Padmanabhan. “Are we going to be led by analytics alone? A story might be gaining huge traction because it’s titillating or salacious. It’s important for the company to take a call on what it stands for, as a newspaper.”

Shriram Pawar, editor-director, Sakal, echoes Saxena's sentiment, "Our business is to provide readers with the latest news at the earliest, but sometimes we face challenges with news and advertisements. With better coordination between production, editorial and business teams we can smoothen the process of timely newspaper delivery."

Re-visiting vision

News publishers need to adapt to how news consumption has shifted in recent years or risk dire consequences.

“Consumption patterns are changing in a big way and if we decide to not adapt significantly, the storm is going to hit us. We must have our short-term goals ready. We must re-visit our vision and tweak it according to the changing market habits," -- Sharad Saxena, HT Media 

Traditional media companies have run successfully for years believing their operating methods are the best. "They now need to decipher their employees’ internal motivation and see if they are aligned with their goals," he signs off.


Neha Gupta's picture

Neha Gupta


2018-11-02 16:18

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