Monday, July 11, 2011

Automating Editorial with Kapost

An Online System for Content Production
I recently read an article in Folio about automating the editorial workflow with a service called Kapost. Kapost claims to "handle the entire content production process: from pitch to payment and everything in between. Enable your editorial team to focus on audience and content, not administrative tasks." This intrigued me. Having worked as a magazine editor, and now as a freelance editor and writer, I was curious how such a system would work.

Addressing a Complex Editorial Process
Basically, the whole production workflow occurs online; writers pitch and submit stories online while editors assign and publish. It appears like a simple linear process. But, as we all know, the editorial process is rarely simple or linear. I'm not sure that Kapost accounts for the many occasions where a story is submitted late, changes direction or is hung up in editing; it doesn't seem to show what draft a story might be at or who is doing the editing. This is often where I find that things get bumpy.

The Kapost system also gives an overview of what stories have been pitched and assigned along with payment information. This might work if you get a significant number of strong pitches from which your content is derived, but most editors I know only use a small percentage of ideas that are pitched to them. More often, the story ideas are generated internally or the stories are variations of pitched ideas. I didn't see where such an exchange would occur with Kapost. It seems an editor would still have to get in touch with the writer to rework an idea before assigning, plus you'd then have to go into Kapost to update what's there, which would actually add an administrative task instead of reducing them.

Editorial is Creative in Nature
The idea of automating editorial is a nice one, but the very nature of editorial is creative, which means that it rarely lends itself to a streamlined process. There are always hiccups to address, which is what many editors find themselves attending to as much as to the hands-on duties of assigning and editing.

I'm thinking that a publisher who is trying to tighten purse strings is unlikely to spend money on a workflow service that can be accomplished with an excel spreadsheet and an editorial team that communicates well (a skill most good editors possess).

The Final Verdict on Kapost
So, I'm unconvinced that Kapost could really automate workflow effectively, but such a service could spur staffers to review their processes and see how things can be improved. That is never a bad thing.

--- Colleen Seto
AMPA Blogger-in-Residence