This month we’ve spoken to a number of large college daily newspapers that are using K-4 – a ‘cross-media publishing platform‘ that manages their assignment-editing workflow. To one extent or another, these dailies are evaluating whether a solution like Camayak (annual cost: $2-6,000) can replace or work alongside K-4 (annual cost: $10,000+) – a system they’ve used for years and feel comfortable assembling their newspaper with. To address their questions and share our thoughts with the rest of the print-publishing world, here’s a broad overview of how each product helps its customers make sense of some of the logistics that go into producing content for multiple platforms.
K-4 is supplied by Managing Editor Inc – a company with over 2,400 publication-customers in 53 countries, which include The Atlantic, Miami Herald and Rolling Stone. It’s unclear how many of their clients use K-4, compared to other offerings.
Camayak (etymological origin: CMYK) is a privately-held software-as-a-service company that launched its cloud-based editorial workflow service for college newspapers in June 2012. Over 3,500 people have been invited to work for organizations that use Camayak and over the Summer of 2013, we will be introducing a number of new features to attract publishers and businesses outside of college and high-school media.
Basic product comparison
Put simply, Camayak and K-4 are analogous content production products at different stages of maturity. K-4 was one of the products we paid close attention to when building Camayak, since the workflow priorities shared by K-4 users were akin to the kinds of problems we felt other smaller and digital-only publishers were also experiencing, without similar means to tackle them head-on. As such, Camayak is built with other rapid-communication tools in mind, such as Basecamp, Yammer and even Facebook – which have all contributed to the evolution of its live-update dashboard:
The two products bill themselves as ‘multi-platform’ content production hubs and share a number of useful features. For example, both systems allow:
- Different sections/groups (or ‘desks’ in Camayak-terminology)
- Different workflows
- All-in-one revisions (edit one doc and track/revert to previous versions)
- Copy/paste text into InDesign and have it formatted according to rules/styles
- Producing content for both web and print platforms
- Media asset-handling
- Integration with CMS
The biggest conceptual difference between the two products is in how Camayak and K-4 expect content to reach InDesign templates: while K-4 is geared towards ‘edit while you design the page’ workflows, Camayak is optimized to let teams publish directly online, before taking approved content and laying it out in InDesign templates, where cosmetic tweaking can take place to ensure the content fits in the pages appropriately. Critically, Camayak doesn’t incubate the in-page content editing, because it comes at a price and level of complexity that makes it inaccessible to smaller publishers and extremely difficult to scale beyond the few newsroom staff who have been trained how to use it.
A good way to summarize the different Camayak vs. K-4 world-views, is that we (Camayak) believe that the essential tools for running a multi-platform newsroom shouldn’t come with costs that define how a newsroom operates. In other words, if you’re paying $10,000+/year for K-4, your production process is going to remain print-focused, as basing content production around a print layout is arguably K-4′s biggest strength.
For reference, our favorite editorial tools for a scaleable, multi-platform newsroom are:
- A cloud-based workflow tool (e.g. Camayak)
- InCopy (optional)
- WordPress (or equivalent, low-cost CMS)
Here’s an example of what this means in real-world terms, when an editor uses Camayak to produce their content.
John is a sports editor for his college newspaper. He has 10 people who write blog posts for him and 4 who are particularly good at taking photos. When John comes to edit their work (with the help of a copy-specialist colleague), if he’s preparing to publish it on the web, he doesn’t care how many characters or column inches each post has, as long as they’re roughly no more than 500 words each.
When John’s finished editing the work and placing the photos from his 4 photographers with each post (a process Camayak is optimized to speed up and make more scaleable so John can work with far more contributors in the same time it takes him to produce the assignments without using Camayak), he posts them online. Then, John cherry picks the best 7 articles and alerts one of his layout colleagues that they ought to make it into tomorrow’s print edition. At that point, there may be some headlines to tweak for the print edition, but whatever John’s layout colleague receives should be at least 95% fact-checked, media-supplied, copy-edited, reviewed and signed-off on. If there are cosmetic changes that need to happen to the content to fit things in the page, that’s okay, but John’s layout colleague ought to have enough at their disposal to put InDesign to work: tweaking templates that will accommodate the content that’s available.
Rather than asking the editorial team to pivot around a constantly-updating InDesign page, using a combination of K-4, InDesign and InCopy, Camayak puts the emphasis on developing content-first (with less pre-meditation of space restrictions, etc.), at a faster pace and at greater volume, by removing bottlenecks that make collaboration difficult to scale. The downside? That InDesign layout staff may have to make more, smaller tweaks to content that appears in their templates (which we would also recommend become more varied/flexible) and editorial teams need to sign content off twice: once for accuracy, copy edits, fact-checking and style (in Camayak) and again to make sure that any last-minute tweaks in the template don’t corrupt the approval they’ve given each assignment that appears in it.
If this sounds objectionable on the grounds that fixed InDesign templates require content to be fitted repetitively for every issue – which editing in K-4 facilitates – we would suggest two things: InCopy offers the same functionality at a fraction of the price and more importantly, if your content dictates that amendments need to be made to your InDesign templates, you may finally be getting the most out of your InDesign costs, by having your layout team respond to such challenges, rather than simply filling in the blanks.
Digital-first: what does that actually mean?
Neither Camayak nor K-4 insist on prioritizing one medium over another, but it’s fair to say that K-4 is optimized for a production process that pre-dated the benefits of being able to publish on the web first, before following-up, expanding-on, and/or cherry picking for print publishing.
Print advertising still dominates the revenue for most publishers that use K-4, which explains why the software (and its equivalents) plays such a pivotal role, still, in their production process. Camayak, meanwhile, is designed to appeal to both business managers who want to grow online revenue, and editorial teams who want to speed-up production, work with more people and pipe their content to a variety of platforms, without jeopardizing the status of their print product. By reducing the cost of production software (Camayak is considerably cheaper than K-4) and asking more of other tools like InDesign, we believe that content production doesn’t have to be wedded to a particular medium and that by re-structuring the newsroom legacy habits can be upgraded to account for new demands outside of the print product.
Dynamism is key
We at Camayak believe that focusing on the “funnel” – the number of people you can involve in content production, the scalability of your editorial efforts and the remote access of all your collaboration tools, is an essential part of designing a newsroom to tackle future challenges. This shift in emphasis, away from ‘destinations’ and onto ‘process’, is sometimes cast as a print vs. digital face-off, which is an over-simplification of the issues at hand.
Earlier this year, College Media Innovation’s Bryan Murley blogged that a reduced focus on print-products within student media could finally be deemed something of a ‘trend’. John Paton, CEO of Digital First- the company set-up to transform one of the US’ largest community news publishers announced in September last year that the Journal Register Company would file for bankruptcy, citing that ‘it can now no longer afford the legacy obligations incurred in the past’ – much of which had already been downsized in reducing their number of printing facilities by 70%. Accommodating their print products was an expensive but affordable decision, backed-up by advertising income (most of it print-driven) that in 2005 ‘were about two times bigger than projected 2012 revenues’.
As an editor at a top-ten trafficked US news site told us last month: ‘we need more content and we need more options to produce that content without adding more work for our existing editors: they’re already far too stretched to think about scaling the existing, problematic workflows we already have’. When evaluating products like K-4 and Camayak, therefore, consider how much of your license fee will be going to product innovation and how much to consolidating/supporting a legacy process that may no longer offer the low-cost flexibility that every publisher deserves.