Friday, March 07, 2008

Are Web Publishers Obsolete?

As it is the Friday before March break and with yet another winter onslaught hitting Toronto, my office was deserted today. Naturally, as one of the few souls remaining, I passed some time chatting with co-workers.

My cubicle-mate, mentioned that he had perfected a Dreamweaver template that now made it incredibly easy for almost anyone to publish online. I have only dabbled with Dreamweaver templates, but I do love how they have editable and uneditable regions, so that those using templates can't accidentally bring down an entire site by changing one simple line of code. I also like, as I saw from my colleague's template, how Dreamweaver can make it easy to add or subtract designated editable regions.

Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG features already made most web formatting quite easy and combined with a good template, web publishing can indeed be very easy now.

This led me to question whether or not there is a role in large to medium sized organizations for dedicated web publishers?

I define a web publisher as a specialist who takes pre-authored content, formats and adjusts it for the medium, and posts it online. Can content authors using Dreamweaver templates now post directly to the web without the need for a web publisher's intervention? Or can web publisher's now act merely as tester/reviewer?

I do think training content creators to use Dreamweaver’s publishing tools would be easily achievable, that is assuming they have the desire and time to do so.

I don’t believe that online formatting is the stumbling block for online publishing. From my experience, the problem still is writing material that is appropriate for online media. While it seems like every journalist and corporate communicator has now taken a course on web-friendly writing, I still find that many people don’t really get it, or their print bias is too-deeply ingrained, or they just don’t have the time or inclination to really understand online publishing. Making website text effective and appropriate is not just doing the maxims sold as simple solutions, that is write shorter, chunk up you copy, use bullets, don't go more than one screen.

While some of these points are true, there are times when doing the opposite is better. And there are other ways that web publishers can help format, organize, and rewrite copy if necessary, to make it more effective and medium appropriate. These take time to learn and it is here that I think web publishers will continue to offer value to organizations.

So to answer my own question, I’d say that updates to existing online material or simple changes can be done with minimal, possibly no involvement from a web publisher. But new material or substantial changes, call in your pro.

No comments: