Greengale Case Study 2016
Nearly every aspect of the publishing business has been revolutionized by digital technologies that offer greater connectivity and efficiency. Yet many magazine publishers use the same methods to plan and produce issues that they have for years, if not decades: Trafficking editorial pages by printing them out and sticking them on the wall or emailing PDFs from editor to designer to copy editor and back again.
If creating an issue of a magazine can be compared to putting together a puzzle, it’s an especially daunting task when the puzzle pieces are scattered all around and no one knows what the final picture will look like.
“No one really knows the status of the book because it’s all over the place depending on who’s looking at it and who is marking it up in a PDF or on a wall someplace,” says Charles Blanchard, President and CEO of Blanchard Systems.
From working with countless publishers and discussing their needs, Blanchard recognized that it’s time for publishers to take advantage of more intelligent tools for magazine planning and production—tools that enable them to see the full picture of an issue throughout its production, improve communication between stakeholders, streamline workflows, create efficiencies, and cut costs all within the Cloud available from anywhere in the world.
Blanchard Systems has been serving publishers for more than 20 years, notably with SendMyAd, the cloud-based Ad Portal solution for receiving and managing ad submissions. Many of Blanchard’s SendMyAd clients expressed the need to be able to process, preflight, and deliver editorial pages in the cloud, much as SendMyAd was already doing for ads.
What emerged was Virtual Publisher, a cloud-based planning and production solution that helps publishers of all sizes to produce their publications faster, leaner, and more effectively. Virtual Publisher streamlines planning and production through cloud-based collaboration and automation tools, serving as a single, integrated tool for planning, production, collaboration, approval, and delivery of a publication. As such, Virtual Publisher seamlessly connects editorial, advertising, production, and digital departments into a single, cohesive project management and production portal.
What follows is a case study on how GreenGale Publishing has modernized its publication planning and production, becoming more streamlined, efficient, and collaborative, and in so doing, saving time and money.
How It Works
- As a flat plan is created using an issue template, editorial and any booked ads can be placed right away. Ads submitted and approved in SendMyAd show up in the publication’s clipboard ready to be placed.
- As the plan is populated, team members are alerted to changes in the plan with automatic email notifications. They then can review, approve, or modify. Because Virtual Publisher is cloud-based, changes are made and viewable by everyone in real-time.
- Once planning is completed, the flat plan is promoted to production, and hi res editorial pages can be uploaded and pre-flighted to compliance with the publication’s specifications
- Final pages are ready for approval through Virtual Publisher’s approval system. Management can assign necessary tasks to team members
- Final Approved ad pages, editorial, and images are merged into final pages and delivered to printer or outputted to digital
Seeing the Whole Project: Improved Planning & Smoother Workflows
GreenGale Publishing (formerly known as Niche Media) is a preeminent regional lifestyle publishing company, producing publications such as Aspen Peak, Ocean Drive, Hamptons, Philadelphia Style and many more. The biggest benefit that GreenGale has reaped from Virtual Publisher has been the greater transparency and new ability to “see” all the components of an issue throughout the entire process, says Maria Blondeaux, COO of GreenGale Publishing.
Blondeaux says that before adopting Virtual Publisher, the company was in need of a tool that linked finance, production, and editorial processes, which had previously been very segmented. “When we were planning the book from an advertising standpoint, we had no idea what edit was doing,” says Blondeaux. “What Virtual Publisher allowed us to do was have the transparency across the organization so as the edit pages are coming together, the ad pages can be laid out to best compliment the edit and give our advertiser the best experience in the book.”
The greatly improved project visibility has been beneficial in several ways. GreenGale is able to visualize ad and editorial adjacencies throughout the production schedule, instead of at the very end. This helps ensure there are no conflicts between ad placements, for example, by putting competing restaurant ads next to each other. Virtual Publisher also helped GreenGale to properly balance editorial and advertiser interests. “We like to position our advertisers ads to give them maximum exposure, but there’s also that fine line where you don’t want to look like you’re writing editorial for an advertiser,” says Blondeaux.
As publishers know, this kind of sensitivity is important in maintaining and growing client relationships. However, many publishers also know that these types of conflicting adjacencies are often not revealed until the book is ready to go to production, causing last minute scramble to reshuffle ad and edit, wasting valuable time.
Keeping Workflow Flowing
Tara McCrillis, GreenGale Publishing’s Positioning & Planning Manager, is in charge of positioning all ads and planning the overall books by mapping the layout of edit and ads in Virtual Publisher. With the help of Virtual Publisher, McCrillis is able to anticipate conflicts, keep production flowing, and save time.
McCrillis works with the editorial teams to make sure all their stories are input into Virtual Publisher just as they want them laid out. She then works with the sales team to make sure all their ads get booked and show up in Virtual Publisher so they can be mapped accordingly.
McCrillis says that using Virtual Publishers has been a big improvement from how GreenGale used to plan the issues. “The most monumental change that it brought to our workflow is that it has images,” says McCrillis. Previously GreenGale mapped their issues in a text-based system using names of stories and names of advertisers. “We never really saw the creative next to each other.”
It wasn’t until the end of production when pages were uploaded to the printer that everyone could see the entire book. Waiting until the end of the process “was problematic on many levels,” says McCrillis. “By the time the book would get uploaded to the printer, it’s probably one day before we need to submit pages for print. Making changes at that point to the whole layout of the book caused a lot of double work for our production staff, and for the positioning staff to have to rework the book after they saw it all put together.
Now editorial uses Virtual Publisher to route their pages and from day one McCrillis can see images of the edit pages and images of the ad pages and map accordingly.
Collaboration, Communication, Cooperation
Blondeaux recalls that when she started with GreenGale, editors would fly out to GreenGale’s headquarters in New York to close every book, which was costly. With the help of Virtual Publisher, GreenGale was able to streamline workflow and improve collaboration across locations and departments. GreenGale has offices and editors in each of its markets, from Aspen to Austin to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York.
Blondeaux recalls that when she started with GreenGale, editors would fly out to GreenGale’s then-headquarters in Las Vegas to close every book, which was costly. More recently, editors were working off servers or transferring PDFs back and forth, which was still slow. “Virtual Publisher being a cloud-based system has allowed us to communicate all over the country where everybody is looking at the same thing and there’s no discrepancy or lag in time. Somebody in New York is looking at the same thing as someone in Los Angeles and they can work together.”
Virtual Publisher has improved communication and collaboration between GreenGale’s planning and sales departments. Because the SendMyAd ad booking software is linked with Virtual Publisher, once a contract is booked, it shows up almost immediately in McCrillis’ workflow in Virtual Publisher. The ads are placed on the map and visuals are sent out to the sales team so they can see where their ads are placed. The salespeople can also go into Virtual Publisher and check their ad placements.
“That has been huge for us because it has helped to virtually eliminate positioning make-goods,” says McCrillis. “When the salespeople take an active role in making sure their clients’ ads are placed in a place that works for them, it makes it a lot easier for everybody. They don’t have to wait for me to email them a map. It makes everyone more engaged in the process, which makes them care more about the process. And for me, it makes it easier.”
Before adopting Virtual Publisher, communication between planning and editorial was lacking at GreenGale, says McCrillis. Editorial planning was based off of text documents and the edit team wouldn’t always provide guidelines on how they wanted stories to be laid out—whether as a spread, opening on a right hand page or left, etc. The planning department would sometimes have to guess how editorial pages should map. “And when they finally got a map,” says McCrillis, “Which was probably halfway through the mapping process, they would see the map and there would be a lot of changes.”
This could obviously cause problems, upsetting advertising placements and interrupting workflow. “Now I can see if they’ve designed it as a spread from the beginning, which helps the map come together quickly without any changes,” says McCrillis.
And when changes still need to be made, they’re much easier if caught earlier, says McCrillis: “Our edit team has really taken an active role in letting me know in advance, ‘Oh, this story is about this client so you might want to move that ad.’ We never really had that cooperation before because they didn’t see what ads were next to their stories.”
Of course, all of this collaboration is buoyed by the fact that Virtual Publisher is a cloud-based technology. Anyone can log in from anywhere to see the project. This enables all stakeholders to work in a common, collaborative production environment, whether it’s a managing editor looking at editorial flow or production pre-flighting pages.
As planners plan the book, ads are positioned and editorial is flowed around it. At the same time, editorial can work on the stories. When they want to share the stories they’re working on they can upload into Virtual Publisher. “That allows them to interact and collaborate early on,” says Charles Blanchard. “And it allows people to create a clear editorial approval process for editorial content with email notifications based upon predetermined milestones set in Virtual Publisher.”
Instead of chaotic emails with PDFs marked up and attached, and thousands of phone calls, Virtual Publisher connects everyone in real-time. Everyone can see versions, change rounds, notes and tasks.
This is especially useful as more and more publishers are moving from strictly in-house or strictly outsourced solutions to a combination, says Blanchard. “Many publishers may have freelancers that aren’t in the office. Obviously Virtual Publisher brings them into the fold by connecting them virtually.”
“ When you save time, you save money. That means you don’t miss your print deadlines. People are vetting the pages and avoiding making costly mistakes. ”
Greater Efficiencies Save Time & Money
Ultimately Virtual Publisher enables its users to cut costs and save time by increasing efficiencies, automating or removing slow or redundant tasks, and decreasing time-consuming errors.
GreenGale has been able to save real costs by not having to fill vacated staff positions, says Blondeaux. “We used to have three dedicated traffic coordinators responsible for entering all the ads, entering all the contracts, collecting all the ads, and all the data entry associated with that. Now we have two. Our planning department used to have three dedicated people doing our positioning and planning. We’re down to just one and a half.”
Blondeaux says the ability to decrease staffing demands was in large part due to the streamlined workflow created by Virtual Publisher, allowing them to do more with less.
Also due to streamlining workflow and having greater transparency, Blondeaux was able to do an editorial workflow audit and eliminate inefficiencies. As a result of the audit, Blondeaux found pages were being pre-flighted twice. “We had a workflow process where a page was being finalized by our art director and then it would go to our imaging team. They would review and preflight it, make the PDF, and then upload the PDF back to Virtual Publisher. The art director and managing editor would approve it. But what we discovered was that when our team downloaded that PDF, we were still pre-flighting and looking at it again, which was a waste of time.”
By having a big picture view of all the touch-points of a page, Blondeaux restructured the process so when a page was ready to ship, it was being pre-flighted only before approval and not again at the end of the process.
Charles Blanchard says that all the intangibles of greater efficiencies add up. “When you save time, you save money. That means you don’t miss your print deadlines. People are vetting the pages and avoiding making costly mistakes.”
“This means you can sell ads longer,” says Blanchard. “Any time you can compress the time it takes to produce the book you have more time to sell ads, because your materials deadlines can come closer to your delivery date to the printer. Your process is more efficient, allowing you to wait to the last minute and send.”
Managing Costs with Improved Budgeting & Reporting
Blondeaux says that GreenGale has taken Virtual Publisher to the next level by integrating accounting functions. Editorial stories are connected with their costs in Virtual Publisher so costs of putting together the editorial can be accurately captured, which aids future planning.
For GreenGale, editorial cost tracking used to live in an Excel document on a server, which was separate from the ad and editorial mapping system. Now it’s fully integrated, says McCrillis. “The edit team will go in and put in their run lists, they update their costs, and you can look at that at any point in the process and see where a story is, what round it’s in. It helps us manage our workflow as well as our costs.”
Virtual Publisher has saved GreenGale a tremendous amount of time with reporting. McCrillis used to pull reports from many different systems and have to merge them into one Excel document tracking edit and ad page costs. Now, because Virtual Publisher feeds in information from GreenGale’s ad-booking software and has built in reports, it’s eliminated an entire workflow for McCrillis. “I can just pull a report and it has all the information I would need, versus having to gather it from several different sources and compile it into an Excel spreadsheet.”
About Blanchard Systems
The business of publishing has changed beyond all recognition in just a few short years. No one really knows how the industry will evolve in the future, but what’s certain is that partnering with an experienced, reputable application provider for unbiased advice and insight is going to become an increasingly essential strategic component.
For over 20 years, Blanchard Systems has been partnering with publishers, ad agencies, premedia and printing companies to deliver a range of products and services to help increase productivity, lower costs and increase profits. As your production technology partner, you can be assured of the best possible quality of service and support.
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