How to Build a Systems Team for Your Publishing Business

Your systems team must always have one foot in the present and one in the future, understanding how all existing technologies span and intercept to create a content marketing system

Publishers have been making organizational changes to deal with the realities of the modern marketplace. Often these changes are made as a reaction to changing conditions and not necessarily as part of a plan that corresponds to transformations made throughout the organization. But getting ahead in publishing means being proactive in all areas of the company, including the organizational structure. And, although there really are no perfect teams, there are ways to think about your organization that can make it easier to define roles and achieve strategic goals.

Being a 21st-century publisher means being multiplatform, and that means significant technology challenges. Frankly, most publishers aren’t nearly knowledgeable enough to determine which technology solutions are best – much less how they can all work together.

When some magazines try to move into multiplatform publishing, they make the mistake of trying to manage everything in-house. Although this can seem like a cheaper solution, it often ends up costing hundreds of thousands to reinvent the wheel. Or, they hire too many service providers, and keeping track of multiple contractors is time-consuming … and costly, as well.


Your Chief Technology Officer (which also can be an outsourced firm) leads your systems team that builds and optimizes your content marketing system. This is a crucially important role to all of your revenue and audience development efforts. Done poorly, and without experience in developing profit-generating publishing systems, you’ll be spending more than you’re making and wondering why.

A CTO may sound like an expensive position to hire, but when you hire correctly, the results will deliver a ROI that is ten and hundredfold. A CTO needs to have the skills to rapidly adapt technologically to the rise of tablet usage, responsive website design and marketing automation.

An effective media company CTO understands how these technologies change the paradigm on which a publisher operates. CTOs must always have one foot in the present and one in the future, understanding how all existing technologies, from web to app to analytics to customer service to content marketing, span and intercept to create an integrated system.

If you’re new to Mequoda, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with Green Gardens Network (GGN), our composite case study, and CEO Rose Harper, the embodiment of all our clients whose “example” we use as a teaching tool without revealing real publishers’ names or data.

To visualize how this team might operate and expand to fit the business, let’s talk about GGN. At GGN, Rose will be working with her Chief Technology Officer who is well versed in niche publishing, and can design and maintain a system that is easy for Rose’s team to operate, and interfaces well with her overall business model. The CTO also oversees, and can call upon the resources from a technology team that includes user experience and software development teams.

As you’ve probably noticed, there are many moving parts to multiplatform publishing. You need an advanced content marketing system for publishers to manage these tasks and keep everything in working order. At Mequoda, we’ve customized our own Haven Nexus System, a customer experience management system with a central database that informs your marketing decisions and helps maximize the lifetime value of each subscriber.

No matter how you outsource your technology, it should be to a consultant or provider who acts as a general contractor, managing all the infrastructure, including those tech providers listed above, so you can focus on other tasks. As I like to say, “you don’t need seven architects to build a strong house.”

We’ve heard from several CEOs that almost 50 percent of their time goes into managing their digital publishing services.

They know it’s wrong; what they should be doing is managing their content, building relationships with sponsors, and focusing on marketing their products. Instead, they end up like Al Pacino in the Godfather: “Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.”

We think this role should be given to a CTO. This role can be outsourced, and often is to a team that will manage your content marketing system and all of its many plugins and parts.  If your magazine consultant comes with a technology team, even better (Mequoda does).

Let’s face it: The era of digital publishing has made things much more complicated. Magazines are in the process of adapting to an ever-growing web-based audience. As a magazine publisher, there’s no question that using digital platforms is the way of the future. But how are you going to make the transition successfully, while running a business?

Hiring the right CTO is a logical step. But as you can see, we can tell you that choosing the right one (and only one!) is an important decision. We expect a lot out of these executives, just like we expect a lot of ourselves when we play this role to our clients.

Outsourcing your CTO function to Mequoda gives you the benefit of all of the above, plus you’re working with a partner who is exclusive to your industry. This enables Mequoda to build a system that is easy to use and interfaces well with your product offerings and overall niche publishing business model.


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