XML Workflow: The New Content Process Publishers Need

Arvinder Sharma June 25, 2019
As digital technology speeds forward, companies and publishers must keep pace with delivering content through multiple channels, in different formats, and to be consumed on a variety of different devices. XML is the leading digital publishing format used to display and store information online.  
Why XML?
XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a set of rules for encoding documents. It is used to tag and structure content in a portable and open format that prepares the information to be easily displayed and reused. XML can also be used to streamline data storage and sharing. XML offers many advantages for digitally sharing and storing data. XML content can be used and displayed across all kinds of media. XML content isn’t limited to display within a particular layout, so it can be available to read in many formats, such as eBook readers, smartphone apps, websites, news feeds, computer applications, and print media. It’s also compatible with programs that make it accessible for the visually impaired and people with other disabilities. XML is an economical way to share and publish information. XML organizes information into categories in a way that doesn’t require programming. Large XML files require less storage space for information than other formats. XML is easy to adapt to specific requirements, so it’s a very flexible and scalable format. XML content is easy to edit and repurpose. There are many collaborative tools for editing XML content that track changes and allow editors to work on documents simultaneously. Editors change content directly in XML files, which are then read by various platforms or devices, so there’s no need to edit or reformat the layout vehicle. XML also allows publishers to easily repurpose content for other products such as collections of articles or custom products.  
XML Workflows
Publishers can adopt any of three different types of XML publishing workflows, simply called XML-first, XML-middle, and XML-last. In an XML-first workflow, content is tagged and formatted in XML as it is written or in the manuscript stage. From that point on, all content is reviewed and edited in XML. XML-first is the most efficient workflow, but it can also be the hardest to implement. In an XML-middle workflow, content is tagged for XML after the editing process is complete. This approach can be a bit easier to execute. In an XML-last workflow, tagging is done after print files are complete. Publishers can use XML-middle or XML-last to build an XML content archive, and then move toward an XML-first approach for all their content.    
What is the Best XML Workflow?
XML-first or XML “early” is recognized as the best XML workflow approach for producing content that is easily reusable, streamlined for multiple channels, and compatible with all devices. In an XML-first workflow, tags are incorporated from the beginning, so a document is developed with XML in mind throughout the entire process. A typical XML-first workflow follows this path or similar: authoring in Word; manuscript converted to XML; online editing in XML; XML assembly or typesetting; proofreading in PDF, on paper, or in XML files; XML corrections; XML files published for print, eBooks, websites, apps, and so on. There are several advantages to utilizing the XML-first workflow in publishing. All deliverables are created and passed through the editing and production cycle as one XML file. Corrections at any point are done only in XML, simplifying content updates. Delivery to the market is efficient, and even offers a “publish ahead of print” option where content is published online before it’s available in print. Content produced via an XML-first workflow feels designed for online display, and easily adapts to any publishing format. In a 2017 survey conducted by Apex CoVantage, a sample of publishers were asked whether they were using an XML-first workflow. Of those that responded, 71% gave a positive response, with 44% of respondents replying that they were using XML-first, or migrating to it, and 27% replying that they were looking into adopting the XML-first workflow. Out of the group looking to moving to XML-first, 92% planned to implement new automations and workflow within 6 to 18 months. Among the publishers using or adopting XML-first were scholarly book and journal publishers, educational or textbook publishers, trade and university presses, and professional publishers. Smaller to mid-sized publishers had the greatest interest in or heaviest adoption of the XML-first workflow. The survey indicated a strong trend to implementing XML-first as the most efficient way to produce quality print or digital publications.    
Magic EdTech Provides the XML Workflows and Conversions Publishers Need
Publishers must adopt XML workflows to produce flexible, adaptable content that’s compatible with today’s continuously evolving digital channels and devices. In addition to implementing XML workflows for new content, publishers need to choose a process for XML conversion for older content that exists in other formats. Formats such as Indesign, Quark, Image, Text, Doc, Access, PDF, HTML, and Excel can be converted into XML. For publishers, outsourcing the XML conversion process is a recommended approach. XML conversion experts provide an efficient process, high-quality output (following compliance standard and best practices), and well-structured and highly reusable content files. Magic EdTech’s content engineering services are not only XML conversion experts, but also understand the need for stakeholders in the K-12 and higher education sector to develop XML workflows in order to create content ready to publish on and array of leading, worldwide education platforms. Magic EdTech provides XML production services that enable publishers and corporations to create new content via use of technology frameworks. In addition, Magic EdTech’s XML conversion services help transform and repurpose legacy content for distribution across many formats and for multichannel delivery. This is especially useful in the K-12 and higher education markets, where Magic EdTech engineers can transform unstructured content into structured XML content. Magic EdTech can then apply XSLT style-sheet to produce many content outputs from a single source.  

Arvinder Sharma

Arvinder is a solution architect with more than 15 years of experience in building/designing processes and develop solutions by using wide range of cutting edge technologies for end to end digital publishing.