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Agile content models better address audience wants and needs

Kristen McLean on Bookigee and why agile is a better model.

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we’ll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


The agile model has been used by software developers to create apps that customers really want. Why not use the same approach when creating content? In this TOC podcast, Bookigee founder and CEO Kristen McLean (@ABCKristen) talks about how her company is using it to develop a new content discovery and exploration platform. Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • Think iteratively rather than linearly: The current content development process assumes we know exactly what the audience wants. With agile, you iteratively develop (and release) the content to your customers, further tailoring it to their needs each step along the way. [Discussed at the 2:47 mark.]
  • Agile allows for plenty of uncertainties: Agile methodologies assume that you don’t necessarily know who your audience is, or perhaps more importantly, that you don’t know what their true needs are. [Discussed at 6:05.]
  • Leading indicators trump lagging indicators: So many decisions in publishing are based on lagging indicators, such as sell-through data and comparable title performance. Agile lets you flip that around and work more with leading indicators rather than lagging ones. [Discussed at 13:40 and a bit further at 19:00.]
  • Agile may not work for every format: As McLean notes, some authors just need to go off to an island and write the entire book. That said, it’s probably viable for more genres than you think. [Discussed at 17:55.]
  • Large companies beware …: There’s a reason why startups are easily able to adopt agile methods and part of this has to do with the need for a flattened organization. [Discussed at 25:38.]
  • Agile transformation must come from the top down, not from the bottom up: A visionary leader who truly buys into the approach is required. [Discussed at 32:08.]
  • Quality is measured differently in early release stages: Publishers tend to focus on the final product that’s been copyedited and proofread, but minimum viable products are often rough around the edges. [Discussed at 33:08.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

TOC NY 2012 — O’Reilly’s TOC Conference, being held Feb 13-15, 2012 in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they’ve learned and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.

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  • http://www.pmhut.com PM Hut

    Hi Joe,

    That’s actually an excellent podcast. I also like the fact that you are stating under which circumstances Agile is not efficient (which rhymes with the Agile Limitations post I have published almost 3 years ago).

    Here’s how I see Agile:

    - It solves the problem of missing requirements
    – It can only work on small teams
    – A lot of flexibility must be give to the developers
    – It is only true and tested in software projects.