How are digital products developed within a publishing company? How are they produced and what does the continued onset of digital mean for publishing companies and strategies? What are the challenges currently being faced in the digital publishing arena? In order to tackle some of these questions and share our insight, we interviewed Holly Ahern, Head of Global Digital Production here at SAGE, to reflect on the importance of the digital department as publishing continues to adapt to best suit customer needs. So without further ado:
Hi Holly, thanks for joining us. To kick off, what does your role entail?
I am responsible for overseeing the production of a diverse portfolio of our online library products. My department produces collections of content from datasets through to video. I head a department of 11 people working across our text-based and video products based in London, Thousand Oaks, and Washington, D.C.
I’m responsible for ensuring we produce high-quality digital products that serve the market need and meet an ambitious launch and top-up schedule. This requires an innovative approach to production workflows as we support cutting-edge products with a range of new and evolving requirements.
How is SAGE a digital publishing company?
SAGE has truly embraced the need for digital products and workflows. We have a long history of enhancing our production processes to ensure that iteration by iteration we keep pace with the digital publishing landscape.
With ambitious schedules for our digital products we have to think on our feet to find fast, efficient solutions to new and unpredictable problems. Production is a department used to dealing with consistency and certainty; in the digital realm, the focus is on agility and innovation and I think we’ve done a great job embracing that.
What are some of the looming challenges in the digital publishing arena?
The pace of change can be a challenge, knowing which area of digital publishing is likely to take off and how much infrastructure to build around that is very difficult. In 2012, for example, “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, received a huge amount of hype; three years on and they haven’t been the game-changer many predicted. Digital publishing is an arena of experimentation and innovation, and while that’s hugely motivating it’s also challenging to do in an efficient way.
What drew you to work at SAGE? Why do you stay?
I joined SAGE 13 years ago as a production editor working on our scientific, technical, and medical journals. Through my university studies I was aware of SAGE’s reputation as a publisher of visionary and valued content, and I leapt at the chance to join the team.
One of the reasons I have stayed at SAGE is the people. It’s a privilege to work with so many people who passionately value scholarship’s contribution to society. The pace of change within the organization has also been a key factor; SAGE offers rich career opportunities, and I have been able to develop my skills and expertise beyond the role I originally started in.
What’s the most interesting feedback you’ve gotten from one of your clients?
SAGE is proactive in seeking feedback from our publishing partners, and it’s been fantastic to see the results of our author, editor, and society surveys showing how highly our production service is valued. Video production is a new area for SAGE this year, and I have been delighted to receive so much positive feedback from the academics we have worked with on how much they have enjoyed our collaboration during the filming sessions.
Who would you most like to share a pint and pie with, living or dead?
Yuri Gagarin, the first man to go into space. I find his courage, dedication, and spirit of adventure inspiring, and I’d love to hear how it felt to be the first person to journey into the unknown.
What interests you outside of work?
To keep active I enjoy hiking and running after my 2-year-old daughter. I’m an avid reader of contemporary fiction, and I love to cook.