Section 2: Defining an institutional editorial framework
 1 Defining an institutional editorial framework
Higher and Further Education Institutions are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of developing their presence in this online multi-platform world. This section is intended to be of help to those who are becoming involved in thinking about editorial frameworks perhaps for the first time.
 1.1 Introduction
Today anyone can be a broadcaster. It is technically very simple to record, edit and upload an audio or video sequence onto YouTube or similar channel. The opportunities for vanity publishing are many in today’s online world. But a Higher Education institution thinking carefully about brand presence, will probably not want members of staff or other affiliates to put material up in its name without reference to a set of agreed production guidelines or selection process.
It seems unlikely that an HE institution will expect its audio visual output destined for online (multi-platform) use to have the same quality or production values as a national terrestrial broadcaster. But equally it is likely to want an editorial framework, and a mechanism for arriving at its decisions or what goes out where, and why.
Audio and video production is very seldom simply a purely technical exercise. An editorial framework helps the institution decide on what are acceptable technical, craft and production standards needed for different propositions in an online multi-platform environment.
 1.2 Why do you need an editorial framework?
An editorial framework will help you to maintain your institution’s brand and ethos in an online multi-platform environment. By keeping all podcasting within the framework guidelines you will be able to ensure that your institution is portrayed in a consistent and appropriate manner. It is important for you to consider the nature of the content you intend to deliver and to think carefully about the content delivery channel. As an institution you can establish a presence on a variety channels, however, it is not necessary to put your content on to all available channels.
Your editorial framework should:
- define your institutional objectives,
enabling you to
- match your chosen content to the most appropriate channel(s)/audience for delivery
which in turn will allow you to
- determine your production values.
This report suggests an approach for developing an online editorial position specifically for HE institutions. It is not intended to be prescriptive; it is simply a tool to aid deliberations on the intended purpose(s) of developing a multi-platform presence in an online world. It is a guide for those with an editorial responsibility for deciding what is or is not acceptable to put up as part of the public (brand compliant) face of the institution, who may not have much experience in the nitty gritty of production, or of online broadcasting.
In a document of this size and scope it is possible only to nod in the direction of blended media channels where audio or video constitute only a small part of the media on offer. Models of this type are still developing; a cursory look at the emerging propositions of former conventional print titles (both newspapers and specialist press) suggests the direction of travel in the development of these integrated propositions. The section broken into three sections:
- What type of online channels are available?
- Audio and video production requirements
- Brand and channel propositions
 1.3 What type of online channels are available?
The simplest classification system for online channels reflects whether, from the institution’s point of view, they are regulated or not – in other words whether there is any editorial control or decision making over what goes up.
 1.3.1 Unregulated (open)
An unrestricted environment open to all. These sites benefit from the fact that anyone can place content on the site and anyone can view it. It is relatively quick and easy to reach a very large audience. However, it is important to remember that anyone can also tag the material in any way they like, including by reference to a particular institution, possibly yours. Content may reflect well or ill on the institution. A sequence is as likely to be a random student party filmed on a camera phone through to (say) pans and zooms of the campus compiled on a wet Saturday afternoon. It may contain third party copyright material; the content may be a bit off colour, inaccurate, or tedious.
- The non-channel areas of a domain like YouTube (where the outstanding, the bizarre and the boring can sit alongside each other) should be regarded for institutional editorial purposes as unregulated.
- Externally facing departmental websites might also be unregulated.
- Allows anyone to produce and upload material
- As an institution you put your image at risk and lose control over quality and content
 1.3.2 Regulated
Regulation confers control. The level of control the institution decides to exert depends on the channel, and the purpose. Here is an extremely simple classification of online channels. It has four classes. As a classification scheme it is very easy to break – it is possible to force category errors across the classes with only a bit of thought. Content may well be placed in more than one channel for deliberate reasons. Once again it is offered as a pragmatic tool to aid consideration of an editorial framework. The four classes are:
 1.3.3 Regulated: closed
A channel that is not accessible to the public, and is not intended to be viewed by anyone other than current students, staff, and perhaps alumni of the institution. The purpose is likely to be restricted to teaching and perhaps the limited dissemination of research, and is likely to contain content that purely supports those activities. Here ‘content is king’, and the look and style of the material is secondary. Equally it may contain material which for rights reasons cannot be disseminated outside the institution.
- An institutional virtual learning environment.
Regulated: publicity Delivering news, features and PR to both internal and external audiences; perhaps replacing conventional print publications.
- Institutional website.
 1.3.4 Regulated: niche
A platform delivering content in a specific subject domain (e.g. Science, Arts and Humanities) or perhaps even refined to the level of a single discipline. They may also focus on vocational disciplines (for example teachers, health care professionals). From a reputational point of view arguably the most significant channel type available as specialist audiences are being targeted. The audiences may be peers in a community of practice, other professionals, grant awarding bodies in specific subject areas, and students or putative students.
- Institutional virtual learning environment.
 1.3.5 Regulated: premium
A channel which delivers access to very large audience figures, and is prominent in popular culture especially across the demographics and audiences that are being targeted. It may be associated with high brand values, or provide an opportunity for defining specific channel propositions which reflect an aspect of the organisation, community, and research and teaching interests of the institution.
- Named and developed channels within iTunes University and YouTube.
 1.4 Choice of channel
At institutional level the further down the list of channels the more likely editorial intervention: ‘Unregulated’ the least likely, and ‘Premium’ the most. In other words, the further down the list the greater the requirement for:
- A specific proposition published to all stakeholders
- Clear understanding of the target audience characteristics
- Editorial framework explicit in what is and is not allowed on the channel
- An explicit understanding of the different routes to product in terms of technical, craft and production requirements
- A mechanism for quality assurance at appropriate technical, craft and production terms
- Publication of production routes and QA mechanisms
- Controlled uploading to the site
- High levels of production resources
 1.5 Audio and video production requirements
The spectrum of production expertise runs from the work of a solitary individual using domestic or semi production equipment, through to large scale professionally managed and conceived initiatives delivering product to meet specific institutional and educational needs. For simplicity here that spectrum is classified into four classes, or competencies. These four competencies approximate to increasing levels of complexity in production. They are:
The products differ considerably in terms of their quality, and variability and therefore suitability for use under different circumstances. The following descriptions of the Competencies touch on the characteristics of the production process, and products.
 1.5.1 ‘Zero’ competency
Zero proficiency is taken to mean the work of an individual with no background or depth of experience in production, who more-or-less picked up a piece of kit, turned it on and made a recording – either audio or video. The controls and on-screen menu instructions on entry-level equipment is so intuitive that a novice can make it work, and obtain a technically useable recording with very little effort. The material may or may not be very interesting, or very well organised, depending on the amount of thought that has gone into the process.
- At best the content can be very good for use as a teaching aid, if supported by other contextualising or descriptive material. It is most likely to have been made by an academic in a unique field location or meeting in pursuit of their academic interest. In these circumstances the content is almost certain to take precedence over style or any other production conventions or grammar.
- At its worst, this material will look (or sound) like a shambles. It might be very long; could be very short. It might be instructive but equally could be poorly organised and too long. There is a genuine risk that the novelty of the process overwhelms the editorial capability of the person making and editing the recoding.
 1.5.2 ‘Technical’ competency
This assumes a level of technical competency that allows the use of recording and editing equipment in most if not all of the modes available in the equipment menus, and familiarity with the technical handling requirements of the kit. It generally applies to someone not trained in media production but who has familiarised themselves in the features of the equipment probably through a combination of tuition, use of the instruction manual or practice. They can obtain useable results from amateur or menu driven professional or semi-professional equipment.
 1.5.3 ‘Craft’ competency
The assumption is that usually, but not invariably, the responsibility for capture, editing manipulation or other transformations will be in the hands of one or more audio visual technical professionals. The need for a craft professional will be due to the complex nature of the project, in one or more of the aspects of technical production, for example an ability to competently capture material usually in diverse locations that then can be assembled in sequences following the received and accepted conventions of the genre that is being worked in, or high order technical skills in running a campus-based production multiplex.
 1.5.4 ‘Production’ competency
Production proficiency is needed for projects where consideration will have been given to the format or genre that is to be used, and that the capture and editing of the material is in accord with those decisions. These decisions will implicitly assume that the characteristics of the target audience will have been modelled in some detail, which in turn will influence narrative style, grammar, tone of voice, look and feel and the context within which the material will be used (and by extension the teaching and learning narrative that reaches across other media such as books, other text, interactive media, animations, etc.). The proficiency is also required to assure an appropriate responsiveness to any changing circumstances during production.
 1.6 Implications and characteristics of the product made at different competencies
It is possible to characterise the type of products that will be made under each of these competencies. However, it is not possible to be highly specific about the product quality, but there are trends that can be identified. Thus further down the scale (i.e. from ‘zero’ to ‘production’) the resulting products are likely to be:
- easier to quality control and assure
- more sustainable over a long period of time
- more clearly thought through
- easier to control editorially
- more scaleable
- more expensive to produce
- more likely to be health and safety regulation compliant.
Equally in workflow terms they are more likely to:
- deliver reliable product to agreed schedules
- have fewer rights or third party ownership issues
- require higher levels of capital investment to fulfil
- meet technical quality standards
- fit institutional brand requirements
and less likely to be
 1.7 Channel proposition and brand
As the marketing folk say, ‘a brand is not a logo, it’s a promise’. It is a statement of what a customer, student or partner can expect from the institution. Equally the Marketing folk would point out that the institutional brand or reputation is the one of the most valuable assets an HE institution holds.
The use of podcasting, or the provision of downloadable content online arguably offers a significant risk to institutional reputation, as that material reflects the values that the institution holds of itself. Consequently it needs a clear articulation of why it is planning to use, or is using a particular channel for delivering its message. At its simplest the proposition can be captured in the following questions:
- What is the channel and why is it being proposed?
- What are the intended target audiences in terms of their intended behaviours and actions?
- What volume of material will be produced for each channel?
- What proportion of material will be shared across channels, and why?
- What is the long term plan for the sustainable production of content for the channel proposition?
- Does that sustainable production model reflect the Institutional aspiration for the channel?
- Does the proposed level of production resourcing reflect the Institution’s aspiration for the channel?
- If the answers to either question 6 or 7 is ‘no’ will the level of resourcing or production model be changed?
- What are the risk factors for institutional reputation balanced against reward?
- How will you know that those target groups have been reached, and are behaving as anticipated?
- What would be the effect on the Institution of doing nothing in this particular channel?
Some of these questions are explored in the next section.