None of us could have predicted the rollercoaster (or coronacoaster) we were collectively about to embark on at the start of this year. Yet here we are and despite the challenges that undoubtedly still lie ahead, we look forward to 2021 with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.
As March approached it became obvious a transition from office-based working to working from home would soon be required. Given the nature of the web industry, this wasn’t an issue for us. Project management software, video conferencing technology and a Thursday morning team coffee catch-up on Google meet had us sorted! As we head further into the ‘new normal’ of 2021 and beyond, we are anticipating a mix of working from home and office working, when it is safe to do so.
Research & Development
At a time when many companies had furloughed staff, we resolutely determined to carry on. Life was crazy, times were tough and many organisations had placed potential projects on hold. It was at this time we glimpsed an opportunity. Where could we add the most value to the lives of publishers and digital editorial staff up and down the country? Was this an opportunity to try something new and tap into ever-growing trends? We decided it was and this year saw us devote more time than ever into digital R&D projects.
Our first goal was to launch our newly redesigned Standfirst website. Standfirst has a different visual brand design to the Interconnect site, whilst incorporating the same professional but friendly tone of voice. It was important to us to retain the character and essence of who we are. Linked to the Standfirst product site is the newly launched Standfirst Help site. We’ve placed useful ‘how-to’ guides for all three of our Standfirst products into the same online space. We understand that using new technology products you’re not familiar with can often be daunting, so we’ve created these useful guides to make things as easy as possible for users to understand.
Before the events of this year materialised, we anticipated attending a publishing conference or two and setting up a Standfirst/Interconnect booth. As it turns out, we still attended and hosted a booth, but it was virtual, not in person! The November PPA conference hosted fantastically interesting speakers, the chance to network across the publishing industry and the opportunity to showcase our products. All in all, a great day and experience.
Previously, Alexa Flash Briefings have been limited to larger publishers. Although recording a one or two-minute snippet is pretty straightforward, Amazon’s Alexa has some quality requirements in terms of audio levels, compression, and how the data feed is set up — all of which can be challenging or time-consuming from a production point of view. Our aim was to make it easier for smaller and mid-sized publishers to take advantage of the platform. Some key features we’re proud to demo are:
- Automatic processing of audio levels to match Alexa standards.
- Text to voice support if you can’t record audio every day.
- Video support capability for larger providers.
- Multimedia capability.
Improvements to Standfirst for Kindle
It was time for a facelift and greater flexibility for our clients in customising their issues. As standfirst for Kindle is it’s own app, rather than a plugin, you don’t require either a Standfirst or WordPress build to run it. A user can sign up and get going without support from us to set anything up — simple! Our improvements now allow you to manage, create and edit issues for multiple publications. As for the feed, it’s pulled in via publications and you can now manage the whole layout of the issue – create and reorganise sections, add articles, edit, delete, and move articles between sections — the control is in your hands.
The run-up to Christmas looks a little different for us this year. We realised that many of our clients will be working from home, so rather than sending Christmas cards to empty offices, we decided to send an email instead and make a donation to Mind. As for the team Christmas party — that’s probably not wise given the current circumstances. Rather we will take our celebrations online, both Secret Santa and a Christmas afternoon (complete with secret surprise) are going ahead. I suppose I better get the sherry ready in advance!
As always, thank you
To all our clients, thank you. You have been wonderful as always. We know this year has been challenging for everyone so we thank you for your custom. As we head into 2021, we plan to speak to as many of you as possible to see if we can help you with the challenges you face. That could be ways of improving your workflow, blocks to getting things done, or simply a wishlist of ideas you might have. We want our software to make life as easy as possible for you. Lastly, we will take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Here’s hoping for a better 2021 for us all.