The trouble with publishing

Guest post from Rachel our Publishing Support Manager.

The ‘Code of Practice’ from the UK Statistics Authority states;

Issue statistical releases at the standard time of 9.30am on a weekday, to maintain consistency and to permit time for users to understand and respond to the information during normal working hours.

You might think that publishing web content at exactly 09.30 wouldn’t pose much of a challenge in this day and age, but alas it isn’t so. At least not with our current processes and technologies.

ONS publishes almost 750 statistical releases a year and the move from PDF to HTML publishing means that each release is now made up of dozens of individual components – charts, tables, datasets and commentary.  On our busiest releases days we can have up to 500 individual components all racing through the system to hit the website for 09.30.

On top of the sheer volume of content, we have the complication that a lot of the content we publish is market sensitive. Because of its sensitive nature it means we can’t release it from our internal systems until moments before 09.30, creating the smallest of publishing windows.

It’s something that we’ve been puzzling over for a while. Until now most of the focus has been on seeking technical solutions to improve how quickly we publish and to simplify our systems. But that’s just part of the story. Part of improving our efficiency and consistency with publishing will be to look at our business processes. We’re just about to start a study, comparing our processes with those of other organisations with similar publishing pressures and constraints.

So, is there anyone out there who’s struggling with the same issues? If so, we’d love to chat to you about your experiences. You can get in touch via idp@ons.gsi.gov.uk

3 comments on “The trouble with publishing”

  1. Assuming the information is ready at some point before the publish time, isn’t the issue less to do with how quickly you can publish and more simply making sure your system has the ability for future publication? You could upload all the information in advance, provide a date and time, and at that date and time the information would all appear simultaneously. This seems to be the way to get computers to work for you, rather than having to fight them. A simple blogging platform such as WordPress has had such ‘future publish’ posts for a long time, for example.

    1. Matthew – if only it was that simple 🙂 The security model we are working within means that we cannot pre-load the content for most of our releases. It is primarily these security constraints that make life ‘interesting’ as far as our publishing is concerned – if it was as easy as just making use of a standard CMS feature then I’m pretty sure we’d have cracked it by now.

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