Rejected content never really dies

Even if you don’t read the New Yorker magazine, you know about the cartoons. Often doused with irony, sometimes so highbrow you’re embarrassed to admit you don’t get the joke, they constitute the intelligentsia’s funny pages. Picking and choosing the right cartoons sounds like a content management project and a half

A recent Associated Press story profiled the process by which New Yorker editors sift through the roughly 1,000 cartoons they get each week and identify about 30 keepers. The piece also noted the intention of a regular contributor to compile a book of the many cartoons that would otherwise languish in the reject pile. A similar vehicle has already been created for those who submit short articles that appear in the New Yorker’s front-of-the-book section, called Talk of the Town. A Web site, called Silenceofthecity.com, publishes many of the stories that didn’t make the cut but carry the same tone. Even the font styles look similar to the real magazine.

This is what technology, whether it’s as simple as paper or as complex as HTML, is allowing users to do with their content.

How long before some enterprising entrepreneurs take the next logical step and create an entire publication, album or other product based entirely what was left out of, excluded or discarded from another? Why shouldn’t Silenceofthecity.com and the editor of the rejected cartoon book get together, for instance, and start soliciting some of the New Yorker-style fiction and features that were sent back to their original creators? Instead of the New Yorker, we’d have the Not New Yorker, and whether it was produced purely as a Web publication or in print, it might not be a half-bad read.

Technology
poses a threat, though not an absolute risk, to editors, a title which in this case can apply to those in a variety of roles, many of which have nothing to do with the media. Wikipedia has shown us the challenges and occasional triumphs that come through an opportunity to edit or extend choice around what data to use in a given context.

Companies like to think they control the information about their organization, their employees and products, but Web 2.0 consistently proves them wrong. The smart ones embrace this fact, and try to form relationships with the users who are writing and posting their own online manuals to share troubleshooting tips with their colleagues, or blogging about a leaked memo and adding their own interpretation.

There’s not much IT departments can do to influence this trend either way, but here’s an exercise they could perform: Look back at all the projects, upgrades or overhauls that didn’t happen in your organization in 2006. Some may have been labelled as too costly, or as an unnecessary “nice-to-have.” Either on paper or in your head, sketch out what your enterprise would look like if someone else had taken those rejected strategies and pursued them. Now pick what kind of product you’d rather have produced, what kind of milestone you’d rather have achieved, and what kind of organization you’d rather be working for.

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