Publishing In Africa

Making The Move To Multichannel

Africa, like many regions of the world, is seeing increasing demand for multichannel publishing solutions. Whilst access to digital content faces economic and infrastructural barriers, there are some publishing sectors – such as education and law – that still rely on printed materials, especially in areas lacking electricity, Internet access, and connected devices.

We spoke to the CEO of Automated Publishing Services (APS), Charles Parrington, to discover more about the publishing landscape in Africa and the role of technology in its future.

Publishing technology in Africa

Charles Parrington has been implementing technology for publishers in Africa since the late 1980s. In many ways, his story tells the story of publishing technology on the African continent.

Charles set up the first-ever Desktop Publishing (DTP) Bureau in 1987, and with the arrival of laser jet printing, he began helping print shops with print creation. By the 1990s, his then company became the exclusive supplier of 3B2 – an automated publishing engine – based on what we today call XML. At the time, it was the most powerful commercially-available DTP software used by one of the world’s largest publishers. By today’s standards, it was not a user-friendly publishing platform!

When the first content automation solution – now called Digital Asset Management (DAM) – arrived on the market, Charles’s company was the first to install an on-premise DAM system. In 1999, he attended a pre-launch of a new publishing product – Adobe InDesign, and went on to be the first person to sell, support, and train Adobe InDesign in South Africa. This product represented a marked shift towards design-orientated publishing tools.

Today, APS works with both African and international companies looking for solutions to assist in Content Automation. They’re market leaders in DAM solutions, print and digital publishing and workflows, catalog production, and most recently Content Orchestration.


The changing publishing landscape

Publishing today is still very much focused on content creation. What’s changed is our understanding of how people consume that content. Some of this transition is generational. Older generations still lean towards printed books, newspapers, and magazines, whilst younger generations consume content digitally. For that reason, publishers need the ability to deliver content through multiple channels at once, whether it’s web-based, e-pub, or print.

Recently, one of APS’s clients – a major multinational publishing house – moved from 100% print to just 4%. This echoes an almost universal global trend – the demand for print is diminishing. This is problematic for print publishers whose existing content is designed for a print-ready environment. What can help ease the transition is a strong publishing platform – a secure foundation for multichannel publishing operations.


At the same time, sectors such as education maintain a strong demand for print. That’s mainly because there isn’t the funding or infrastructure available to digitize schools – some locations are without electricity and the Internet. In the educational market, printed books are still highly important.

The future of publishing technology

In publishing, change takes time. That’s especially true of the African market, where legacy approaches to publishing are slowly being replaced by modern multichannel solutions. Publishers are realizing that they need to adapt or run the risk of losing market share. Doing nothing is not an option.

Right now, the focus on multichannel publishing – writing content once and using it everywhere – requires a robust and reliable publishing platform. With this in mind, APS is currently exploring the opportunity to implement PublishOne with organizations in Africa.

The African education sector needs content in local languages. Take South Africa, for example. ‘The Rainbow Nation’ has 11 official languages – including Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and Xitsonga. With a lack of standardized grammar and dictionaries, ensuring high-quality translations can be a challenge. But translations are also vital for extending educational reach into remote communities. The ability to centralize multi-language publications is one of the key benefits of implementing PublishOne.

Another key driver for making the move to multichannel is to bring all publishing operations into a single system. Large publishing houses are increasingly streamlining their tech stack, and various imprints by importing everything into one user-friendly platform. This move not only helps to standardize and streamline workflows, it also eliminates the need for manual copy and paste techniques, cutting out reworks and reverts and, as a result, minimizing human errors.

With all evolutions in technology, it’s remarkable that the underlying markup language and file format is still XML. An application of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) developed in the 1970s, XML has been a feature of digital publishing and the technology implemented by Charles Parrington since the late 1990s.

XML may be the dependable backbone of digital content publishing, but as anyone will tell you, it’s not an easy markup language. Training new users on how to work with it – adding metadata and tagging – is a challenge in itself. The beauty of PublishOne is that content creators and collaborators can work in platforms like Microsoft Word without having to get into the technical complexity of XML. PublishOne takes care of that for them.


PublishOne is a user-friendly, universal environment for multichannel publishing. To discover how it works, contact us