I was on the phone with a prospective client today, who shall remain nameless and unidentifiable. This could be any company, as they face the essential predicament of anyone trying to get the same content to go to both web and print effectively.
On the one hand, there is so much commonality and re-use of their content across the web and print media, it is absurd to have two entirely different workflows. On the other hand, the tools that lend themselves to a real multi-channel workflow, such as real XML content management, take extreme effort and time to implement and often have expensive associated software. Even after that effort, authors or content sources may not fit in with the required content process at all. Beyond that, moving content over from an unstructured to a structured format can be really difficult.
Inevitably, XML demonstrations make business users underestimate the challenge. “If you show us something, show us with our content!,” he said; evidently they were shown a rosy picture where perfectly marked up XML flowed easily out into web, print, braille, video, whatever. It is true; if you have rich semantic markup the publishing capabilities are amazing.
The challenge is getting that richly marked up content. It is hardly automatic. The extreme best case for authoring such content is the world of technical documentation, where the authors are typically really technical, and highly-evolved schemas/toolchains like DITA give them guidance on how to structure content. But at the other extreme, with writers who are non-technical, it is hard to get them to work with tools that are too constraining, or to get them to follow rigorous guidelines. No pain, no gain: without the rich markup, publishing becomes more of a channel-by-channel basis.
I believe over time things will get easier, with standards like DITA, greater support for XML authoring in tools, and better example workflows for organizations smaller than the Department of Defense. But the pace of such improvement is slow.