As a graduate student approaching the job market I heard a few stories about people who initially got jobs at less than ideal institutions and then published their way into better opportunities. When I was on the job market this was even one of the reasons that I was advised to turn down a job with a 4-4 teaching load. The implication is that candidates who receive jobs that they like only have to publish enough to satisfy the tenure expectations of their institutions while those who receive jobs that they don’t like need to publish more in order to make themselves attractive to potential future employers.
Given the current uncertainty in higher education (which you can read about here and hear about on your nightly news when state budgets are proposed) I think that the first of those statements is wrong. Rather than being able to lower their publication standards to match the expectations of their institution, I think that faculty members at all institutions are facing a situation in which a strong publication record is a life vest. While you may hope that you never have to use it, this life vest will be crucial if you should find yourself needing to abandon ship in these uncharted academic waters. As those who are on the job market know, there aren’t enough life boats for everybody so your publication record may mean the difference between academic life and death.