Cross Media Publishing: Obey the Content Master

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The Role of XML
XML is an ideal technology for supporting cross-media publishing by capturing editorial intent while deferring pro- duction decisions. XML allows you to specify the form of content without specifying how it is rendered to an output medium. Editors can create content in XML and specify structural elements, like articles, paragraphs, headlines, photo captions, charts, and so on. Then production can render each of those elements for the appropriate output media through various processes. Some of these can be automatic, such as sending a version of the XML file to a syndication service like iSyndicate, which will send the content to other Web sites; or they can be manual, such as copyfitting to a Quark layout or creating an abridged version for a wireless device. The XML stylesheet technology, XSL, can support the automatable processes but not the ones that require manual intervention.

Available Tools
A few systems will facilitate the create once, produce many model, including Documentum 4i and Chrystal Software's Astoria. Both of these systems can output XML to other programs that generate Web pages, ranging from simple XML-to-HTML filters to template-driven, Web publishing systems like Allaire ColdFusion and Interwoven TeamSite. But they haven't been designed to feed print layout tools like QuarkXPress. Such integration would be possible through custom development.

Another promising content management system is OpenPages' ContentWare. ContentWare is not a true XML content management solution, but it was designed to feed output to QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign, as well as to Web page templates and other output formats. Various magazines and newspapers use it to drive Web and print productions simultaneously. But it's worth emphasizing that those processes still include a fair amount of manual labor with Quark or Adobe to generate finished print layouts. It will probably never be possible to fully automate the kind of creative, precise layouts that are found in most consumer magazines.

No matter which tool you use, you should be prepared to radically change your production process as you move to create once, produce many. Furthermore, these tools are complex—they are nowhere near as easy to deploy as a standalone application like QuarkXPress. You'll need to engage a qualified system integrator to help define your new process and make the pieces fit together. But the tools will improve over the next couple of years. The results will be exciting for publishers with strong content brands, giving them competitive advantage

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