Create Once, Use Many: Content Management and Digital Publishing

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It might seem that the most likely industry to embrace content management would be publishing. For who better understands the need to capitalize on costly content? And what better way than to channel content into multiple outlets, allowing an initial expense to yield multiple revenue streams. So it would seem that traditional publishers have much to teach other types of organizations about the digital content mantra: Create once, use many.

But in reality, are traditional media companies deploying content management systems? For those that have, has content management helped them repurpose content and increase productivity? And for those that have opted not to invest in CM—a seemingly ready-made path to increased revenues—why not?

When asked about the concept of content management for the publishing industry, Marc Strohlein, VP and lead analyst for Outsell, Inc., answers with a brief history of the evolution of automated content management formats. The original digital output medium, says Strohlein, was the CD-ROM, followed by HTML for the Web, relational online databases, and, most recently, XML-based content.

With the advent of XML, it is possible to use metatags to deconstruct a document, retrieve portions of the document, and then output those portions into other documents or formats, such as a Web site or database. Without metatags, document pieces tend to lose context and become useless or require extensive manual labor to be reused, which clearly offsets the value of that reuse. XyEnterprise's VP of sales and marketing, Richard Pasewark, and John Parsons, the company's director of product marketing, reinforce the importance of the metatags. They point out that, when deconstructing a document, you must have control over the different portions of it, such as the graphics, text, captions, tables, charts, etc., to maintain context and value in subsequent usage.

Frank Gilbane, CEO of Bluebill Advisors and publisher of The Gilbane Report, feels that repurposing content has been a goal of publishers for a number of years and became increasingly focal in the late 1990s. He suggests that one of the biggest problems has been the publishing industry's reliance on storing documents in their native format, usually QuarkXpress (a design format), which has made it extremely difficult to convert that content into XML with metatags. As publishers migrate from QuarkXPress to Adobe InDesign (or other XML-supporting publishing products), this process should become less difficult. And even Quark has partnered with XML-conversion companies to facilitate the process of getting media files into this more adaptable (and manageable) format.

Leading Horses to Water
Some analysts and vendors in the content management sector feel that the publishing vertical has actually been slower than other industries to adopt the concept of a single repository for content. Rick Taylor of The ECM Report believes that storing information in a central repository enhances the collaborative process, but says it is still a challenge to get people to use a new CM system. Even if the knowledge base is built, the difficulty is in changing the way people work and getting employees to actually use these systems. Bob Tennant, CEO of Recommind Inc., says a highly automated system eases deployment and allows for simpler categorization and retrieval. But just because a system is supposed to be easier does not necessarily compel employees to use it.

PaperThin Inc.'s VP of marketing and operations, Jennifer Hanes, points out that it is essential that a company be aware of exactly what business problems it is trying to solve with a content management system before selecting or implementing one. Only then is the company in a position to determine whether the process can be (or should be) fully automated, or if some human input is still needed.

Gilbane believes that newspaper publishers initially thought employees would fully embrace the idea of a single repository for content, allowing for easy repurposing. "A lot of people tried it but with only minor success. An example of successful early pioneers is the cooperation between Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal. The Wall Street Journal, using its content management system, was able to easily repurpose its content for use by Dow Jones." Unfortunately, he says, many obstacles were not foreseen early in the process, including the lack of cooperation from unions and people's inherent resistance to change. In the end, many newspaper publishers went through a phase of actually having two distinct databases: one for creating print content and another for creating Web and other electronic content.

John Blossom, president and senior analyst at Shore Communications Inc., believes that certain segments of the publishing industry have been successful with redistributing and repurposing content, including the music industry, ebook publishers, and textbook publishers. Textbook publishers have long pulled segments from textbooks and repurposed them into study guides, teachers' editions, and more, and now they are finding online avenues for this content as well.

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