Digital asset management is a process in which a secure central repository helps streamline the creation, management, organization and monetization of digital assets. As publishers pursue a multimedia approach, the distinction between “print” and “online” content grows blurrier—an element that’s used in the magazine one month may be perfect for the magazine the next.

But organizing that data so it’s immediately accessible by all approved users, and not scattered across proprietary servers for “edit,” “sales,” “marketing,” etc., requires a shift in workflow process that is a software (read: philosophical) issue, not something that can be solved simply with the latest DAM technology.

“There are two aspects to DAM: the technology and the business process,” says Matthew Bennett, director of strategic publishing operations at Hachette Book Group. “The business process is more challenging. Most of the technology is pretty turnkey and not much customization is required. The tough part is getting a workflow in place around the business. Where in the process does art need to start exposing their work to the rest of the world? When do we allow a manuscript to be released? Do your printers put the final assets into the system or do you do it yourself?”

Different Applications for DAM

Not all publishers leverage DAM in the same way. Vendor OpenText sees its clients using digital asset management in several ways, including:

Case 1: The client publishes a traditional print magazine but also sends that content into other media, including Web and syndication channels. The DAM acts as a vault for the intellectual property that helps editorial professionals streamline workflow. At publishers that haven’t streamlined their workflow, the online side often won’t know what the print side has used and vice versa. Ideally, you want to use that high rez photo only once and have all the tools to find and manipulate it as well as a rich set of metadata. “Our definition of business asset is an asset equals the essence or content plus the metadata, which is the descriptive material,” says Scott Bowen, president of OpenText’s Artesia Digital Media Group. “Until you have both of those, you don’t really have a business asset.”

Case 2: The publisher needs to retrieve pick-up ads. If the publication is weekly, sometimes the advertiser runs the same ad in multiple issues and may run it in other mags owned by the same publisher. Historically, the client had a pre-press shop that would help them but even though it was the same ad, the pre-press partner would charge the publisher to rip that ad. Today, many publishers have in-sourced that function and are using DAM to manage pre-ripped ads. As a result, they save money.

Case 3:
A publisher uses DAM to drive their syndication process and has capabilities around XML that can take magazine-specific standards to syndicated content. Over time, the publisher has seen stovepipe operations that pop up including one for print, one for CD and one for online.

Establishing a Process

Meredith Corp. produces about 41,000 pages of content and 200,000 images each year. While the publisher re-uses many of those assets, it didn’t have a reliable system to track its assets and approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of its content and photos “were left on the cutting room floor,” says chief technology officer Tina Steil.

In 2003, the publisher implemented a five-year plan to develop a “creative library.” Meredith allotted total capital investment of $3.7 million as well as a plan to break even in one year and see a positive return on the library within three years. Meredith ultimately tapped OpenText and its Artesia system as the DAM platform. “The library is an ever-evolving thing, just like the industry as we bring on new platforms and try to take the traditional publishing mindset into the new world,” says Steil.

And new content like video adds complexity to the asset management process because video is a composite asset, with pictures, audio and even rights issues around music featured in the videos. “Initially, it was more like situating cover assets and having them available for work in progress but over last few years focused on getting more upstream in that process and providing more best practices,” says Steil.

Hachette Books has used DAM provider North Plains since 2000 and has creating a final asset repository it calls “The Final Truth.” “That means we can take an asset and put it in a final repository so end users down the road can get to it easily,” says Bennett. “Previously, we had things on CDs, we had things on share drives and on local drives. Now we have everything in one place and it’s Web accessible. Now any user who needs a cover for a fax sheet can go in and grab it and they know it’s the latest approved cover image. The whole thing is so we have real control over what assets are available. If you don’t have that final repository and you have an element that’s under embargo, that’s not going to be visible to the general audience.”

The most successful implementations are the ones that are the most simple. “Never underestimate the change in the management business process element of this,” says Bennett. “DAM will turn your world upside down, whether it’s Day 1 or Day 3,000. There are so many different ways people can work with it that you really need to nail it down with standard operating procedures. If people don’t update metadata correctly, nobody else can get at the data. If you don’t have a properly controlled vocabulary, people don’t know what they’re looking for.”

Make sure management sees the big picture with DAM implementation. “Senior management is always looking at asset security and wondering is everything in the right place at the right time, can I recover if there’s a disaster, and thinking about whether they’re ready for the digital future,” says Bennett. “But when trying to convince these guys to do this stuff, the real questions are, how many phone calls a day do you get? How many phone calls can you reduce, how much time can you spend doing your real job rather than acting like a librarian? That’s when the process change comes in. How do you get people to do what they’re good at while allowing other people in the organization to do self-service.”


XML Standards for Metadata

Metadata is “data about data, which describes content and structure of records and their management through time,” allowing publishers to tag their content so both internal and external viewers can find it. Below, MarkLogic director of product marketing John Kriesa outlines XML standard that can aid the workflow.

PRISM: The publishing requirements for Industry Standard Metadata (PRISM) specification defines an XML metadata vocabulary for managing, aggregating, post-processing, multi-purposing and aggregating magazine, news, catalog, book and mainstream journal content.

NITF: NITF uses the extensible Markup language to define the content and structure of news articles. Because metadata is applied throughout the news content, NITF documents are far more searchable and useful than HTML pages.

NewsML: News exchange is a method of conveying not only the core news content but also data that describe the content in an abstract way (i.e. metadata), information about how to handle news in an appropriate way (i.e. news management metadata), information about the packaging of news information and, finally, information about the technical transfer itself.


Making the Case for XML Content Repositories

Building out e-media products, publishers turn to more efficient content management systems.

As traditional magazine publishers continue to build out their e-media products, many are looking to new, more efficient ways to manage their content and bridge the gap between separate production systems. One solution is XML content repositories, which convert a magazine’s content to a format that’s easily reproduced digitally and in print.

The latest publisher to adopt this technology is Reed Business Netherlands, a European sister of Reed Business Information. The company recently adopted a workflow-based application for internal search of digital assets from MarkLogic, an XML content platform developer.

Traditional workflow systems (separate print and Web) are “not efficient,” MarkLogic director of product marketing, John Kreisa, said during a recent Folio: Webinar about XML content repositories. “It hinders the sharing and cross-pollination of the content back to other processes. They can’t be moved efficiently back and forth.”

Another XML content management solutions provider is XyEnterprise. Its technology utilizes XML professional publishing software and ContentaView, a rich media delivery platform that the company says is better suited for developers that produce large volumes of technical documentation like manuals (RBI is a client).

According to Kreisa, with XML systems, “content rendering and repurposing can be made to multiple formats, print, online mobile syndication…all the formats that can all start from a central repository.”
In addition to text, XML platforms can manage images and video content, too, Kreisa says, although some publishers are storing those separately and link back to those items when needed.

What’s the ROI?

To manage its content, Blood-Horse Publications, a multimedia publishing company based in Lexington, Kentucky covering the thoroughbred racing industry, adopted the RSuite CMS by Really Strategies, which uses MarkLogic as the XML content repository.

“We chose RSuite CMS because we had a very tight time frame to convert our data feed architecture over to XML,” says Luther Andal, Blood-Horse’s director of technology. “Automated processes that consume, transform and distribute XML have allowed us to reduce staff over the last year while producing nearly the same amount of print products and many news online products and new features for our Web site.”

Costs depend on how much content a publisher has to manage and the varied service components, starting at about $100,000 and running up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Adopting XML overcomes a number of obstacles that have plagued the print industry,” says Andal. “It makes content more nimble which is vitally important.”