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Revisiting the Content Manager

April 1999
Two years ago, Printing Impressions explored the digital asset management and repurposing services of Color Associates. At that time, its top management reported that selling data services and exploring new ways of distributing client information was the future for prepress providers. Were they right? You bet your assets!


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


The year is 1997. At Color Associates—a St. Louis-based digital prepress, creative imaging services and display graphics provider—the focus is clear: The time has come to sell, market and fully exploit digital content management and the expanding role of digital communications.

The Internet, they reasoned, would play a major role in Color Associates' maturation from digital prepress provider to true digital content manager. Offerings would branch out into Internet-related services, electronic publishing, CD-ROM and other multimedia repurposing and related avenues for growth.

"We're selling data services; we're distributing information for our customers," stated Chairman and CEO Bill Lamberg, circa 1997. "Our strategy is to sell complete data management and offer a wide array of communications, graphics and digital solutions to our clients."

Fast forward to April 1999. The same man, with the same corporate mission, has teamed with a group of top management professionals, including his Color Associates partner, Gary Stephens, president and COO. And, that same man is still convinced his firm is on the right course.

Color Associates now has two solid years of experience providing Internet-related services, as well as success with its digital asset management, digital repurposing and digital imaging services.

Maximizing the Internet
"We've really evolved over the past two years from a prepress house—a place that produces litho film—to repositioning ourselves, thankfully successfully, as a true digital imaging and digital services company," reports Lamberg, circa 1999. "Color Associates, in addition to its digital prepress services, is also providing Website services, design 2-D and 3-D art, display graphics and stock photography."

What form of digital asset management does Color Associates employ? "The company has internally developed a custom digital asset management program internally, called Visionpoint, to address the specific workflow needs of its digital prepress group," reports Ted Pech, marketing manager at Color Associates. Visionpoint is a digital archival and retrieval system customized to specific cataloging needs on a per customer basis. Essentially, Visionpoint works in four distinct ways.

A customer sends artwork or photographic images to Color Associates for electronic prepress composition and imposition. These images are scanned and digitized at the highest possible practical resolution. The high-resolution, high-volume versions of these digital images are stored and cataloged at Color Associates. Original images are returned to the customer, along with low-res, low-volume digital copies.

The Visionpoint system can now serve the customer as an electronic pointer for low-res images, whether the customer chooses to store them on-site or at Color Associates. Visionpoint utilizes unique fields established within the customer's database, cross referencing all digital elements belonging to any specific project file.

The customer can have immediate access to all low-res digital images, either directly from the customer's on-site storage or online from Color Associates via the Internet, a private network, ISDN or T-1 lines. Visionpoint allows Color Associates to offer to its customers multilevel search capabilities, so they can update and retrieve digital images for use in electronic layouts as FPO images.

According to Kevin Nash, director of new media at Color Associates, Visionpoint currently manages several million files from customer documents, ranging from page layouts in Quark or PageMaker, for example, to scans and related artwork. "In addition to managing the archive collection of customer files, a customized version of Visionpoint also manages Color Associates' digital prepress group's active files on our production servers, which consist of more than 1.8 terabytes of online space and 18 terabytes in near-line archives on DLT tape," Nash reports.

So, will Color Associates continue on its digital asset course? A seemingly simple question—provoking a heartfelt and intensely visionary response from the team's president. "Many companies in today's global business environment have reached a threshold where data asset management is imperative for continued growth," Stephens responds, with force. "To assure consistency when using a diverse group of design agencies and production facilities, digital asset management services provide a single-source to store and retrieve graphic elements for the development of marketing materials."

Seeing the Big Picture
Stephens takes a pause to reflect on his comments. "Today's global market demands corporations to effectively utilize digital asset management to provide 'faster to market' products and services to maintain a competitive edge."

Rest assured, the edge at Color Associates is quite sharp. Perhaps in another two years, Printing Impressions will again revisit this team of prepress providers. That is, if they are not too busy managing the next level of digital content to take time out for an interview.


Color Associates: The Inside View. . .

Recently, Bill Lamberg, chairman and CEO, and Gary Stephens, president and COO, at Color Associates, met with Printing Impressions to discuss the corporate plan at Color Associates—especially in the areas of managing customer images and the secrets of successful repurposing.

PI: How are you managing assets? Do you charge for the service?

Lamberg: "Color Associates can provide our clients password-secured, 24/7 access to their files through one of three product options of Visionpoint. The first is the client/server version, which manages all of our assets here at Color Associates, as well as those at specific client locations. The second is our Visionpoint Internet Customer Access site, or VICA for short. Our third is a custom Visionpoint solution, designed to meet the needs of a specific client. For more info, visit www.colorassociates.com."

PI: How are you repurposing content? What media are you repurposing to, and what has been the growing role of the Internet over the past two years?

Stephens: "We are repurposing files in a number of ways. A large number of clients are adding PDFs to their intranet sites for sell sheets and marketing purposes. Corporate marketing departments are also repurposing files for use as PowerPoint presentations. Finally, we convert a large number to JPEG for Internet or CD-ROM applications, specifically in the catalog and publishing markets."

PI: What have been the greatest challenges of marketing and making money in digital asset management?

Lamberg: "Keeping the customer focused! The greatest challenge has been in overcoming the tendency for companies to view digital asset management as a solution to all of their file storage needs."
 

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