Repurposing Content--Extending Content Services
The role of printer is today the role of content manager. Print buyers are turning to printers for more than one-stop services of an ink-and-paper nature. How do your services measure up?
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
Do your customers have instant access to their files over the Web? As soon as you have scanned or copied their images onto your server, are they available through a secure Website for your clients? Do your clients come to you for scanning, image distribution—and printing? What's more, do you want to do all of this stuff?
Unfortunately, you may not have a choice. Today's truly progressive commercial printers and prepress firms must be content managers.
P&H Graphic Communications knows this content management reality quite well. Founded in 1970 as a phototypesetter—the original name was P&H Photo Composition—the Minneapolis firm added headlining and custom color services in the 1980s. The company transitioned to the Macintosh production platform in 1989. Film services were added in the early '90s, and color retouching and correction came in the last half of that decade.
Today, P&H provides complete print and electronic communications services, from concept and marketing strategy, to production, film, plate, digital file or Web—all under one roof. The company also provides product packaging mockup and fabrication services. P&H serves the corporate, advertising and design industries. Most of the company's accounts are local to the Twin Cities, but its national account base is growing quickly.
P&H is networked to deliver content management to its clients. In August of 1998, the company installed Xinet's FullPress, an OPI prepress server. "When we were searching for servers in 1997 we thought we wanted one with an integrated asset management system," reports Paul Herzing, prepress manager at P&H Graphic Communications. "The idea was that this would help us transition from a 'rules, compliance and punishment' method of managing our files to one enforced by the server, which would sit in the middle of our workflow like a traffic cop."
What P&H discovered (and, for the record, Herzing considers this a good discovery) was that most of the asset management software available at the time was flawed, expensive, awkward and poorly implemented. "Given that our staff has always been very good about following well-established asset management rules, we felt the solutions on the market were worse than the problem. So we waited."
A year later Xinet released a new technology, WebNative, as an add-on to Xinet's FullPress server. WebNative extends prepress services to the Internet, giving commercial printers and prepress operations instant access on a server from a Web browser at any location. Both internal production workgroups and external customers can search for files and images at any time, download for image placement or soft proofing, and then upload again for output if needed.
P&H took notice. "WebNative could afford us the opportunity to open a small part of our directory tree to selected clients, thus incorporating them into our workflow," Herzing reports. "It was a technology that allowed us to move in the more digital direction we knew we had to go. We thought it would be a slick way to provide an online catalog of files, charging each specific client on a per-MB-per-month basis."
P&H bought into WebNative, implemented it at its facility and titled its WebNative offering P&H eLibrary. "With WebNative, we offer a tool that allows us to quickly create a highly functional, Web-based file distribution system. Administration of the product is so simple, we can create a special-purpose site in a matter of minutes," Herzing states. "The best feature of WebNative has been there since the beginning: Our staff can administrate the contents of each site using only the Macintosh Finder—the IT administration load for WebNative has been, for us, practically zero."
Herzing reports that P&H has clients who use the system daily to pick up the latest copies of their scans, or to drop off digital assets of their own. "It provides a much more reliable and easily understood tool for transferring files than traditional FTP or e-mail attachment," he states. "For our purposes, WebNative works best when we have the opportunity to mold it to our clients' needs."
Another example of customizing content and repurposing information for the Internet can be found at GOLFonline.com, which recently made the conversion from a print magazine to an online edition. It was not an easy task. As one would imagine there is no shortage of golf content; the online edition pulls from Golf Magazine, Senior Golfer and various other publications to populate the GOLFonline.com site.
Difficulty arose, however, with GOLFonline.com's method of repurposing content for the online edition. The first problem was that the print and online departments were running on different networks, so staffers physically walked CD-ROMS, SyQuest and ZIP disks between offices. All QuarkXPress and Photoshop files were then manually converted to HTML and Web-friendly image formats.
"GOLFonline.com wanted a fast and easy way to repurpose content from print publications for use on the Web," explains Mike Fitzsimons, CEO of DeskNet, the technology provider that helped GOLFonline.com repurpose its digital assets. "We were able to provide an automated solution that would minimize the impact on the organization while simultaneously facilitating automated content migration."
DeskNet is a software developer of automated publishing solutions. The company's flagship product, DeskNetAPS, is an automation robot that connects and controls existing applications and technology to eliminate redundant and labor-intensive tasks typically associated with repurposing content for Web, print and cross-enterprise data communication.
Once rules had been established and tested, the DeskNet team trained the staff at GOLFonline.com in just a few days, and they were able to implement the DeskNetAPS robot immediately. With the new workflow, files from the completed issues of Golf Magazine and Senior Golfer are dropped into a folder that the DeskNetAPS robot scans.
Whether the content is that of a magazine or that of a fleet of clients looking to push content to the Internet, solutions such as WebNative and DeskNetAPS can be customized to complement any commercial printer's portfolio of services. The printer must find value in such e-services for its content-heavy clientele. Remember: Content is king—no matter where it keeps its court.
The Nature Of Managing Content
The following was contributed by Jason Taylor, president of eVIBE services. Formerly vice president of Canto Software, Taylor is an industry expert on content manipulation and management.
For a moment, let us ignore the products, features, pricing and all the detail with which vendors clutter your mind. Instead let's focus on what Content Management is: The centralized control of brand elements in the form of marketing messages, pricing, visual and audio, used by corporations across traditional and new media to create awareness, consideration and sales through the support of different value channels.
What is the difference between digital asset management (DAM) and content management (CM)? When does DAM become CM? Rather than tracking assets, which is a big task in itself, content management allows users to also apply media usage rules to assets and control many, if not all, stages of output.
Complete CM is a service business that should be based around repeatable, predictable processes that get executed time and time again. Corporations typically do not have the resources to execute these types of media-related tasks consistently. Also, corporations usually have limited access to all the current content because of reliance on their media suppliers in the past.
Corporations want to reuse the media investment they already have made in traditional print. This puts printers and prepress companies in a strong position to help them accomplish this goal. They can facilitate the infrastructure and expertise to make the process seamless to the customer. That is of huge value and worth money.
The majority of the national printers have already firmly established content management as a core part of their strategies. Among others, R.R. Donnelley has Image Merchant, a service for re-purposing content for the Web; Quad/Graphics has CM services within all of its main facilities; Quebecor World just announced major ownership in Nurun, a content and Internet service company.
Successful CM services offered by printers will be based on a full-service model that allows customers to outsource the majority of units of work, if not all. Printers must become comprehensive CM partners, capturing, standardizing and creating new media rules and opportunities.