Standardization of Publishing Platforms

SPECIAL: “Winning Online” — A Manifesto

Mark Cahill (one of the smartest guys on the topic of publishing technologies) points to this Editor & Publisher manifesto by Tom Mohr – formerly head of KR Digital on newspaper websites. Mohr posits that if newspapers want to get their acts together online, they need to converge on a common standard and set of tools. Mark and I kicked around a business plan two years ago on this very model — there is no viable reason in the world, aside from sheer hubris, for a publication to own its own CMS, metrics, and ad servers.

“Newspaper online infrastructures dot the United States like a thousand points of light. It is a massive waste of financial and intellectual capital. As Knight Ridder proved, multiple newspaper websites of all sizes (from the Biloxi Sun Herald to the Philadelphia Inquirer) can sit on common platforms and deliver Pulitzer Prize-winning quality.”What, specifically, is meant by common platforms?

“They include a common content management system, common classified marketplace solution, common ad serving capabilities, a common ad network, shared content and feature functionality within key channels, a common underlying technical infrastructure and common supporting financial systems, metrics and analytics.”

In a book I ghost-authored with some Gartner experts — Multisourcing — the panoply of IT enabled systems was stacked up against their impact on competitive and strategic advantage … a riff on Nick Carr’s polemic against the value of IT. Only the most rarified, business-transforming, bet the company initiatives deserve internal development, most, if not all systems from lowly lights-on, cost of doing business IT system such as email, can be outsourced or managed against cost.

That the publishing industries insist on building their own web infrastructures is ludicrious. It’s time for a major systems provider like IBM Global Services to step in with a common platform and let the publishers focus on what their true business is — incisive journalism.

Thank Mark for the pointer.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Standardization of Publishing Platforms”

  1. Thanks for the vote of confidence…as my coworkers say, smart is right on the money, but the suffix we use is a little different…

    Standardization and consolidation of systems for both web and print is a general direction many pubs are moving towards. Clustered editorial publishing environments like Gannett is using at Utica, Binghamton and Elmira and the ad clusters used by Journal Register allow economization and improvement of IT support for their systems without building wholly redundant infrastructures at each location. Let the servers and the databases sit at one location and serve multiple regional nodes. This makes even more sense in web publishing, because after all, who really cares where the server lives, be it Boston or Bangalore, so long as it works properly and the cost is right.

    Web-based, Service-Oriented Architecture apps go even further. They allow publications like the Wall Street Journal to decrease their IT costs by simplifying client maintenance. Think about it, if a computer breaks down, why not just pull another out of a closet, point it at the ad booking intranet page, and get the user back to work. Systems have come full circle to the old dumb terminal model. The dumb terminal just happens to be using a browser as its interface to the app.

    This standardization and centralization makes it easier to keep the systems up to date, makes it easier to enhance them and generally increases the institutional knowledge base associated with them. All of which are good things.

    Of course, it can go a little too far…the Tribune has packed its circulation phone room off to the Philippines, while Reuters has sent many of its editorial positions to India. Certainly ambitious cost-cutting endeavors, but it remains to be seen how if these moves impact readership.

  2. Steve Yelvington posts on the same topic – with exactly the opposite opinion today.

    “Here’s what we should not do: force newspapers onto a single publishing platform. That would lead to catastrophic failure by killing what little creativity we have.

    Change doesn’t come from the center. It works its way in from the edges. That’s why you see companies like Yahoo and Microsoft constantly acquiring startups. Neither has much of a track record of invention. Big established companies suck at creativity. If they didn’t, Vignette would have invented “Web 2.0″ instead of contributing so well to a depressed housing market in the Austin suburbs.”

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