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KM helps publishers meet deadlines, satisfy readers

This article appears in the issue Nov/Dec 2001 [Volume 10, Issue 10]

Technology makes it easier to create searchable databases and manage workflow

By Kim Ann Zimmermann

Publishers are in the business of words. Whether those words are printed on paper or electronically on the Web, they are more useful thanks to knowledge management technology. For professional publishers, as well as any industry or government agency that compiles documents for publication, new software is creating opportunities to provide customized information more quickly and efficiently. In a deadline-oriented business like book and magazine publishing, workflow is a key issue. Workflow management systems are guiding the pages through the process—from writer to editor to art director and production. Tracking each layout and documenting changes is key to improving workflow efficiency. Routing pages is done electronically now, so the physical paper doesn't get stuck on someone's desk. In addition, publishers are becoming "just-in-time" manufacturers, and warehouses full of books could become a distant memory. As a customer places an order, the KM system searches the database and prepares the book to be delivered electronically or in the traditional format.

As publishing moves beyond the traditional print media, publishing companies are looking for knowledge management solutions, such as those from Arbortext, that will enable them to publish across all platforms including wireless, Web, print and CD-ROM. John Wiley & Sons, for example, develops, publishes and distributes information products in print and electronic format for the scientific, technical and medical communities, as well as for educational, professional and consumer markets worldwide. Wiley plans to use the Arbortext system to accelerate Internet and print publishing of journal articles. The system will also help Wiley transform author-supplied Microsoft Word files into compliant XML files, increasing the efficiency of publication and tightening production schedules.

Dr. Mike Lynch, founder and CEO of Autonomy , says, "Publishing companies understand the vital need to efficiently process the growing amount of unstructured information. It is too costly and time-consuming for companies in any industry to dedicate valuable resources to manually processing information.”

Autonomy's technology enables information providers such as AviationNow.com to aggregate HTML and XML data, retrieve relevant information and automate hypertext linking to automatically deliver personalized coverage of the aviation industry.

Search and receive Many publications, including the Morris Communication newspaper chain, are using KM tools to create business opportunities by making their archives available on the Internet. Internet-based subscriptions will allow online readers to search across and retrieve stories by key word or date. Morris is using KM tools from Convera for the project. The publishing company says the text-searchable database created from microfilm will allow reporters—as well as paying customers—to perform research quickly.

"We're streamlining our own archives and providing a vital source of information to the community at the same time. The technology will be a bonanza for law firms, historians, genealogists, students and the general public," says Will Morris, president of Morris Communications. The software will enable Morris-owned publications to catalog and index their news stories, advertisements and images to provide faster, more accurate search results for Web users.

The first Morris publication to install the system is The Augusta Chronicle, which went live in September. The newspaper will eventually convert nearly 1 million pages of information from microfilm to digital content dating back to 1786.

"So far we've scanned and digitized 300,000 pieces of microfilm going back 15 years," says Rhonda Holliman, chief librarian for the Chronicle. She says the system was installed, in part, to help handle inquiries from readers.

"We constantly get calls from people asking about stories written about their families," she says. "It was a cumbersome task to respond to these calls." The system will also help generate revenue. Users can sign up for one-day access at $4.95, a week pass for $12.95, a month pass for $19.95 and a year for $199.95. The response has been good so far, according to Holliman, who says the newspaper expected 200 subscribers and 230 have signed up.

"We're really looking at this in two ways. We can improve our customer service to readers as well as potentially generate revenue by providing quick and easy access to our archives," Holliman says, adding that she anticipates a return on investment in less than three years.

XML conversion The news service United Press International (UPI), is installing a computer-aided indexing (CAI) solution from Nstein Technologies. Nstein's content management tools automate such time-consuming and complex tasks as content classification, XML tagging and summarization.

"Our main objective was to acquire the best CAI tool to help improve our customers' access and interaction with our content," says UPI's President and CEO Douglas D.M. Joo. "We examined a number of solutions, and Nstein's Nmedia Server came out on top. The combination of speed, scalability, accuracy and flexibility was what really sold us." Thomson & Thomson , a provider of trademark and copyright services, will use an XML publishing application that composes pages and creates output in PDF and Postscript formats.

John Herrold, manager of applications engineering for Thomson & Thomson, says, "Our main business is trademark research and we produce hundreds of books each day that are all customized—each one is different. When someone calls to request a trademark search on a particular name, we conduct an extensive search of both internal and external data sources and then deliver those results to our customers in a customized report."

The publisher is using technology from Xyvision Enterprise Solutions.

"Once we made the decision to convert our internal data sources to XML, we started looking at products that would help us format and publish XML data. XyEnterprise's XML Professional Publisher was the clear choice for handling our high volume of custom publishing jobs within strict time frames,” says Herrold.

With the solution, Thomson & Thomson can produce professional-quality documents from XML source data. Internal XML data can be combined with external non-XML data to produce a seamless final report.

"Once we have the existing report formats done, the XyEnterprise System allows us to create new report styles and formats far more quickly than we can today,” Herrold says.

Richard Pasewark, VP of sales and marketing for XyEnterprise, adds, "This is part of a larger trend we have seen where print-on-demand publishing of personalized documents is resulting in better customer service, reduced costs and increased revenues." National Fire Protection Association, a publisher of fire safety and building codes, implemented a XyEnterprise system to streamline the workflow between editors and the production department.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA, nfpa.org), a non-profit organization, will use XyEnterprise's XML Professional Publisher to streamline and accelerate the production and publication of complex documents such as the National Fire Codes. That 12-volume set contains more than 12,000 pages with 5,000 graphics, and is comprised of 300 individual pamphlets ranging from eight to 700 pages.

"We were looking for a solution that would automate the production process and cut our production time," says Debra Rose, composition manager for NFPA. "We are very pleased with the performance and functionality of the software, which has streamlined our production process."

Kim Ann Zimmermann is a free-lance writer, 732-636-3612, e-mail kimzim2764@yahoo.com.


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