Archiving digital content

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Media companies playing catch-up in effort to effectively preserve their online assets Magazine page counts may be dwindling, but there is an explosion of content coming out of media companies, whether through Internet sites, e-newsletters, webinars, mobile devices or Facebook applications. In the old days, when there was just a print edition of a magazine showcasing a brand, archiving content was a simple process: You saved a slew of print copies and put everything on microfiche. Now, things are much different, and b-to-b publishing companies are struggling to figure out the best way to archive all the content being created and used in myriad formats. In some cases, Web content is actually going unsaved other than through the usual server backups that automatically occur, according to production executives. “I don't know of any publishers that are archiving their Web-only content in any special way. There is no process in place for it,” said Martha Connors, VP-group general manager of IDG's CXO Media, Computerworld and Infoworld. “In theory, archiving digital content is so much easier than print, but there are still a lot of questions: What happens to blogs? Where do they go? The technology is there, but we're all still catching up.” Michael Ciardiello, director of premedia technologies at Canon Communications, which publishes more than 15 trade magazines, said the difficulties of archiving were among the main reasons the company earlier this year switched to a new content management system. “We reuse a lot of images and need access to a lot of past edit materials,” he said. “And being able to access it easily has ... saved us a lot of time, money and energy.” Michael Lonier, VP-operations at The Deal LLC, said the best answer to archiving such a wide variety of content should be found on the flip side of the equation: when the content is created. “You need to create portable content that allows it to move in different ways and in different mediums,” he said. Lonier suggests using XML to design a system in which all content is in one file and flows out of that file to whatever medium the editor selects. “The metadata attached to this file is key,” he said. “Once you create that, the information is all in one place and the product actually utilizes attributes of the content that are appropriate to that product, whether it's print or a particular electronic product.” Another major issue with archiving involves digital rights of content. With so much content floating around, it can be hard to keep track of what is running where and when. Canon's switch to InDesign was driven partially by the need to better track this. Previously, because Canon didn't have a traditional photo department, one photo could be used by several of the company's magazines and Web sites without any of them knowing others had also used it. Now that the system archives all images added to it, it can advise editors when a photo has been used the maximum number of times allowed under contract and won't let them move forward on stories until specific information is in place on arts rights. “This has already saved us plenty of money legally,” Ciardiello said. “When you have this many titles using similar content, it can get difficult and costly to track down where each piece of content, whether it's edit or image, has gone.” The better the archiving, Ciardiello said, the more confident a publisher can feel that digital rights are being protected. “In an age where people can just pull images off of Web sites, it's important to know where all the images have come from,” he said. M
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