Bernard on WSJ's Digital Network, content management, new devices

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Daniel Bernard is the chief product officer of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network. News Corp.'s Dow Jones & Co. has strived to be a leader in content management, working on enabling editors to process content quickly, then make it available to a variety of platforms—from print to online and from mobile phones to Apple's new iPad.

Helping the editorial side create content once and then repurpose it—often under different brand headings, such as Barron's, The Wall Street Journal and Marketwatch), is critical to Dow Jones' profit model, newspaper industry analysts say.

One of the key products Dow Jones uses to accomplish all this is its content management system, EidosMedia's M├ęthode, which the company began using in May 2009. The CMS is now used by editors at the Journal,, Barron's,, and SmartMoney.

Dow Jones constantly makes its content available on new devices. An example is the Journal's new iPad app. Outsell analyst Ned May recently observed that media companies making their content available for the iPad are taking two divergent paths: some brands, like the Journal, create an app specifically for the iPad, retaining their existing production processes. Others, such as Sports Illustrated are using HTML5, the forthcoming major revision of the HTML standard.

Digital Directions recently spoke to Bernard about his app approach as well as his general approach to content management.

Digital Directions: How critical is your CMS to your approach to disseminating content?

Daniel Bernard: We do take the approach of we create content and we happen to distribute it in print, mobile and online. We need to create it in a way and edit it in a way that we can pump it out to the people who can consume it in a way that makes sense and where we don't have to do it differently for each different device.

DD: Tell us about the CMS system and your evaluation of how well it's performing?

Bernard: We have a couple systems that we use. We are always investing in making our CMS system better. We've created internal systems that work for us. We have the software, and we're always upgrading it as things evolve. It's constantly iterative and in flux, just as the online world is.

DD: It was announced earlier this week that News Corp. acquired Skiff from Hearst Corp. Can say anything about how that platform might be leveraged by your staff?

Bernard: Nothing right now.

DD: In creating the Journal app for the iPad, what were the technology challenges and how did you solve them?

Bernard: We have a very usercentric approach, and out of that we define what we're going to build, what it needs to accomplish for the user and how it works for us and our business. We ask: “What is it going to take to build this? Do we have things in place that we can use right now?” We do have a network structure, so we always have in a mind a way of building things in a way that we may reuse or use for another purpose later on. We try to take a model that allows for expansion and growth. With the iPad app, (we asked) “What do we have that is in existence right now that's going to apply?” For instance on the iPad edition, we had a lot of the core infrastructure in place from a publishing system perspective, but we knew we needed to make some additional things. We built templates that were able to be picked up by the editorial team, as they're publishing every day, that are specific to iPad. We knew that we needed to create a way for this to be built very easily. We couldn't spend hours doing individual page layouts for individual issues. We had to come up with something that worked very easily for the editors. So we came up with templates, but we created multiple templates that an editor can choose. If there's a big lead story that needs to have a larger headline one day than another day, they can choose the template that has the larger headline, or the big photo or the video.

DD: When developing the Journal's iPad strategy, why did you opt for an app versus designing a digital edition using HTML5 that would be compatible with a variety of devices?

Bernard: We knew that on the iPad people would very easily be able to go to our website, so we really wanted to create something that really spoke to what the best user experience would be for this new engagement model. With the iPad, there's a new emergence of users being able to have a touch device that they're accessing information on. So we ask, “How do they interact with that?” In building an app for us in this particular case, we found we were able to meet what our vision was based on (asking) “What should the user experience be?” That isn't to say that we're not looking at HTML5 and are not seeing lots of opportunities to leverage it. We've done some stuff with HTML5 already, we've upgraded our videos and our interactive graphics and slide shows on, so people who happen to be accessing the Web on an iPad can see it. And that will also help us as the other devices start coming to market that leverage or work well with HTML5.

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