CIOs set priorities for '08

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As b-to-b media continue to undergo a digital transformation, the priorities of the chief information officer are more aligned than ever with the goals of the business units. To get an idea of their goals for 2008, Media Business spoke with top IT executives at media companies of various sizes.

Behind the scenes, some CIOs are addressing inefficiencies that hamper the development of certain e-media initiatives.

One priority for Patrik Dyberg, VP-technology and CIO of McGraw-Hill Cos.' Business Information Group, is to make content more agile by "decoupling" it from a brand, medium or use.

"Today, any piece of content we collect or create belongs to a specific product," Dyberg said. "We want to use technology to break it off so that it's available for us to distribute in any channel, to any customer."

For example, an article in Architectural Record will mention a product that was used in a particular project. An architect using the Sweets Network, McGraw-Hill's database of commercial building products, will view that product's listing and be able to link to the article showing the product in use in a project and referenced by a fellow architect.

Another priority for Dyberg is to install a standard platform or architecture to replace dozens of different technologies business units are using to perform similar functions. "We want to remove this barrier to integrating the content that also drives our technology costs up," he said.

Paul Dalpiaz joined Crain Communications Inc. (publisher of Media Business) as CIO less than a year ago. Like Dyberg, he plans to make infrastructure improvements. "We need to integrate our print and online systems so that they go through one work flow," he said. "Another initiative is to link all our audience data from print subscriptions, e-newsletter subscriptions, event registration and so forth into one repository."

While infrastructure improvements are always an important part of a company's IT plan, Dalpiaz is also looking at some "new and exciting things" that will show up on the company's Web sites starting this year.

One of these is social media functionality. "We're going to enable user-generated content and user-generated interaction," he said. "I break that down into commenting, user blogging, user forums, rich media upload and photo upload. Down the line, we will add social networking and community-type functions."

Dalpiaz plans to outsource the social media program "so we don't have to build a big infrastructure and so we can get all these features up quickly," he said.

Social media is also one of the more pressing issues for Rose Southard, IT director at Putman Media.

"We're trying to figure out how we should get into social media. We've used open-source tools to create a few blogs and wikis, but we also want to do ratings, rankings, comments, forums and discussions," she said. "I'd also like them to be done in a uniform way across all our sites."

Southard is investigating a few different social media options. "We don't know if we should build it ourselves or not," she said. "There's also a question about whether we should host it or use a hosted system."

She added: "We're always trying to keep up with what our audience tells us they want. They now want our sites to be a little flashier, and they really like video. So we want to give them more of it."

In the middle of last year, Putman hired a full-time video producer to raise the quality of its videos and provide direction to the Web site staffs. So far, the company doesn't have a single home or channel for video. "It's scattered on the sites as a form of content, as a story or a photo would be," she said.

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