Saturday, February 16, 2013

Future-Proofing Content with PRISM Source Vocabulary

By 2005-2006, most publishers knew at least intuitively that they had lost the browser wars.  This lament was nicely framed in 2008 by an NBC television executive during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, hammering home the obvious.  Publishers were exchanging analog dollars for digital dimes. 

Coincidentally or not, the drum-beat at this time from the magazine executive suites became louder and very public:  they vowed to get more revenue from content on whatever the emerging digital channels might look like.  The introduction of the iPad raised the stakes around this collective vow and publishers responded with alacrity and no little success in adapting to the new tablet and mobile universe.  Magazines scrambled to produce content for the voracious app stores and become players in the emerging and constantly changing “device and content eco-systems.”

Though much credit should go to magazine publishers for their response to this latest digital tsunami, the fact of the matter is that magazine weren’t ready for this onslaught in some very fundamental ways, including organization and workflow.  The tablet gloriously entered a print-centric, serial workflow that simply doesn’t scale.  Using today’s workflows, tools and technologies, producing multiple tablet editions results in escalating staff costs, redundancies, and lost time.  The existing print-based workflow is unsustainable and increasingly unprofitable.  To create highly interactive digital publications for devices, most publishers were forced to compromise on design and user experience using a variety of tablet workflow tools.  These tools tend to produce flat content with active elements stacked on top, with the result more like a print magazine than an interactive media package.  The need for flexible, sustainable, and fungible solutions is not only a good idea; in a publishing environment faced with extraordinary pressures on costs and digital revenues, this need is also a business imperative.  Thank goodness there is a solution.

NextPub, the industry’s technical incubator, was launched in 2010 by IDEAlliance with widespread support.  An immediate goal was to address the above workflow issues to help make multi-channel publishing simple and efficient.  The nextPub Working Group (WG) envisioned ways to monetize content beyond today’s publishing channels by utilizing a “Dynamic Content Architecture” from which additional publishing channels can emerge when new content collections or “chunks” are demanded by consumers, as foreshadowed by Flipboard, Pulse or Zite.  The central idea is to future-proof content no matter what the future brings.

The nextPub Publishing Model is based on digital capture and management of all content and associated rich media.  Source content must be semantically rich enough to enable the publisher to select content and automate layout and delivery to a wide variety of publishing platforms.  To this end, the WG developed the PRISM Source Vocabulary Specification (PSV), designed to support issue-based publications as well as to enable publishers to aggregate content in new digital content channels.  The tagline, The Source is the Solution, gets to the heart of the matter.

According to Dianne Kennedy, VP, Emerging Technologies, IDEAlliance, PSV defines a framework of robust metadata elements that can be used to configure federated source content and rich media repositories.  Simply put, the more structurally rich content is, the more useful it will be and the more adaptive it will become as we continue to re-imagine and re-vision business opportunities presented by a Dynamic Content Architecture.  As Karen McGrane, content evangelist and Managing Director at Bond Art +Science observes, “Publishers don’t get to decide which device their customers use to read their content—readers do.  Getting content out onto all these different new devices and platforms requires a dynamic and flexible content architecture, which PSV provides.”

PSV, based on PRISM, is a way to describe content, via XML, in consistent and predictable ways using a common vocabulary.  This technology facilitates the repurposing and delivery of structured, format-neutral content.  Introduced more than a decade ago, PRISM was instrumental in delivering print-based content to the aggregators.  PSV, offering a more robust metadata set, is designed to deliver rich media to a range of digital platforms, channels and devices.  In short, PSV takes PRISM beyond print.  And here the need is great.

 As noted above, today’s adapted workflows that design for print, then remake for tablets are inefficient, redundant and slow.  An adapted product has limitations.  For example, most tablet versions are two dimensional like print and require huge downloads.  Conversely, a digital first or digital-early workflow first captures text as PSV in a central repository, transforms the content via templates and scripts, links ads and multimedia, and publishes to print, web, ePub3, HTML5, etc.  PSV is really about capturing semantically-rich, platform-agnostic content early and then selecting, transforming, packaging and delivering that content.

A primary attribute of PSV is its flexibility.  NextPub recognizes that each publisher has her own business models and strategies.  PSV is a framework that can be tailored to the needs of individual publishers.  For example, a publisher might need no more than a simple content repository from which content can be assembled into print and into a digital edition on a monthly basis.  Another publisher might want a content repository to assemble print and digital editions.  Also, it might want to assemble year-end, best-of, special editions for print and tablets.  It might also want to track usage history and usage rights for content, plus the relationship to other content.  And so on.  A framework for robust metadata not only allows such flexibility, it will also invite business opportunities.  As Ann Rockley, another content evangelist, notes in this context, “adaptive content lets you automatically provide your content, anytime, anywhere, and on any device.  Adaptive content is limited only by your design decisions, the functionality of the device being used and the intelligence of your content.”

An additional advantage to PSV is that it adds dimension to digital-first content creation by way of its very rich metadata vocabulary.  PSV can provide deep content to enable sophisticated designs and implementations using more descriptive metadata that informs Java Script and CSS.  Design-based publications have to date employed only minimal automation based on the belief that design comes first and you can’t automate design!  PSV rich metadata offer compelling ways to automate layout and design.

Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, a content specialist at Rosenfield Media, reminds us that metadata is not an end in itself.  “It’s about seeing structures through the lens of meaning and storytelling, and building relationships across disciplines so that our databases reflect this richness and complexity.”  Editors have an important role in this narrative of the metadata.

PSV is royalty-free, open source, and facilitates a design-neutral approach to content creation.  PSV can be used as a source for direct transformation to packaging formats, such as ePub 3.0, or to the web, mobile and tablet apps.  And PSV can serve as a core metadata model in a DAM or CMS to manage assets or deliver them to multiple platforms.  And it is important to note that nextPub will serve as an incubator for tools to enhance tomorrow’s productivity and has invited technology companies to participate in the development of such tools.

Bill Kasdorf, Vice President, Apex Content Solutions, captures the spirit and the promise of PSV.  “PRISM Source Vocabulary promises to become the Rosetta Stone of the magazine publishing world.  It will enable all the players in the complex space—publishers, advertisers, editorial and production staff, system developers, and service providers—to speak a common language.  PSV is a fundamental enabling technology for our brave new multichannel, multiplatform world, encompassing print while efficiently extending publishers’ content to the online, tablet, eReader and mobile environments.”

PSV has already been adopted by the Japanese Magazine Publishing Association and supported by a broad community of publishers who seek fuller content monetization.  Full PSV Specifications, a video technical overview, and details about the nextPub Working Group can be found at or

No comments:

Post a Comment