Introduction to the Concept of ICMF

Product Newness based on Company and MarketImage via Wikipedia

This is a way longer post than is usual for me, but I wanted to introduce a key concept in creating the Local Information Utility. In essence our work processes and technical systems do not currently support the possibility of a Local Information Utility. Several of us, started by the NAA Systems Committee, have tried to wrestle with these issues. Others have recently commented on the infancy of the web, and our need to think outside our traditional frameworks. What follows is an introduction to the concepts behind the Integrated Content Management Framework, or ICMF.

Introduction: Building Bridges (edited and abridged from an article that appeared in Presstime April, 2007)

As we work to transform our newspaper companies into multimedia local information utilities we each have tremendous opportunities to expand our reach in our existing geography and build new communities of interest. To realize those opportunities we must continue to invest in technology and partner with others to build several critical bridges.

The first bridges are within our companies. We need to build interlocking new product development teams, using new technologies to create new ways for communities of interest to interact with us. For years, a new product meant a new special section or niche publication, using our existing systems and processes. Lately, new products have included new distribution platforms (web, video, Podcast, mobile), but primarily using our created content as packaged by us.

As the first source for information, we need to make the community information broader, deeper and more accessible. We have the ability to create, collect, catalog (to optimize searches), and store rich media assets (print, video and audio) that can be searched and packaged by individuals as they want and when they want. As the Newspaper Next folks remind us, they will do so around the jobs they need to accomplish (enlighten, educate, etc…..). We cannot plan exactly how these individuals will want to interact with these media assets, but we can create a framework within which they can get what they want, when they want it.

The second bridges are with other organizations, especially other media companies, particularly those close to us. We need to partner on all activities possible to gain the maximum advantages of scale. While broadcast, internet and mobile partnerships are essential, newspapers in a region can all share printing, call centers, ad building, and distribution services, with a few investing to serve multiple partners in a region. In short, newspapers need to develop “coopetition” models that cut deep into established business practices and support the notion of “hyperlocal”.

The third bridges are with the vendor community. We all have established systems for the difficult, daily task of producing a newspaper. We need to invest to make those systems as effective as possible. But that is just one packaging system for one distribution method. Other packaging and distribution systems are being used for web, mobile and other platforms. We need to partner with vendors to develop a common infrastructure for the rich media databases that will not only allow us to pull from the database for our packaged products, but allow many individuals to search for relevant information and access that information as they wish.

The fourth bridges are with distribution partners. Yahoo and Google are leading the way with several of us, starting with a number of recently announced initiatives. Others are in the works.

The fifth and final bridges are with national/industry bodies that have the clout and credibility to drive the development and adoption of standards and best practices – possibly leading to broad/consortium initiatives not unlike those occurring in the music and entertainment industry.

How do we begin to make sense of these possibilities and develop the technological infrastructure to make it happen? For starters, check out growingaudience.com and recent marketing presentations at naa.org. Get up to speed on Newspaper Next, either with white papers online at newspapernext.org or at one of the many regional seminars. Think about how audiences want to engage with us to get their jobs accomplished. Invest in technology and partner with others to develop the products and systems to make it happen. Enjoy the journey!

Background: Core Content/Asset Management Issues

As our NAA Systems Committee has looked at the issues surrounding the creation of systems that allow multiple inputs and multiple distribution platforms for content (MIMP), we have said that we need an Integrated Content Management Framework (ICMF) that ties in existing legacy systems with more flexible content management systems. We have also observed that there is no forum today in which media executives and vendors can have serious discussions about the creation of such a framework.

Whether print or broadcast, most of our online and mobile efforts to date have been to take our “packaged” content, produced for traditional media, maybe do some minor editing and then “cramming” it into a different distribution channel. We do not have a pool of edited and “tagged” content from which the consumer can draw to create their user-defined “package”. We believe that there are services and targeted advertising opportunities that could be created with such a content / asset / asset management infrastructure.

What follows is an attempt to illustrate how such an “engine” would fit within our existing structure, and could support new efforts. The intent here is to encourage further conversations with a goal of getting to a more detailed systems/architecture and design.

Overview: Integrated Content Management Framework

Beginning at the left, the Web provides tremendous, but raw, user generated and aggregated commercial content. It is not organized, and we know that not all of it is quality or trustworthy. If we could get the content “validated, filtered and certified” through the use of technology, maybe real-time rules-based parsing and taxonomy “engines” as well as through some higher level of human interaction we could use data tags to classify it by date, people, places or events, or whatever business rules make sense for a particular “target” pool of content.

That content could be stored in the “Stage 2:Meta/Tagged “Certified” Content” bucket which could be fire-walled and searchable , flowing up from that bucket out to the world, and paid for by targeted advertising or contractual relationships with partners. It could also be used to support more detailed searches that result from interactions with our “in house” products, in those instances in which the consumer wants more information than is contained in our packaged products.

The funnel with dots to the right of the Stage 2 bucket represents our legacy publishing or broadcasting “editorial/production” systems; our core business workflows. Content from Stage 2 could be packaged using those systems and distributed as well through multiple channels.

We could also “package” information that is not distributed through our packaged products, but is held in the Stage 3 bucket for search, or reverse-syndication to others with interest in that content for a contractual fee.

We believe that: a) the Stage 2 bucket is the key missing link in this ICMF, and that b) while there are islands of technology (storage management; content management; asset management; CRM, taxonomy and advanced search engines, etc), there are no complete systems – nor deployed business models in operation – near as we can tell .

Business Challenges Driving ICMF

A crucial issue for our commercial/news business is the notion of connected/contextual content – ‘the story’. Finding and highlighting focal points of multiple stories is paramount to the integration of the social networks of our community. For our businesses, that is achieved through ‘the story’. Content has to have context to other content – thus giving us a better view of ‘the story’.

On the business side, monetization of this content – the story and its context – is the basis for our continued success. Towards that end we may need to shift our focus from “traditional” margins of return to ones that are more based on micro-penny returns. In other words instead of large amounts of money for relatively small amounts of transactions we may need to think about small amounts of money on large amounts of transactions or “hits”. How we define “hits” and their value is one of the challenges.

The other large challenge will be how we change our content gathering process and mindset. In many cases our current model presupposes that info gatherers (reporters) gather info based on the media they will use for distribution, a preconceived limiting paradigm. The ICMF model opens up the opportunity to freely gather as much info as time and common sense allows and then extract that info relative to a particular delivery model or meta-tag it for consumers to acquire as part of their search adventure – or for internet entrepreneurs to acquire and monetize through creative advertising models.

Lastly, the more we focus our business model around adding maximum value to the local community, the more “hyperlocal” and “contextually connected” our content becomes, which has the effect of increasing our value to the community and in the market. For example, local broadcast and print properties have the feet-on-the-street information gathering forces in place and they are currently trusted sources in the community. Conversely, while it is no law prohibiting mega/internet players like Google or Yahoo from attempting to duplicate local news forces, it is more practical for them to develop partnerships that would leverage the existing local presence and brand equity of the news organizations. In this context, ICMF can provide news organizations with a broader and deeper inventory of assets to facilitate better “channelization” and monetization of rich, contextualized, meta-tagged and targeted content.

Why would we do this? Because we want to be the deer, not the cycle.

Next Steps – ICMF Group

The purpose of our group is to:

1. Confirm with others outside our ICMF Group that this is an issue worth pursuing
2. Develop a methodology and staffing recommendation to define the attributes and functionality of the Stage 2 bucket.
3. Enlist support for follow-up research and to begin systems/architecture and design

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6 responses to “Introduction to the Concept of ICMF

  1. This, to me, is key:

    “We cannot plan exactly how these individuals will want to interact with these media assets, but we can create a framework within which they can get what they want, when they want it.”

    And I’m gratified that newspaper managers appear to be taking a lead position in grasping the difficult concepts of new media and finding ways to make it work — and to keep us relevant.

    I’m an old newspaper grunt who grew up setting type by hand and on Linotype slugs and have weathered a myriad of changes in this industry. Despite all the difficult challenges ahead, I think this one might be the most exciting yet. Certainly a lot of fascinating new tools to work with, although there’s a much more challenging market to conquer.

    Best of luck to everyone in the newspaper industry. And thanks for taking a lead position. It’s satisfying to work for a company that recognizes the need for visionary thinking and is willing to change before change is forced upon it.

  2. Chuck, I like the “search adventure” term. I may have to borrow that (fully credited, of course).

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