Digital Directions: The Third Rail
Like many parents of elementary-school-age children, I spend a fair amount of time around trains. Steam, cog or narrow-gauge, I am no stranger to the iron horse. Perhaps that explains the frequency of my use of railroad metaphors. This column is no exception.
To realize the full potential of digital technology in product development and marketing, content organizations will continue to evolve over a long period of time. This journey can be represented as a railroad track with parallel rails.
These rails are necessary to move forward and stay on course. But unfamiliarity with the track can have deadly consequences.
The First Rail: Technology Platform
The first “rail” is the technology platform, which provides the underlying capabilities needed to create, manage and deliver digital media. Workflow applications, database and content management systems, Web and streaming-media servers, and e-commerce systems represent platforms that allow publishers to create and market digital offerings.
These platforms can either be developed internally, or enabled through an external service provider. In either case, information technology departments manage platform selection and integration. It is the mission of IT to understand requirements across the organization and deliver platforms that provide these capabilities within the fiscal constraints of the organization.
The Second Rail: Digital Media Programs
While a technology platform represents a capability, it does not in and of itself deliver any customer value. That’s where the second rail comes in: digital media programs. Digital media programs exploit the capabilities of the platform to yield customer value in the form of digital offerings or marketing programs:
• a digital distribution program that uses a digital asset distributor’s conversion capabilities to support electronic content delivery to multiple channels in multiple formats; or
• an online marketing program that uses an Internet service provider’s streaming-media capabilities to deliver video interviews of authors.