The Survey Says – Without XML You’re Leaving Money on the Table
Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL) and the Center for Informational Development (CIDM) asked publishers how they are developing and publishing their content in our 4th annual survey, “Following the Trends.” With close to 350 participants ranging from writers to content strategists, information architects, and publishers, the breadth of knowledge and insight was prodigious.
Each year this survey is designed to hone in on the emerging trends in content creation, storage, usability and so on, but one topic this year was particularly eye catching even though it’s not explicitly there — Extensible Markup Language (XML). We asked how publishers publish today versus how they plan to publish two to three years from now, and the responses indicate a big increase in HTML and mobile applications, with corresponding decrease in PDF. While 88% of respondents still publish some content in PDF today, only 53% plan to still be doing so in the near future. And this is likely overly conservative. The industry is moving very quickly.
PDF vs. HTML vs. XML
Why do I see XML there? While future book outputs will be HTML or other formats suitable for mobile devices, most publishers with extensive amounts of content will use XML as the intermediary storage format. XML content can be easily converted into a variety of formats, some that aren’t even invented yet. Put simply: Content in XML is built to last, through ongoing changes in formats like HTML and to crash through emerging technologies, like mobile, unhindered by the limitations of more rigid formats.
PDF, a great format to display pages as they would have been printed, is too strict for the new and upcoming technologies which use smaller screens with formats that aren’t compatible with traditional paper. XML will help you manage and capitalize on the next digital disruption, which is likely just around the corner. XML enables you to order, organize, and repurpose your content in ways that PDFs cannot. Technically speaking, XML defines a set of rules for encoding documents in both a human-readable and machine-readable format, and can be easily converted into formats, such as HTML, HTML5, EPUB, MOBI, or others.
Disrupting Digital Disruptions
Some of the more interesting survey results were:
- What business requirements are driving your move to new delivery mechanisms? Almost 50% of respondents said they are concerned that they must change or be left behind.
- What are the shortcomings of publishing content as it exists today? 63% said that their search capability needs improvement.
- What types of content delivery are your customers asking you to provide? 65% said their customers are asking for content that is more searchable and 44% said their customers want content more available on mobile devices.
The most concerning statistic might be that only 43% felt that competitors were not ahead of them, with almost 60% feeling they were behind, or didn’t know.
There are many disruptions coming up in the publishing industry – and many opportunities. Publishers can’t let the disruptions sneak up on them. XML can help publishers evade digital disruptions before it’s too late. Some questions to keep in mind as you consider how to use XML and how you should organize your content for the future:
- What content do you have? And how much of it can you reap new life from?
- How can people make better use of your content with new technology?
- What is your plan to get there?
Caution: Opportunities Ahead
Phrases like “digital disruption” weren’t created in a vacuum; they exist because it’s a reality — and it’s ongoing. Technological advances, the market race for creating smarter smart phones and tablets, and changes in how we consume information will continue to evolve; that’s clear. But, disruptive events are also tremendous opportunities. Thinking ahead and converting your content to a more malleable form like XML, is a step you can take to enable quicker and more effective adoption of new technologies.
XML opens up a slew of new opportunities. It can help publishers tap new revenue, by enabling efficient repackaging of existing content. It can also broaden publishers’ reach, making it less labor-intensive to break into new formats and platforms. And finally, XML makes content more manageable because it can reflow complex assets like tables or images to fit a variety of formats. With an XML foundation, the opportunities for publishers to develop new products and solutions are truly limitless.
This year’s survey spoke volumes about the concerns surrounding content and how far along, or not, organizations are in the process of keeping up with the speedy evolution of content creation, storage, and dissemination. As a parting thought, the survey asks questions about how publishers plan to utilize “the Cloud”, manage future “content delivery” and improve “quality of content”. Are you prepared to give some answers?
Click here to view the full survey results.
Mark Gross, president of Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL), is an authority on XML implementation and document conversion. Prior to joining DCL in 1981, Gross was with the consulting practice of Arthur Young & Co. He has a B.S. degree in Engineering from Columbia University and an MBA from New York University. He also has taught at the New York University Graduate School of Business, the New School, and Pace University. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of automated conversions to XML and SGML.