NEW - Digital Directions: Your Digital DNA
I started working with digital content 25 years ago, developing interactive products for publishers and other content organizations in New York City. I worked in small media and technology development firms, without much to speak of in terms of infrastructure. I imagined that the larger publishing organizations for which we developed products all had robust systems for the management of digital content.
Ten years later, a large textbook publisher hired me to lead a media and technology group and I learned otherwise.
There was no systematic approach to the management of digital assets. Following the printing of a textbook, digital assets were stored on a variety of offline media (SyQuest, anyone?), and put in a shoebox or some similar receptacle under the production editor’s desk. As I later learned, it was not that unusual a circumstance in the industry.
Content management was off the table as a strategic priority. The reasons were clear:
• Outsourcing of compositing and printing put staff in a position where they were only indirectly involved in the final stages of book production. This yielded quite a savings, but publishing organizations were no longer directly involved in managing digital assets.
• Second, there was no compelling business rationale for a comprehensive digital asset management system, other than some nebulous claims on efficiency. There was no product payoff for maintaining the digital components of books. Why? There was no electronic book marketplace, as we know it today. Plus, these works contained a large number of one-time use, licensed third-party components preventing their use in derivative products.
• Finally, the mission of the organization in thought, word and deed was in the creation of physical books only. The digital elements used in the creation of the physical book were considered an incidental byproduct.
The situation has changed today. There has been a significant and demonstrable shift, putting the management of digital content assets in focus as a key publishing function. This is not just a matter of administrative housekeeping, but is integral to the ongoing success of a publishing organization.