XML Standardization Key to Publishing's Future
Metadata's potential for becoming the currency driving the future of digital publishing was the theme of two presentations at last week's Magazine Publishers of America event, "Magazines: From Dimensional to Digital," held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City.
Peter Meirs, vice president of production technologies at Time Inc., and Dianne Kennedy, vice president of media technologies at IDEAlliance, spoke on the push for XML standardization across book and magazine publishing platforms.
"Although it is a very pervasive technology, very few people really understand it," Meirs said of XML. "They understand it conceptually, but they do not understand it in practice."
With the coming of a dizzying array of information delivery modes—e-readers, mobile platforms, tablets, content partnerships with device companies, new licensing models, social media, RSS, print/Web integration strategies—publishers need a technology that can encompass, and unify, a range of platforms, Meirs noted. "Of course," he said, "that technology is XML."
A structured, standardized vocabulary for sharing information, XML is a means to express content independent of proprietary platforms, applications and programming languages. It is available from many sources, understood by all content management (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM) systems, and is license and royalty free, Meirs said, making it the ideal lingua franca in an environment where consumers expect different types of content to be easily transferable across platforms.
Its ability to contain specific standardized instructions tailored to the needs of a particular medium can, however, create problems of device compatibility. Though similar in many ways, books and magazines have important structural differences that led to the development of separate XML formats: ePUB for books and PRISM for magazines. The two formats make it difficult to develop magazines for the growing e-reader market, Meirs told the audience—before announcing a new initiative designed to bridge this gap.