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NEW(S) MEDIA Industry groups start to thrash out a vision for technology "We are no longer newspaper companies -- we can no longer define ourselves by a single distribution medium".

An interesting question arose at the February meeting of the Technology and Telecommunications Committee of the Newspaper Association of America (NAA): Is it possible to articulate a universal high-level vision of technology for the newspaper industry?

This led me to an even more important question: Can I somehow get a column out of writing the first draft? The latter seems probable; so does the former.

First, a word about the Technology and Telecommunications Committee -- it is actually a group of eight subcommittees: systems integration and business systems, pre-publishing and new media technology, printing technology; international technical affairs; packaging and distribution; newsprint; environmental health and safety, and NEXPO planning. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the pre-publishing committee.)

A joint session between pre-publishing and systems integrations committees was meant to determine the areas of focus for each committee, but it became apparent that issues were so closely intertwined that it would be difficult to discuss them separately. So, the groups met jointly for the entire day.

At the end of the day, the joint committee had selected five areas for focus by the NAA, and appointed working groups to delve into each area. These are:

* Content management and digital asset management.

* Universal customer registration and directories, with a focus on a universal cookie.

* Networks, database, telecom, voice recognition.

* Customer contact management, including call centers.

* End-to-end business-to-business commerce.

The committee also stressed the importance of communicating the "high-level vision" of newspaper organizations' technological needs to senior management. A white paper will be developed by committee volunteers to focus on why it is important to invest in technology and build the correct business infrastructure today for growth tomorrow.

Which returns us to our first precept -- a manifesto for newspaper technology:

* Newspaper companies must evolve into information companies. That means that we must become companies that create and package information -- primarily local news -- and distribute it.

* Evolution begins with new definitions. We are no longer newspaper companies -- that is, we can no longer define ourselves by a single distribution medium.

* Information companies, by definition, must be able to move data seamlessly across all systems. That requires an information architecture -- a set of standards and designs that wires all systems together and allows all data to be transported across all systems.

* Information architectures don't just fall out of the sky. You need to have information architects on your payroll. Newspaper companies have just begun adding chief technology officers to the executive suites. Good job. Now ditch them. Any technology officer will always be more or less an outcast from the traditional newspaper strongholds of business and editorial. And technology is not the point, information is. So get a CIO.

* Put your CIO on the executive committee. Even those new CTOs are still outside the circle of power, a fatal error for any company that hopes to thrive in the Information Age. CTO consultations tend to sound a lot like "Here's what we've decided to do. How much will it cost?"

Invite your new CIO to the executive meeting. Discuss what you are trying to accomplish. You may be pleasantly surprised by the type of new ideas generated when you add a different point of view to the mix.

* Information companies have universal registration, which is a system that provides our customers with access to all of our products with a single identification and provides us with access to all the data we have on each customer in a unified fashion. It is currently the only way possible to reach the grail of sales: the ability to market all of our products to all of our customers on an individual profile basis.

Universal registration is a descriptive term for a technology called enterprise directory services. It consists of two major types of data repositories -- directories, which are the computer equivalent of a telephone white pages (a directory might be all the registered users for an e-mail newsletter, for example), and metadirectories, which are directories of directories.

Here lies the true power of the system: Metadirectories allow individual directories to be brought together for data-mining, unified access and similar uses beyond those enabled by a single directory.

We'll talk more about universal registration in another column.

-- Christopher J. Feola, e-mail:
COPYRIGHT 2001 The Cole Group
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 26, 2001
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