Content Management Business Case

Content management represents the convergence of many trends in the media industries as they grapple with the task of converting their content assets, and the processes for creating them, to digital. is the core asset -- the crown jewels -- of every media company. It forms the basis of their products and services, and it defines their brands.

Over the last several years, content creation has converted much of its processes to digital. Now, content-driven businesses are building infrastructure to manage and distribute content in digital form, both internally and to their customers. Various studies have estimated the “velocity” of conversion to digital infrastructure in terms of media companies’ expenditures on equipment. The consensus of these studies is that media companies spent roughly ten times as much on analog or physical media infrastructure as they did on digital around 1994, but nowadays, they spend three times as much on digital as they do on analog.

Content owners are realizing that they have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain digital content and treat it as assets, in order to take advantage of every near-term and long-term distribution opportunity. The plummeting cost of storage and the increasing ubiquity of client-server network infrastructure are now making content management particularly cost-effective.

Why should media companies want to manage digital content in a centrally controlled way? There are many reasons, some of which are particular to individual content businesses, but two basic reasons apply across the board: making and saving money.

Revenue: Multipurposing

Media companies have discovered multipurposing – using pieces of content in multiple products and formats – as a way of extending media brands through new products and new media. But they are finding multipurposing to be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming with traditional processes and production technologies. Content management allows it to be done much more quickly and cheaply than before.

For example, a major metropolitan newspaper publishes occasional books that are compilations of repurposed articles and photos on key subjects of local interest. It took a staff of three people one month to prepare one such book. The newspaper estimated that a content management system would reduce the required labor to 1-2 weeks and one person. This shorter time horizon also makes certain repurposed products feasible that were not feasible before. The same newspaper said that it would garner at least $100k incremental revenue from an Election Summary, if it were published within two weeks of the actual election. Without a content management system, it is not possible for them to produce such a product of sufficient quality in that timeframe.

As another example, a movie studio created a sequel to an animated film direct to home video by reusing footage from the original feature film, which was archived in digital form. This enabled them to get a product out quickly enough to capitalize on audience awareness of the original film.

Cost Savings: Process Improvement

Content management is required infrastructure for reengineering workflow in existing editorial and production processes. It also enables cost and cycle time reduction by making content easily to find and accessible from production desktops.

Certain types of book publishing are especially ripe for process improvement. Book editors can shave weeks off editorial cycle time by selecting photos and illustrations from a digital photo archive rather than by either combing through hardcopy archives (or even hard drives, or cartridge media) or commissioning new illustrations.

The most striking example of content management's applicability to book publishing is in custom publishing , or combining a number of chapters, modules, or other content selections into bound volumes with very small (possibly single) print runs. Most current custom publishing processes, usually in the college textbook field, either produce fast yet poor quality results or require many staff-months of manual effort. A content management system would enable custom publishing processes that produce results almost as good as "by hand" and do so in hours, not weeks.

The Market for content management Solutions

In general, several primary trends are converging to create the market for content management:

1. A critical mass of new content at all types of media companies is being created digitally.

2. Creating digital media products (web, DVD, CD-ROM, etc.) often requires digitizing legacy physical content.

3. Some forms of legacy content, like film and acetate audio tape, are physically deteriorating. Digitizing such content is a good way of preserving it indefinitely.

4. Media companies, like other businesses, have built digital network infrastructure to support general business applications.

5. Cost of storing space-intensive media like images, audio, and video continues to drop.

Above all, media companies are collectively generating thousands of terabytes of data per year, and they are coming to one inevitable conclusion:

You have to put it all somewhere.

They are finding that the existing storage places for digital media -- desktop hard drives, disk cartridges, floppies, even file servers -- are woefully fragmented and inadequate, just as PC databases are inadequate for storing corporate relational data.

Here are some remarks from large media companies:

  • "Somewhere in our vault, we have 1000 pieces of film with every kind of sunset you can imagine. If we could digitize them, catalog and index them, and make them available inside and outisde the organization, they could provide a major source of reusable content and income for us."
    CTO, film studio
  • "The 'Digital Marketing System' moves digitized marketing assets over narrow and broadband networks in linear and interactive forms to PC and TV platforms, all managed by a database."
    Marketing Collateral, large marketing & advertising agency
  • "An executive at a major publisher recently pointed out that his company is really in two businesses -- database management and distribution. Literally, everything they own exists with in a database, ready to be customized, packaged, repackaged and distributed in any form making sense to their customers! They can deliver customized texts. They can also deliver product in traditional print form, on CD-ROMs or over a network, such as the Internet."
    Myron Uretsky, Chairman of IT Dept., New York Univerisity Business School
  • "We need to turn the flame way down on back-office support activities and re-focus our resources on our content, the heart and soul of our business."
    SVP Technology, diversified publishing company

Some media organizations are developing content management prototypes or small production systems. An increasing number of true enterprise-wide content management solutions are also being developed, but many are limited to niches defined by the "silo" organizations of most large media companies (especially the older ones), whether functional (prepress, post-production, custom publishing, etc.) or by brand, title, imprint, or media type. These narrow solutions are limited in scope and flexibility, which leads to the need to implement multiple solutions in different silos to achieve true multipurposing and process improvement. This, in turn, leads to overblown cost of deployment and ownership, exacerbated by lack of interoperability.

An enterprise-wide content management solution needs to be designed to integrate the complex requirements of a multipurpose, multi-product organization. A technology architecture that is structured for scalability and extensibility will emerge from the field of successful new media ventures and be applied to large traditional media companies as they move to leverage their brands online.

At the same time, other types of business are deploying content management for various uses. The two most important of these are:

  • Financial service firms and other so-called “information publishers,” who need to compete by adding more value to the basic data that they publish
  • Consumer product copanies who need to manage brand artifacts, such as logos, product packaging, and advertising collateral.

As an application category, content management has come into its own as an evolution from various other types of applications, such as document management, text libraries, image archives, and others. The first true enterprise-wide content management adoptions have been at new media businesses that have started from scratch. For example, C|Net, the family of web sites and cable television services, had content management technology developed for them from scratch; that technology is now available commercially as the StoryServer application from Vignette Corp.

Nevertheless, various studies have been done that suggest that content management is an exploding application category. The most thorough of these studies is one from GISTICS1, which sized the market (including hardware, software, and services) in 1996 at $274 Million and estimates growth to over $3.2 Billion by 2001.

By now, commercial content management solutions numbering in the dozens have appeared, with prices ranging from the millions down into the low five figures. Certain large systems integration firms have built content management practices. There is every reason to believe that, with the rise of content management, major media companies will soon be able to leverage digital content throughout their entire organizations.

This article was adapted from:

Digital media management. Content, vol. 6, no. 2, Fall 1998, pp. 4-8.

Digital Media Management: A White Paper. Sun Microsystems White Paper, February 1997


How to Calculate an Asset Management System’s Ability to Pay for Itself. From GISTICS, Inc., MediAuteur Analyst Briefing, Spring 1997.



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