Curated content for content, computing, and digital experience professionsals

Day: July 15, 2009

Random House: Creating a 21st Century Publishing Framework

As part of our new report, Digital Platforms and Technologies for Publishers: Implementations Beyond “eBook,” we researched and wrote a number of case studies about how major publishing companies are moving to digital publishing. The following is case study of Random House and its use of Digital Asset Management (DAM) technology from OpenText to create a much more dynamic and agile publishing process.

Background

Random House, Inc. is the world’s largest English-language general trade book publisher. It is a division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the foremost media companies in the world.

Random House, Inc. assumed its current form with its acquisition by Bertelsmann in 1998, which brought together the imprints of the former Random House, Inc. with those of the former Bantam Doubleday Dell. Random House, Inc.’s publishing groups include the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, the Crown Publishing Group, the Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, the Knopf Publishing Group, the Random House Audio Publishing Group, the Random House Publishing Group, and Random House Ventures.

Together, these groups and their imprints publish fiction and nonfiction, both original and reprints, by some of the foremost and most popular writers of our time. They appear in a full range of formats—including hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, audio, electronic, and digital, for the widest possible readership from adults to young adults and children.

The reach of Random House, Inc. is global, with subsidiaries and affiliated companies in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Through Random House International, the books published by the imprints of Random House, Inc. are sold in virtually every country in the world.

Random House has long been committed to publishing the best literature by writers both in the United States and abroad. In addition to the company’s commercial success, books published by Random House, Inc. have won more major awards than those published by any other company—including the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer founded the company in 1925, after purchasing The Modern Library—reprints of classic works of literature—from publisher Horace Liveright. Two years later, in 1927, they decided to broaden the company’s publishing activities, and the Random House colophon made its debut.

Random House first made international news by successfully defending in court the U.S. publication of James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, setting a major legal precedent for freedom of speech. Beginning in the 1930s, the company moved into publishing for children, and over the years has become a leader in the field. Random House entered reference publishing in 1947 with the highly successful American College Dictionary, which was followed in 1966 by the equally successful unabridged Random House Dictionary of the English Language. It continues to publish numerous reference works, including the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

In 1960, Random House acquired the distinguished American publishing house of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and, a year later, Pantheon Books, which had been established in New York by European editors to publish works from abroad. Both were assured complete editorial independence—a policy which continues in all parts of the company to this day.

The Open Text Digital Media Group, formerly Artesia, is a leader in enterprise and hosted digital asset management (DAM) solutions, bringing a depth of experience around rich media workflows and capabilities. Open Text media management is the choice of leading companies such as Time, General Motors, Discovery Communications, Paramount, HBO and many more.

When clients work with the Open Text Digital Media Group, they tap into a wealth of experience and the immeasurable value of:

  • A decade of designing, delivering, and implementing award-winning rich media solutions
  • A global client base of marquee customer installations
  • An experienced professional services staff with hundreds of successful implementations
  • A proven DAM implementation methodology
  • Endorsements by leading technology and implementation partners
  • Domain expertise and knowledge across a variety of industries and sectors
  • The global presence and financial strength of Open Text, a leading provider of Enterprise Content Management solutions with a track record of financial growth and stability

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Semantic Search has Its Best Chance for Successes in the Enterprise

I am expecting significant growth in the semantic search market over the next five years with most of it focused on enterprise search. The reasons are pretty straightforward:

  • Semantic search is very hard and to scale it to the Web compounds the complexity.
  • Because the semantic Web is so elusive and results have been spotty with not much traction, it will be some time before it can be easily monetized.
  • Like many things that are highly complex, a good model will be to break the challenge of semantic search into smaller targeted business problems where focus is on a particular audience seeking content from a narrower domain.

I base this predication on my observation of the on-going struggle for organizations to get a strong framework in place to manage content effectively. By effectively I mean, establishing solid metadata, governance and publishing protocols that ensure that the best information knowledge workers produce is placed in range for indexing and retrieval. Sustained discipline and the people to exercise it just aren’t being employed in many enterprises to make this happen in a cohesive and comprehensive fashion. I have been discouraged by the number of well-intentioned projects I have seen flounder because organizations just can’t commit long-term or permanent human resources to the activity of content governance. Sometimes it is just on-again-off-again. What enterprises need are people with deep knowledge about the organization and how its content fits together in a logical framework for all types of knowledge workers. Instead, organizations tend to assign this job to external consultants or low-level staffers who are not well-grounded in the work of the particular enterprise. The results are predictably disappointing.

Enter semantic search technologies where there are multiple algorithmic tools available to index and retrieve content for complex and multi-faceted queries. Specialized semantic technologies are often well suited to shorter term projects for which domain specific vocabularies can be built more quickly with good results. Maintaining targeted vocabulary ontologies for a focused topic can be done with fewer human resources and a carefully bounded ontology can become an intelligent feed to a semantic search engine, helping it index with better precision and relevance.

This scenario is proposed with one caveat; enterprises must commit to having very smart people with enterprise expertise to build the ontology. Having a consultant coach the subject matter expert in method, process and maintenance guidelines for doing so is not a bad idea but the consultant has to prepare the enterprise for sustainability after exiting the scene.

The wager here is that enterprises can ramp up semantic search with a series of short, targeted projects, each of which establishes a goal of solving one business problem at a time and committing to efficient and accurate content retrieval as part of the solution. By learning what works well in each situation, intranet web retrieval will improve systematically and thoughtfully. The ramp to a better semantic Web will be paved with these interlocking pieces.

Keep an eye on these companies to provide technologies for point solutions in business critical applications: Basis Technology, Cognition Technology, Connotate, Expert Systems, Lexalytics, Linguamatics, Metatomix, Semantra, Sinequa and Temis.