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

The Challenge

Random House is one of the world’s largest publishers, and the world’s largest English-language general trade book publisher. Its ongoing book production is voluminous, and its needs for digital asset management are both large-scale and complex. In a given year, Random House will typically produce 4,000 new titles. In addition, they manage an active back list of more than 45,000 titles, with a total list of more than 200,000 titles. In recent years, the digital asset management strategy has expanded to include the company’s growth into audio books, eBooks, Websites, and other new and emerging media.

Beginning in the 1990s, Random House began efforts to better manage the digital assets associated with these titles. Originally, the DAM efforts were local to groups and imprints within Random House, and typically included the jacket art and manuscript text. Over time, the managed assets grew to include the page layout files, the manuscript text files, cover and jacket art, and the final PDF files used for printing.

As the assets grew, Random House began to centralize some of the DAM activities and processes, and also worked to create logical directories for the assets based on the page layout files and links (then QuarkXPress). They also started to look at templating some of the book designs and mechanisms to reuse assets and templates based on commonalities among the titles.

Eventually, in 2000, with the DAM activities and system now centralized, the group ran into a limitation with the then-current system because of too many assets and folders, and began looking at enterprise-scale systems to manage its digital assets.

Meeting the Challenge

Random House purchased and implemented the digital asset management system from Open Text Digital Media Group (then Artesia) with the goal of:

  • Providing a single DAM system for storage of all digital assets for print products
  • Providing a single DAM system for storage of all digital assets for the audio
  • Providing a platform for distribution of digital assets to both internal and external systems

The Open Text DAM system in operation at Random House is run by a central organization that supports all of the Random House product lines. The system currently houses all of the digital assets associated with the print products. The system has been through a number of upgrades, and functionality has been added as the group has built up the collection of digital assets to include more asset types such as audio and video. The additional functionality has also been developed to support new use cases such as being able to provide updated titles to Amazon.com for Kindle distribution (the equivalent of a minor reprint) and managing supplemental material for books.

Recently, Random House has aggressively moved its DAM implementation beyond the traditional function of digital archive to one in which the DAM system serves as a hub for distributing content to dozens of content platforms, partners, and syndication partners. Random House is now using the DAM to distribute content in real-time to partners such as iTunes for audio books, and is also now providing real-time updates to key partners such as Amazon.com as new products are completed or updated. Significantly, Random House is able to make use of standard Web-service features such as SOAP, which are increasingly supported by partners such as Amazon, making points of integration much simpler and more straightforward to establish.

Damian Sacoccio, vice president of marketing and product marketing for Open Text Digital Media Group, finds it notable that a longtime customer such as Random House continues to find new innovations for the DAM platform. “Media businesses are evolving, and they need to be responsive to new business models and new customer demands,” Sacoccio notes. “So when they identify a new feature such as search inside the book or free samples, they want to be able to implement it quickly and inexpensively, and using the open, standards-based connections that their partners support.” This often means providing partners with multiple formats of the content, and supporting metadata, and being ready to deliver this content and metadata on a regular, predictable schedule.

Results

Random House has successfully implemented a system that forms the strategic backbone for its digital asset management processes and strategy. At this point, the system:

  • Manages all digital assets for the print products.
  • Is being built out to manage all assets for the audio books and products.
  • Is used to push multimedia products and content to internal and external Websites.
  • Handles a wide variety of supplemental material, including promotional materials, video interviews with authors, and high-resolution photos and graphics that are used for both the books themselves and for promotional materials.

Random House is finding significant value in having its digital assets stored in a central system. Such central management provides faster means of locating and using stored assets, and also helps instill more standardized workflows using digital production tools ranging from those for print (now the Adobe Creative Suite tools) to those tools used for video production, audio production, and eBook production. It also enables them to create more standardized means for distributing content to a variety of internal and external Websites, with the eventual goal to be used as a central platform for all digital media distribution.

Lessons Learned

As with several of our other case studies, the lessons learned from the initiative have had much more to do with the process changes than the technology elements.

  • The DAM implementation team pointed to the need to give careful consideration to when and how the DAM system should consume the content. In the case of Random House, the system is used for finished goods, but could also be used for some work in progress.
  • An enterprise system of this type enables an organization like Random House to look at changing the editorial model to where editors can plan a new lifecycle for a product. For example, where a cookbook may have only been considered in its print incarnation, now editors can think of models such as developing it as a database and considering alternative business models such as syndication and licensing.
  • The robustness and scale of the system has put Random House in a position of controlling its own destiny about asset management in an environment where Google had begun to dictate digital distribution. With this infrastructure in place, Random House can control the quality and the versioning of the content, and the customer’s experience of Random House content would be in line with Random House standards.

Gilbane Conclusions

  • Few trade book publishers have the scale or resources of Random House to undertake this kind of project, but it is to Random House’s substantial credit that they identified this need as early as the early 1990s and accelerated its efforts and investment beginning in 2000. The result is truly an enterprise-class digital asset management system that meets core business needs and is expanding to address the business needs of important newer product offerings and business models.
  • A sophisticated and standards based digital asset management system is essential to supporting the kind of broad and complex lines of business Random House is engaged in. The Random House team has created a significant platform for digital asset management that successfully supports one of the largest publishing operations in the world.
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