The Ad Portal Era
All agree a vendor should be open to feedback and ongoing conversation about how to optimize their systems for individual clients. "The biggest thing we were looking for in a vendor was someone that would be a good long-term partner," Sullivan says.
In consultation with Hearst, HudsonYards added enhancements every few months after the portal's launch in February 2008. "My people here who do the ad trafficking would hear suggestions from users, so we would put it in there," Merolle says. By the end of 2008, she says, Hearst had achieved its goal of near-universal compliance.
New Roles for Portals
Coming out of such conversations have been many ideas for expanding portal technology to encompass other aspects of magazine production. SendMyAd, for instance, has added an ad-creation tool allowing advertisers to download templates to create pre-defined "marketplace" style ads.
The browser-based solution may also prove ideal as a means to further streamline production processes. An important component of future browsers, Merolle says, will be systems integration. She cites QuadSystems, whose AdShuttle portal is integrated with the company's magazine production software (Impoze), allowing publishers to skip the step of dropping images into the software. According to Stuart Mason, sales and business development manager at QuadSystems, the company is sunsetting Impoze and replacing it with Publishers Studio, which will further streamline the process by passing metadata submitted with the ad right into the production software.
A major step forward for portals could come through industry standardization. Merolle sits on an international committee for PDF workflows, the Ghent PDF Workgroup, which seeks to develop a standard ad ticket. "We're thinking maybe there could be a universal portal that could be like a file server, admit[ting] to everybody else's portal," she says.
The portals themselves can help the standardization push—as with Hearst's system—encouraging agencies to send SWOP-compliant proofs, or by providing incentive to adopt a standard digital insertion order, an initiative Merolle and others are working on through information technology nonprofit IDEAlliance.