Redefining Multichannel Content Publishing
The launch of the iPad in 2010 launched a new era of innovative publications accompanied by new revenue opportunities—and pushed the limits of production staff who were required to produce more products without any accommodation to publication schedules. Publishers from across the spectrum realized that they must explore new workflows, publishing tools and business models to deliver their content simultaneously to any media channel.
On the heels of the iPad's debut, International Digital Enterprise Alliance (IDEAlliance)—a not-for-profit organization that works to develop standards and best practices to enhance efficiency and speed across the digital media supply chain—responded by launching the nextPub Initiative.
nextPub, the publishing industry's technology incubator, hosted by IDEAlliance, is also supported by MPA, the Magazine Media Association; the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's) and its Advertising Digital Identification LLC (Ad-ID); and the Japanese Magazine Publishing Association. IDEAlliance also works in close collaboration with the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) EPUB 3 Working Group to assure that the emerging EPUB 3 and nextPub specifications dovetail to allow nextPub content to be seamlessly packaged and delivered to the enhanced e-reader channel using EPUB 3.
Through nextPub, IDEAlliance brings together the industry's best minds and provides the technical and support resources required to aggressively tackle today's publishing challenges. The goal of nextPub is to foster the development of next-generation publishing tools by embracing emerging technologies, developing best practices and establishing new industry specifications.
Those Behind the Effort
Peter Meirs, vice president of production technologies for Time Inc., serves as chairperson for the nextPub Initiative. Publishers involved in the effort include AARP, American Media, Inc., Hearst Corp., Meredith Corp., National Geographic Global Media, Reader's Digest, Rodale, Inc., Source Interlink Media, Time, Inc., US News Media Group, and Wolters Kluwer.
nextPub sponsors include Adobe Systems, Agfa Corp., Apex Conversion, Aysling Digital Media Solutions, Brown Printing., Dalim Software, Hearst, Hipzone Integrated Media Production, Mark Logic, MediaBeacon, New ProImage America, Qualcomm, Really Strategies, RR Donnelley, Trend Offset, Typèfi, Woodwing USA and Zinio.
Throughout 2011, nextPub hosted numerous technology demonstrations where suppliers provided nextPub members early access to developing products. These brainstorming sessions provided a forum where publishers shared their visions for the next-generation technology solutions they'll need in order to make platform- and device-agnostic publishing workflows a reality.
During 2011, nextPub working groups developed Version 1.0 of the nextPub specifications that form the foundation for new, platform-agnostic workflows. At the heart of nextPub is the nextPub XML Source Content Encoding Specification. This specification defines semantically rich, platform-agnostic content vocabulary and a rich media encoding schema. It combines enhanced PRISM 3.0 (Publishing Requirements for Industry Standard Metadata) metadata along with the power of HTML5 to encode all the components that make up a publication─from the cover to the masthead to navigation devices to articles or chapters, and to advertising materials. nextPub Source was designed to support efficient aggregation and production of multichannel content while preserving the publisher's ability to distinctively brand the look and feel.
Defining Future Workflows
The nextPub publishing paradigm is based on establishing a nextPub content repository and employing nextPub "Rosetta Stone" transformations to drive a new generation of production technologies capable of automating branded layout and styling for published products. For some publications, an XML-first workflow is envisioned. For those publications where design is as critical as the text and rich media content, XML-early workflows are imagined. In either case, the concept is to store semantically rich, platform-agnostic source content in a nextPub repository so that content can be selected, transformed, formatted, packaged and served to any delivery channel in a highly automated fashion.
The nextPub XML Source Content Encoding Specification defines XML elements and attributes to encode source content. The metadata fields and values in this specification are drawn from the new IDEAlliance PRISM 3.0 Metadata and Controlled Vocabulary Specifications. A draft of this specification was released on Dec. 15, 2011, for public comment; it will be finalized in February by the nextPub Working Group.
Following the release of the nextPub XML Source Content Specification, the nextPub Working Group will begin the task of developing transformation and packaging guidelines for delivering content across a wide variety of media channels, including enhanced e-readers using EPUB3, HTML5 browsers and even to print engines.
PRISM 3.0 Metadata to Organize Content
As the nextPub Working Groups began the design of the XML Source, it was clear that metadata and content encoding must both be defined. PRISM, the IDEAlliance metadata framework, was the obvious choice for metadata capture; it has been widely adopted across the magazine publishing community since its initial release in 2001. It is built in modules and, at this time, includes fields to describe magazine and serial publication content. In addition, PRISM includes new modules that provide detailed descriptions of usage rights, digital images and even recipes and advertising.
Because PRISM has a strong philosophy to not "reinvent the wheel," it includes subsets from other established metadata specifications including Dublin Core, International Press Telecommunications Council's (IPTC) Information Interchange Model (IIM), AdsML, Ghent PDF Workgroup (GWG) and even hRecipe. PRISM is constantly adding modules to meet the needs of the IDEAlliance membership. New metadata sets scheduled for development in 2012 include short-form video, projects such as crafts and home improvement, marketing and metadata specific to textbooks and educational materials.
HTML5 Content Encoding
Another challenge for the nextPub Working Group has been to develop a tagging scheme to encode semantically rich, platform-agnostic content. Initially, the thought was to extend the PRISM XML tag set known as PAM (PRISM Aggregator Message) for this purpose. As work progressed, and more use cases were developed, it became clear that the use case for the PAM XML tag set was quite different from the scenarios driving nextPub development.
The "ah-ha" moment came as the group worked to extend the pam:media model to handle the new, complex multimedia objects found in tablet editions. Peter Meirs challenged the group by posing the question, "Should we be modeling media objects in XHTML, or should we base nextPub on next-generation HTML5 so we can just stand back and let HTML5 do what HTML can do?"
Following this discussion, the nextPub Working Group held a number of meetings, drawing in technologists from both the publishers and solutions provider sides to explore the feasibility and real-world practicality of basing nextPub source content encoding on HTML5. HTML5 is gaining credibility as a delivery platform for publications, not only on the Web, but also as an alternative to the publication apps that we see today on tablets and smart phones. With EPUB 3 incorporating HTML5 as its base content format, it makes greater sense to bring nextPub Source XML into as close compliance with the XML Serialization of HTML5 as is possible, while still retaining sufficiently rich source semantics.
So, the decision has been made that nextPub XML Source will move from today's PRISM/PAM XML, based on XHTML, to a format that allows for expanded PRISM 3.0-based metadata in the nextPub metadata block, while moving to an HTML5-compliant head and body for content encoding.
The nextPub Source Content XML Model
The nextPub XML Source Content Model combines PRISM metadata fields along with a parsable subset of HTML5 for encoding the publication content.
The nextPub metadata block provides several key components to managing source content for aggregation, transformation and delivery. Use cases that informed this structure defined the ability to aggregate content into magazines and books as they are produced today, while developing new collections of content that are customized to a region or target audience. For example, it should be feasible to create an annual collection of cartoons from a magazine title, or even across magazine titles from a single publisher. Likewise it should be possible to build new products that draw content from a particular author, celebrity or subject matter.
Today, publishers that have implemented content management, based on PRISM metadata, are storing articles. For nextPub, the scope has changed from magazine article content to any standalone content unit, including the cover, navigation aids such as the contents, page or section views that are commonly found in tablet editions, recipes, puzzles, cartoons and advertisements.
The scope for nextPub also has changed from addressing magazine/serial content to all collection types where content may be aggregated and delivered. Altogether, nextPub addresses the creation of display books, textbooks and a wide variety of other publication types, as well as magazines.
The "where used" metadata block is specifically designed to track content usage across platforms, publications or aggregation types. Part of the nextPub specification effort was to not only define new metadata fields for the PRISM specifications, but develop many new controlled vocabularies that provide standardized industry field values.
When it comes to the model for coding nextPub content units, a valid HTML5 subset has been developed. While some forced restrictions to HTML5 exist, nextPub has not defined any extensions. The goal is to enable any HTML5 browser-based display mechanism to process raw nextPub content without plug-ins or customization. This is a major difference between the nextPub and the EPUB 3 strategy, which requires a conformant EPUB 3 reader technology to render content.
nextPub for Books and More
The nextPub Initiative builds on lessons learned in magazine publishing, but in no way is exclusive to this publishing vertical market. Moving away from the current PRISM XML model for encoding magazine articles further underlines the fact that this effort is inclusive of many more publication types than magazines.
Several metadata fields enable publishers to specify the type of source content and refine how the content is chunked and stored for use and reuse. The first of these metadata fields is the prism:aggregationType field that is used to specify the type of content in a repository. Types supported by nextPub include: blog; feed; newsletter; pamphlet; book; journal; newspaper; vook; bookazine; magazine; whitepaper; catalog; manual; report.
A second critical metadata field enables publishers to identify the content-storage unit in the nextPub repository. This field, prism:contentType includes standalone content units from these different publication types: advertisement; classified ad section; introduction; article; contentBlock; masthead; blog; front cover; navigational aid, book chapter; index.
The contentBlock content type was developed to enable publishers to store any content blocks in their nextPub repositories. For example, a cookbook publisher may want to store individual recipes as independent units in its nextPub content repository. Or a textbook publisher may want to store a quiz or quiz answers in its nextPub repository.
Finally, each content block can be described by descriptive metadata fields from Dublin Core and from the PRISM metadata specifications. Of particular usefulness is the metadata field prism:genre. Genre is used to refine the content type. So, for example, a textbook publisher might store quizzes as a "contentBlock" and use the prism:genre "quiz" to indicate that this content block is a quiz. Likewise, a cookbook publisher might store recipes as a "contentBlock" and use the prism:genre "recipe" to indicate that this content block is a recipe.
Beyond the Printed Page
While nextPub is designed to support publication of magazines, books and blogs, it also provides the ability for a publisher to develop new products from existing content in a highly automated environment. Suppose that a home magazine publishes recipes from a famous chef in its monthly issue. If the content has sufficient descriptive metadata in the nextPub repository, the publisher might develop a cookbook or a special issue with recipes from that chef.
In the future, publishers may use their nextPub repositories to develop custom products across different magazine titles or from a combination of book, blog and magazine content. PE
Dianne Kennedy is vice president, emerging technology, IDEAlliance (IDEAlliance.org). nextPub is beginning technical work for 2012 during meetings on Feb. 15-16 at Adobe in New York City. If you are interested in sponsoring or contributing, contact Illeny Maaza at IDEAlliance at: email@example.com.