Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Virtual Newsstand' Debuts Online

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Virtual Newsstand' Debuts Online

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE largest newspaper chains in Canada has created and instituted a multimedia database they call the "virtual newsstand."

"We have been exploring some ways to leverage our content in new media and this was put together in a vision statement by one of our presidents," said Allan Berze, director of technology for Southam New Media. "He always wanted to be able to publish in a variety of different formats, and this is what we ended up with."

Berze is talking about the Southam Interactive Database or SID for short. SID allows for the entry, filing and retrieval of data in all formats used by Southam: wire service text, newspaper and magazine text, classified ads, photos, graphics, television, video and sound, software programs and Web content.

Any unit of data can be bound and has identifying attributes that can be stored and retrieved through a single access point.

"In order to do this, all the newspapers have to have is a common operating system of pagination . . . . All our newspapers are paginated using the Quark system," said Berze. "A lot of newspapers now are trying to get their stories into archives, and this is just an extension of that."

Because all the newspapers are paginated on the same system, Southam's initial investment is only $500,000 -- much, much less than if their newspapers were paginated on different systems.

According to Peter Irwin, president, Southam New Media, there is a single access window for retrieval and input with one export button where content can be exported onto the Web or, for example, a commercial service provider like America Online or Microsoft Network.

"It's basically a point and click export module," said Irwin. "Our time savings are dramatic; we've got efficiencies and cost savings which enable us to focus more in terms of what we want the product to be."

Basically, what Berze's team did was write software that enables extraction of content from all of Southam's newspapers online and tries to make sense of what is a story. It was then put into an Oracle database, which enables flexibility. The whole thing was set up on Southam's intranet (internal Internet).

"People can query the database looking for particular types of content and then export to whatever target media they desire," said Berze. "I call it the media neutral database. …

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