March 10, 1997 10:00 AM ET
Photo opportunity: Intranet finds just-right photos just in time
By Esther Shein

  A picture might be worth a thousand words, but who wants to hassle with hunting down the perfect photo for a textbook while on deadline? That was the dilemma facing the editorial staff at Simon & Schuster Inc.'s Higher Education Group, which often ran marathons to track down images.

Not anymore. A CDA (Corporate Digital Archive) application on the publishing giant's intranet has streamlined the process, answering the call from parent company Viacom Inc. to facilitate information sharing.

But an intranet was not the first stop for CDA. Originally deployed as a client/server application, the archive was only accessible via Macintosh clients in Simon & Schuster's production department-a setup not exactly conducive to widespread information exchange.

"The goal is a centralized repository of all intellectual property," said Richard Walkus, assistant vice president for New Media Production and the CDA at Simon & Schuster's Education Group, in Upper Saddle River, N.J.

The photo module is just the first of many data types that will be digitally archived; later this year, the $2.3 billion publisher plans to add selected content from textbooks, and later, video and software.

Digital archives are critical for improving media companies' ability to store and organize all types of material in a repository for reuse. And more content providers are making the leap to digital archives on intranets as a timesaving measure. "It is a natural progression to move [intellectual property] to an intranet because it's a great mechanism for ... taking paper-based information and making it digital," said Jamie Popkin, a vice president at Gartner Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

Platform independence

CDA was the answer to Simon & Schuster's prayers for better time management. Prior to both the intranet and client/server versions, editors had to first determine if an image had previously been used by another division, then follow up on licensing and reprint rights-and that's before getting the image rescanned and color-corrected at a cost of $80 to $130 per photo.

About the same time that Viacom officials were calling for a digital asset management program, Simon & Schuster's Education Group heard about Photofile, a natural-language search engine from SRA International Inc., of Arlington, Va.

Thus was born the client/server version of CDA. For $750,000 (including licensing, customization and hardware), Simon & Schuster installed the system on an RS/6000 server running AIX. Then, in December, Simon & Schuster officials created another interface using Common Gateway Interface scripts, Perl and HTML to port CDA to the intranet "because of its ability to be platform-independent," said Walkus.

When a photo is acquired, the copyright and reprint information is stored in the CDA repository, eliminating about $50 in research costs if someone wants to reuse a photo. By typing in a description, a number of images pop up, eliminating the need for a paper trail.

Once a photo is located, if it's not the property of Simon & Schuster, the client/server portion of CDA will estimate a price for publication based on a variety of factors, including size and whether it will be color or black and white. That function will eventually be added to the intranet-based CDA.

The Education Group-the first big win for CDA in both its incarnations-has already used CDA to facilitate production of textbooks. "The whole process is streamlined, so we are releasing product to market that has all the permissions [built in] to eliminate any legal issues," said George Werner, executive vice president and general manager of the Education Group. Savings has been "several million dollars," said Werner.

For a company where pictures plus words equal profit, it's a priceless combination.

Copyright(c) 1997 Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Ziff-Davis Publishing Company is prohibited. PC Week and the PC Week logo are trademarks of Ziff-Davis Publishing Company. PC Week Online and the PC Week Online logo are trademarks of Ziff-Davis Publishing Company.

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