There’s nothing quite as exciting as the moment a live event becomes “news.” That sterling point in time when an announcement “breaks” across the wire of a national or global news network as a piece of recorded history. Whether it reaches an audience of millions or just a single set of eyeballs, the event is no less significant. The act of publishing the news, especially on the hyperlinked pages of the modern Web, makes it a permanent part of our cultural consciousness, an embedded link in our community info-base.
One Seattle company who has been making news by, literally, “making news,” is Ingeniux. And, as the lyrics of at least one top-forty single say it, “You aint’ seen nothing yet!” Thanks to the ingenious capability of the XML meta-language to categorically index news content by its “schema” or metadata, the Internet is going to completely transform the way we view and receive our news. We’ll soon be seeing more news of greater practical relevance and more personal “hyper-localization” to our neighborhoods and our lifestyles. The irony is that, after being written and transmitted once, the first time, a good part of the news coming over the wire will never need to be re-edited again by human hands before you read it.
The Seattle CEO who has spearheaded the process of bringing XML-based content management to broadcast and print news publishing is Jim Edmunds, co-founder of Seattle’s Ingeniux. Jim, who credits Paul Allen for mentoring his appreciation of the ‘Wired World,’ has empowered Ingeniux clients – a diverse group ranging from Seattle’s Fisher Broadcasting to Bates College in Maine to the city of San Francisco – to use XML as a way of managing their content with newfound ease and agility. Edmunds also heralds the future of XML in broadcast news as a tool that will make possible everything from merging print and broadcast media on your TV screen, to generating hyper-localized information on all types of devices — being able to pull up a personalized Web page from anywhere in the world and find out how your kids did in their sixth grade basketball game — and all based on the personalized parameters that you define.
Seattle24x7 went after its own meta-content description of Ingeniux’s current status from its headquarters directly across from the Space Needle at Fisher Plaza.
Seattle24x7: Five years ago, Seattle hosted one of the first conferences of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to ratify XML as a standard. At that time, XML was sending out currents of excitement through the tech world. Yet, getting out of the blocks has not been as fast as some might have expected. It’s taken a while to catch on.
Edmunds: I couldn’t agree with you more. When we started the company four years ago, we thought that we had maybe a year or two to really establish our presence in the industry before the window closed and the big players came in and took over. And here we are four years later and there still isn’t a bona fide XML-based content management solution on the marketplace besides ours. Like a lot of things that have come out of the standards based movement, until we see the toolsets built around supporting those standards from the bigger players, there just isn’t enough critical mass for it to catch fire.
Seattle24x7: Yet, you have kept your focus on XML intact?
Edmunds: We are born and bred in XML. We built our content management application from the ground up as an XML-based solution to meet emerging needs in the marketplace. In the early history of the company, our customers came to us because they believed in XML and were looking for an XML-based solution. Today, XML is still important to our customers, but we see a lot of buying decisions based on the more traditional merits of our content management application, its ease-of-use and its rapid time to implement. XML isn’t the sole attraction.
Seattle24x7: Much of the “ingenuity” of Ingeniux has grown out of your work in the news industry. How did it all begin?
Edmunds: In the last five years the traditional news media has lost significant audience share to the Internet, and to other media outlets as well. Network broadcasters are losing audience share to cable, and they’re losing it to the Internet. Newspapers are losing audience share to the Internet. They need a way to leverage their brand and their content into new media.
To date, in order to publish content to the Web, existing newsroom systems have faced the reality of building a second newsroom staff. It hasn’t been economically viable. With the exception some very few big players, most media companies cannot sustain the costs associated with this. Companies that made big investments are now swimming in red ink and have had to scale back their Internet operations.
So what was needed was a system that could seamlessly migrate content from the newsroom to the Internet without adding bodies to the newsroom, while at the same time accounting for the fact that they’re two very different mediums and they have to present the information in different ways.
Seattle24x7: You worked with Fisher Broadcasting in developing your XPower Newsroom system?
Edmunds: We are very fortunate to have partnered with Fisher. The company has a very insightful Internet strategy, and a deep commitment, from the CEO on down, to execute on that strategy. We are also fortunate to work with Mel Martin, Fisher’s Senior VP of Research. Mel was the original designer and creative inspiration behind ENPS (the Electronic News Publishing System) the premier broadcast newsroom publishing system that is sold worldwide by the Associated Press. Mel really saw a need for a follow-on piece to ENPS, to take content from ENPS and publish it to the Web.
It’s that vision that has driven our engagement at Fisher and has led to the creation of XPower Newsroom. The idea behind the product is to seamlessly integrate with existing newsroom publishing systems, so that reporters and editors never have to leave their current work environments in order to publish to the Web. Today we offer full support for ENPS, and will soon provide support for other newsroom technologies.
Seattle24x7: All of which requires a fair bit of Ingeniux product ingenuity?
Edmunds: Part of it is the ability for journalists working in the newsroom to very easily and quickly drag and drop story components to a Web template and modify those story components so that they are appropriate for presentation on the Web. The other part is a very intelligent wire parsing application that can parse and sort wire stories based on a set of business rules created by an editor. It might be for very specific local areas, it might be for specific topics, but no human interaction is required to publish the wire stories. They will go up automatically as they come in, having been cleaned up, sorted and parsed by the appropriate business rules. With our implementations here for Fisher affiliated stations we’ve been consistently beating CNN.com and MSNBC.com on breaking news. We’re able to take it straight from the wires where they have a human interface between the wires and getting the stories online.
Seattle24x7: Can you manage multimedia or electronic streaming media with the system?
Edmunds: Absolutely. Any multimedia asset is represented as another XML file, and we have an application, developed by Fisher, that’s part of the suite that will convert field broadcast materials into Web format for RealPlayer, Windows Media Player and Quicktime.
Seattle24x7: That must create an amazing amount of synergy in terms of making the news referenceable and finding related material and subject matter?
Edmunds: One of the big advantages to XPower Newsroom is that a group of affiliated stations or publications can all share content. For instance, Fisher has 10 television stations. If someone at KVAL in Eugene writes a story about something that’s happening on the Oregon coast, KATU in Portland can pick that story up out of the news repository and drag it into their site. Our software will automatically co-brand that story, taking the XML and combining it with the appropriate stylesheet for KATU. It now appears on KATU’s site with their own navigation and their own look and feel.
Seattle24x7: An extraordinary time-saver.
Edmunds: Instead of having, in KVAL’s case, 5-10 people in the newsroom creating stories, they now have leveraged their newsroom staff to include all of the Oregon stations, all of the Washington stations, and all the Idaho stations that are part of the Fisher network. And all that material is indexed and archived and searchable. As new stories break, you can go back and get relevant information by searching a 3-4 state region of news gathering organizations and pulling up information about that event.
Seattle24x7: A vital concern for content managers these days is how they can get paid for their content. How are you adding E-commerce capability into the equation?
Edmunds: Clearly, organizations like news broadcasters and news publishers have to figure out a way to monetize their Web publishing efforts. We’ve built a software platform that integrates very well with third party applications and we can recommend to our customers any number of E-commerce engines that can be integrated. There are also a lot of organizations where the value proposition for their Web publishing efforts is not in direct revenue but in things like customer service, customer support, client relations. They can justify the investment on that basis.
Among the things that our colleagues at Fisher are pioneering are ways to monetize their Web based news. The way Fisher is going to do it is in highly personalized, hyper-localized news content. If you’re an audience member living in Mountlake Terrace you’re going to get news information that’s hyper-localized to the Mountlake Terrace area. You’ll have tremendous loyalty to that Web site. It’s going to be valuable to advertisers knowing that they can reach you on a regular basis with very directed advertising based on your demographics and your interests.
Seattle24x7: We’ve talked a lot about media companies. What other markets are Ingeniux focusing on?
Edmunds: We are very strong in the higher education vertical and have established a presence in healthcare, trade associations and government. In each of these sectors we have a similar approach as in the media vertical. We look for opportunities to deeply integrate our content management solution into the methodologies of the vertical. In the education sector, for example, we are looking at ways to integrate with campus management software systems like Banner and we’ll be doing the same thing in a couple of new verticals, specifically trade associations and government.
Seattle24x7: How has being in Seattle influenced your development as a company?
Edmunds: It’s interesting, one of the reasons why we are here, as with other emerging XML companies like Nimble and Westside, is the presence of Microsoft. By that I mean the talent that has come out of Microsoft and the fact that Microsoft is such a great breeding ground for entrepreneurial talent. By the same token, we’re all extremely wary of our former benefactor. Microsoft is such a brutal competitor, so naturally we’re all looking for a place to compete where Microsoft isn’t. XML was a natural place for us as we started the company, because Microsoft had not yet embraced XML. Today J2EE and Web Services is a natural place. One has to wonder about the implications for Microsoft. By being such a brutal competitor they’ve essentially created a single-species eco-system for Windows-based middleware.
Seattle24x7: What’s next for Ingeniux?
Edmunds: In terms of sales and marketing, we’re going to continue to focus on our verticals where we’ve been successful: media, education, trade associations and government. This year, we’re starting up an expansion into Europe. That’s taking a lot of time and effort right now but we feel very optimistic that we’re going to see a lot of success there. On the technology side, we’re in the process now of working on version 4.0 of our software. It represents a quantum leap in terms of our technology. We are moving entirely to a J2EE platform that’s going to be very strongly focused on Web Services.
In terms of a soup-to-nuts approach and the E-business side of the equation, we’re going to do that through Web Services and by providing a platform where we can aggregate and integrate all aspects of the enterprise through Web Services. We expect that release to be towards the end of Q4 this year.
Seattle24x7: Thanks, Jim, for getting us the news
Larry Sivitz is the Managing Editor of Seattle24x7.