SAP technology lands on the editor’s desk

Newspaper history spans 400 years, dating back to 1605 when Johann Carolus from Strasbourg established a network of correspondents in European cities, collected their reports, and then sold these weekly in printed form to rich merchants as news and “thought-provoking” tales. This was a highly original business model for the time but one that soon spread, forming the foundation for hundreds of years of uninterrupted success in the newspaper and magazine sector.

IT services move into editorial space

Today publishers have to compete with electronic media or even branch into this market themselves. The reader market is shrinking and younger readers in particular are making more use of the Internet. Predictive studies from the USA that compare media consumption over the period 1997 to 2007 serve to underline this trend. They estimate a 700 percent increase in private Internet usage, but a decline of 7-13 percent for newspapers, books and magazines. Editors and publishers therefore have to devise new ways of keeping their readership loyal. The same challenges face the world of advertising. The Internet has opened up a huge number of new marketplaces. In terms of the printed word, traditional publishing houses only have each other to compete with. However, in the Internet they compete directly with providers who often are not part of the industry yet are vying alongside them for advertising customers. Publishers consequently have to struggle with falling advertising sales. Future success is therefore dependent not only on innovative business models but also on optimizing and consolidating existing processes.
“Many publishers are now waking up to the fact that times have changed and are looking for technical solutions that will promote innovative and standardized processes in both editing and advertising,” says Harald Schmidt-Kleessen, Solution Manager in SAP’s IBU Media. “As an open IT platform SAP NetWeaver can play a strategic role, integrating business-relevant and cross-system processes and applications, and increasing the efficiency of business processes – for example, when using customer portals for advertising sales.”

The Solution Manager also believes that SAP NetWeaver gives editorial departments the chance to adopt a process-oriented approach for the first time. And the potential waiting to be harnessed here is considerable. “As an integration platform, SAP NetWeaver can combine heterogeneous systems as services. To understand this better it’s worth looking at a real-life scenario. If, for example, an editor places a new text in the content management system, the author, the length of the text and other metadata are all entered automatically. NetWeaver technology can support complex processes in editorial departments, from text creation and page layout, right through to delivery.”
A royalty accounting service accesses this data at a later date to generate a document that then becomes an accounts payable posting in Financial Accounting. Integrating the systems minimizes many manual tasks, redundancies and possible associated errors. This saves on resources and optimizes processes.
And this internal benefit can be maximized. Ideally, by working within a portal solution on a role basis via single sign-on, each co-worker can access the exact data needed to perform the task in hand. At the same time, the service manager can obtain a comprehensive overview of all editing activities, irrespective of the underlying, heterogeneous systems and applications. Integration with ERP solutions like mySAP ERP therefore forms a platform for knowledge-based, business-relevant decisions. In the high-cost business of printing, service-oriented architecture also paves the way for the introduction of integrated editorial management. For example, there are many opportunities for magazines with only a low current affairs content to cut costs by planning articles well in advance, reusing existing texts and pictures, or exchanging content with the editorial departments of other magazines.

New processes, new media products

An open, service-oriented architecture also offers the possibility of using existing business processes to develop new products for the market. According to Harald Schmidt-Kleessen, some publishing houses are already experimenting with a combination of existing processes to generate innovative business models. A good example of this would be the delivery of private mail by newspaper companies (Main-Echo). Resources such as delivery staff and address expertise already exist. These can be combined with other processes to develop new products. If processes like these are developed on the basis of services, existing modules will give way to new customized software.
Another example highlights the technological dimension of the software. SAP NetWeaver Enterprise Portal can be used to develop user-specific, electronic information from existing editorial content. Once a user/customer has saved his areas of interest, these will be displayed again automatically the next time that single sign-on is used. Knowledge about specific likes means that customers can be grouped by interest, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities to newspaper and magazine publishers. Another option would be to send customers their daily newspaper as an e-paper when on vacation. Moreover, just as Web blogs can increase reader attachment to a publication, podcasts of selected texts, for example in audio format (Rheinische Post, Handelsblatt), can ensure customer loyalty.
Advertising sales is obviously another area open to new products and developments, and as it is a less complex field it currently has a real headstart on the editorial sector. Advertising already uses many of the new options as standard. As such, it is much more likely today that a classified advert will not only be printed on paper but also published online. In many cases, adverts are now placed in the Internet using self-service solutions provided by the publishing houses. Not only have adverts become “quicker”, they require fewer human resources too. For the most part, the data capture process now takes place in portals. Standard processes are automated and only in some special cases does the sales department have to actively intervene. Analysis tools from SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence enable comprehensive reporting. Flexible IT solutions also open up avenues, such as auctions, that go hand in hand with the advertising sector in the printed media, or mobile online services. The possibilities are endless.

Paper may soon be too “slow”

New business models demand highly flexible IT solutions. What is needed are not new applications or systems but rather ways to map and create appropriate processes from existing services. Used in conjunction with SAP for Media, SAP NetWeaver provides a high-performance basis to achieve exactly this. This approach goes no way to telling us what a “newspaper” will look like in 400 years. What it does do, however, is highlight the fact that the speed at which information is gathered and the volumes involved will not decrease. As such, it is probable that the way in which we obtain information in the future will change and this information will be more specific to our individual requirements. In this case, it is likely that paper could then be too “slow” a medium for use with up-to-the-minute news.

Stephan H. Gursky
Stephan H. Gursky