Managing assets across platforms

“For those of us with one foot in the print world and the other online, we need new systems that enable us to write once, run anywhere, and move fast.”

The media business is at a crossroads. Print is threatened while growth is focused on digital, but operationally we’re still not as integrated as we’d like — and that’s getting in the way of revenue growth for our publications. To future-proof the legacy media business, we need to reinvent how we create and sell our products.

For those of us with one foot in the print world and the other online, we need new systems that enable us to write once, run anywhere, and move fast. Too many of us are painfully aware of having multiple systems that don’t talk to one another, and the feeling of always playing “catch up” to native digital competitors.

I predict 2015 will be the year that someone invents a great asset management solution to manage print and digital content that will give us these much-needed efficiencies — enabling us to be more competitive. Here’s how it could work:


  • In my future scenario, we would publish content to a central repository. No styles, just the text. Print editors publish the content that will appear in print to this system. Web editors publish to this system. It’s a new kind of CMS that isn’t driven by the output format. We need to divorce the content from the display and destination. Just create the content and store it centrally.
  • Content producers input the content into this database, making sure it is tagged and structured. We need a disciplined system around the use of tags and metadata. That starts with having a proper taxonomy that ensures content is categorized (e.g.: “feature”, “science”, “biology”, “bugs”), something many media companies are still lacking.
  • Now we’re ready to create new products, and we can easily package and bundle assets based on any parameter. Say you want to create a science app. Select all your science stories and output them once a week to an app container. Or maybe you want the traditional monthly package of “top stories on a given theme.” Either one would be viable.
  • Next we add the template layer. Ideally we’ve built toolkits with ready-made sizzle effects — wide-screen photo galleries, video embeds, parallax scrolling effects, distinct fonts, and pull quotes. We should build multiple templates that give us gorgeous displays, and don’t require us to reinvent the wheel every time we have a great story to showcase. Our new glorious system is plug and play.
  • Lastly, with our new system, we can easily distribute these bundles to any partner, platform, or device. Just set the price and send to any digital storefront. Our content should delight readers no matter which screen they choose.

So, dear Santa, please bring me a new CMS for print and digital content — and don’t forget to plug in a digital asset management system on the back end to track rights and permissions.

Hayley Nelson is director of product management at Wired.