‘Financial Times’ Selects Italy’s EidosMedia

By: Jim Rosenberg

Updated at 6:45 p.m. EST

Almost 18 months after development of its next-generation, media-neutral publishing environment was abandoned by one of the best-known names in the newspaper systems industry, the Financial Times of London has contracted with a firm that established itself in developing “knowledge-management” for online operations.

In selecting Milan-based EidosMedia’s XML-based M?thode workflow (with its own pagination and integration of QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign) to support more than 500 journalists worldwide supplying content for multiple print and online editions, the Financial Times is engaging one of the few new competitors for new news systems — those that started up after the typesetting era or are launching entirely new systems conceived for multimedia publishing. Most, if not all, are European — new companies, new to newspapers, or just new to North America. (E&P will cover this issue in an in-depth cover story scheduled to be published June 24.)

After Atex aborted its Omnex project at the end of 2000, partner Financial Times spent “six to eight months re-evaluating the entire market,” said Development Editor Chris Purcell. Negotiation began with EidosMedia early last winter after its proposal came out on top. Value of the contract was not disclosed.

“We have known about them for quite a long time,” said Purcell, adding that although EidosMedia then had no suitable system, it had contacted the FT just when the paper committed to Atex.

With M?thode, the XSmile XML editor, and Web-publishing component completed and the first release of pagination software due at the end of June, Purcell said the system is “largely very stable and very usable.”

A two-month design phase for M?thode at is about to begin at the FT, after which a project timetable can be worked out. When eventually powered up, M?thode will temporarily run parallel with existing systems, before System Integrators Inc. text-editing and Talbot page-makeup are retired. Options to preserve other installed systems are under discussion, according to Purcell.

Similarly, “there’s still talks going on,” he said, concerning a possible role for a third-party integrator.

Newspapers weren’t the young company’s first market, although electronic media customers in Italy own Corriere della Sera and Il Sole – 24 Ore. But print always was in the plan. In fact, EidosMedia consists largely of former developers of Unisys Corp.’s publishing system. The FT may not have the only M?thode newsroom. Grupo Correo, a large print, broadcast, Internet, and movie company in Spain and Argentina is considering expanding use of M?thode from online operations into publications.

EidosMedia introduced the print portion of its system last fall, following agreement with Italy’s HiT (developer of Agfa IntelliFlow), when it said the partnership would create “an integrated information platform allowing real-time management of every aspect of the print process,” including editorial and advertising content, local versioning, distribution, and multi-site printing. EidosMedia said it will extend M?thode by integrating HiT’s ad-management and acquisition system and its new Fluide production planning and tracking software.

According to EidosMedia, the software products together will allow on-the-fly variation of content and layout — “cooperative pagination” for producing different editions with different numbers of pages, different color positions, and localized news and ads.

Besides an open-system approach that allows high levels of data interchange among editorial and production systems, M?thode supports emerging standards for computer-integrated production, prepress through post-press, and electronic job ticketing, according to EidosMedia.

The FT‘s print editions and Web site will contain material created using XML tags from the outset, eliminating downstream conversion and permitting automatic customization without serial repurposing. According to Eidosmedia, M?thode facilitates collaboration among editorial staffers worldwide and does not dictate customer work flow.

Software installed at the FT‘s London headquarters will be accessed by foreign bureaus via the Web. “The system allows them access to all M?thode functions, though how we will use that … has yet to be decided,” said Publishing Editor William Dawkins. “Our current practice is to do a small amount of sub-editing and page make-up remotely in New York. It will be easier to do this via M?thode,” he said.

With M?thode designed to give hundreds of staffers instant access to text, graphics, and multimedia assets from various repositories, EidosMedia’s latest partnership allows it to build in automatic indexing, cross-referencing, and retrieval using Autonomy Corp. technology.

Announcing the deal, EidosMedia System Architecture Director Stefano Delli Ponti said the Autonomy technology’s “indexing performance and XML functionality” is expected to “update very high volumes of documents each minute while … continuing to respond to user queries promptly.”

Extracting concepts from documents and understanding them in context is critical to implementing that technology in M?thode, according to EidosMedia. For this, Autonomy automates categorization and cross-referencing, and M?thode uses XML for the content and the tags used to label editorial objects — affording management of subject matter, components, and production path.

Dawkins summarized the thinking that’s driven the FT‘s search for a next-generation system: “Forward-thinking editors must now manage one or more process chains to create content in diverse forms, tailoring content so as to reach the widest possible audience. That’s where the competitive advantage now lies — from the ability to sell your editorial value to different audiences, in a way that a traditional hard-copy newspaper just cannot do.”

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