Knight Ridder Digital’s Sites Get Single Publishing Platform

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Knight Ridder Digital announced Thursday that it has almost completed the deployment of a single publishing platform for the 30-plus Knight Ridder Web sites in the Real Cities network.

The platform’s technology centralizes the distribution of news and advertising, Knight Ridder Digital President Dan Finnigan told attendees of E&P’s 13th Annual Interactive Newspapers Conference and Trade Show, which opened here Wednesday.

“Before, we had a network of city portal sites and a separate network of newspaper sites,” Finnigan said. “They were on different platforms.” In Kansas City, for example, the newspaper Web site was operating on one system while Knight Ridder’s local portal, KansasCity.com, was operating on a completely separate system.

Finnigan said it took about a year to build the system, which has been deployed over the last month or so. All content is tagged with XML before going into an Oracle database. Information is served using BEA applications servers, and content can be distributed via e-mail, wireless, and other channels. For content management, Knight Ridder is using its in-house system.

The absence of a central publishing system prevented Knight Ridder Digital from achieving many of its goals, including its desire to be a national network of Web sites that attracts advertisers, Finnigan said. The new system allows Knight Ridder to target advertising to the channels that advertisers care about, he said.

And the system makes it possible to have dual advertising from both national and local businesses. So while Knight Ridder Digital may sell a national sponsorship of its health sections on Web sites across the nation, local advertisers can still purchase spots such as the “Ask an Expert” section.

Non-Knight Ridder sites that are a part of the Real Cities network, such as those owned by Belo and Media General, will be able to participate in the network’s new advertising capabilities.

Finnigan said the single publishing platform would save Knight Ridder money and ultimately empower more people to contribute content to the Web sites. “We will be able to move much faster now,” he added. “If we want to try something new and be innovative, we won’t have to deal with all the different formats and systems that we had before.”

Finnigan acknowledged that some newspaper folks, particularly on the editorial side, don’t like what they see as a “cookie-cutter” approach. When Tom Regan of The Christian Science Monitor said that convergence often kills the individuality of local sites, Finnigan admitted, “I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job to allow for flexibility on how sites look.” But he still believes it is possible for chains to develop universal publishing systems that also retain autonomy for local editors and publishers.

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