Overseas Publishing Systems Developers Seek U.S. Foothold

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By: Meg Campbell

In a new wave of arrivals, international content-neutral publishing system developers are looking to leverage their experience abroad to compete for installations in the U.S.

Despite economic and cultural obstacles, as well as fierce competition from entrenched vendors, several of these companies have begun landing significant contracts, while others are still seeking a site to serve as a showpiece for their technology.

The editorial system developers in question are primarily European, with installations throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America. While several — Tera, EidosMedia and Anygraaf – may be familiar names to newspaper systems directors, Spain’s ProtecMedia and India’s 4CPlus, are still working on increasing visibility. “We need to start with branding, because publishers hear our name and think we have something to do with protection or security,” ProtecMedia U.S. Operations Director Bart Mariner says with a rueful grin.

All the companies understand that doing business in the States requires (besides, obviously, a system that can help publishers adapt to and stay ahead of industry changes) a sustained sales and marketing effort, and especially support — an issue tht has long made American publishers loathe to look abroad.

“Publishers ask, ‘Will you be here, will you support me?'” says Jo Anne Froelich, president of EidosMedia’s U.S. operations. “You need to have a local team, and a local presence, even while the company has to be structured as a global company.”

There are other challenges as well, however, such as the trend towards software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, which require huge vendor investment, as well as the fact that not a lot of big papers are looking for, or can afford, a big front-end overhaul in the current economic climate.

Nevertheless, these developers still see opportunities in the U.S. market, where they are pursuing different strategies.

Italian developer Tera Digital Publishing has made inroads in this market over the last several years, with 22 installations at small and medium-sized publishers around the country comprising about a hundred mastheads. Several installations are fairly large, such as Houston Community Newspapers and the Commercial Appeal, in Memphis. Now, Tera is looking to parlay those sites, and the considerably larger ones that it operates abroad, to vie for bigger sites stateside.

“We’re letting people know our track record outside the U.S.,” explains John Juliano, Tera’s manager of worldwide marketing and reseller sales. “We’re focusing on name recognition, and our strength in other markets like the UK, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Central America.”

In particular, Juliano notes, Tera is looking to leverage its reputation as a user-friendly vendor, with its GN3 editorial content-management system that goes up quick and keeps customers satisfied. “Nobody has ever left Tera,” says Laura Koval, a senior engineer and software specialist for the company.” Its runs and runs, and no reason to think that there’s anything better out there.”

To help fuel the push, Tera recently hired Paul Lampasona, who had been with publishing systems developer Brainworks Software, to head U.S. sales efforts out of Chicago.

A second Italian contender, EidosMedia has gone a different route. Rather than coming in slowly and starting with smaller sites, the Milan-based developer exploded onto the scene early this year with the startling announcement that The Seattle Times will purchase its Methode software to produce its print and online editions. The project is still on track despite the Times’ recent announcement that it will cut 190 jobs in May.

“They see us as a component to allowing them to serve their customers in the way their market is moving,” says systems-industry veteran Froelich, explaining that such thinking will be critical for newspapers to survive and thrive in new market conditions.

With overseas installations that include London’s Financial Times and France’s Le Figaro, EidosMedia looks to leverage its XML-based platform to give U.S. publishers a seamless print/Web/mobile solution in one application. “Users are more mobile. So their tools need to be lighter,” Froelich says, explaining that customers demand thinner, more powerful applications.

American publishers, says EidosMedia General Manager Gabriella Franzini, “have a model in place that’s not working. They have to reduce their costs, and they have to reinvent the business. Technology is critical for doing this. So I think we have a real opportunity, and that it will become more real when we have customers live on our system.” Seattle is important, she says, adding that her company soon may announce a second large U.S. customer.

Between Seattle and any second sale, EidosMedia executives attended Nexpo earlier this month, though the company has yet to exhibit at the annual trade show.

Anygraaf, based in Finland, takes a yet another approach, concentrating on smaller and mid-sized publishers, many of which are not suffering from the same financial woes as the large media groups, says Anygraaf USA Marketing Manager Erin Flynn.

Because “it’s hard just getting in the door,” she says, Anygraaf is taking a different tack by presenting its solutions at many smaller press association meetings, heavily attended by smaller and more local publishers. Anygraaf also joined the preferred supplier list of the Page Cooperative, a purchasing consortium used mostly by smaller regional publishers, who benefit from discounts usually reserved for bigger groups.

The approach has improved name recognition, Flynn says, and is getting publishers to take a look at Anygraaf’s Doris32 system, which dominates Finland’s newspaper market and has users elsewhere in Europe.

Anygraaf also gets its foot in the door by hooking up easily to legacy systems. The company now has systems operating at nine U.S. publishers, stretching from the Jersey Shore to the Snake River.

Content-management developer ProtecMedia also has joined a number of regional press associations in hopes of gaining access to the market through smaller publishers. The Madrid-based software company, which dominates the Spanish market and has significant installations in other parts of Europe as well as Latin America, opened a Miami office a year ago to step up efforts in the U.S. market – where it has but one installation — the Rumbo Group of San Antonio, Texas.

According to ProtecMedia’s Mariner, publishers and IT directors who see the company’s Milenium CrossMedia sysem are both impressed and overwhelmed by how comprehensive the turnkey the solution is. “They realize that our system can replace 12 of theirs,” he says, “and they get nervous, thinking that our system would be a complete, and expensive, overhaul.” Nevertheless, Mariner says he is confident the solution will find a home in the States. “I’m convinced that publishers need a system like this that will let them do more — more zoning, more online and mobile publishing — with less, and in a hosted environment.”

ProtecMedia is therefore exploring an additional avenue: teaming up with an established vendor to form some sort of commercial collaboration. The company currently is in talks with a few, Mariner says, declining to name any.

The newest of the international contenders is India’s 4CPlus, which had a small stand for the first time at this year’s Nexpo. The company recently installed its NewsWrap editorial system at the Mail Today, a startup English-language daily launched by Britain’s Daily Mail and the India Today group, and hopes that it can use that experience, as well as its installed base in India and Nepal, to get American publishers to take a look at the system.

“We think that in terms of features we have a fairly powerful system,” says 4CPlus Vice President Ashish Aron, who cites the company’s large installations back home.

Currently searching for a development person and agent to represent them here, Aron and General Manager Kapil Arora say they will target the largest base of the U.S. market first, the smaller papers.

The company’s other strategy will be to price the system “competitively,” a word that may get struggling publishers to take a second glance at this newest newcomer.

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