Line between content, software publishing blurs

New tools and publishing techniques, required to take full advantage of the Internet and build an audience for commercial World Wide Web sites, are blurring the worlds of software and content publishing and are destined to change the nature of push technology, according to speakers at the Seybold Seminars conference in New York.

New tools and publishing techniques, required to take full advantage of the Internet and build an audience for commercial World Wide Web sites, are blurring the worlds of software and content publishing and are destined to change the nature of push technology, say speakers at a keynote panel session on new media at the Seybold Seminars conference.

"With the Internet the concept of publishing changes yet again," says Charles Geshke, president of Adobe Systems.

"In the world of the Internet you are continuously gathering and continuously publishing," Geshke says. "You need to drive publishing from an information database."

But to create Web sites and Internet content that builds a loyal audience, rich content needs to be easy to get at, says Kim Polese, president and chief executive of Marimba. To manage the flow of information to and from a loyal audience, content providers will have to act more like software vendors, she says.

"The line between software and content publishing is blurring," Polese says.

Push software technology pioneered by PointCast solves the problem of making information easy to access, since it automatically informs users when information is being updated, Polese says. But there are problems with it, she says, in an effort to distance Marimba's Castanet software from what she called "dumb push" technology.

"[Push] is intrusive. I don't want dancing bears dropping on my spreadsheet when I'm getting ready for a board meeting," she says.

Push can also clog bandwidth, sometimes cramming redundant files across the Internet down to a user's hard disk, Polese says. In addition, while users can subscribe to specific channels of information when using push technology, it is difficult to tailor those channels to individual users. "Push, if not correctly implemented, is a case of diminishing returns," she says.

"The focus should be on smart, true application deployment on the Internet," Polese says. "What's interesting is full application delivery; one nerdy way to describe it is to do very efficient deployment of bits across the Internet."

With Marimba's Castanet, a tuner application on the user's hard disk downloads only information from the technology's transmitter -- the piece of Castanet that sits on the server -- that is being updated, eliminating the need to send redundant data across the Internet.

Polese describes Castanet as "application management" software rather than "dumb push" technology. Interaction between the tuner and transmitter allows for more dynamic updating of information than straight push technology, and allows rich content to be brought down to the hard drive to be used when it's convenient for the user, she says.

To try to tap the multimedia capabilities of the Web, the New York Times has offered application-like features as part of the online version of the newspaper, says Martin Nisenholz, president of the New York Times Electronic Media.

"Software and content are sort of inextricable in this world," he says. For example, the Times has offered computer simulation applications to help readers understand points made in articles on how AIDS may be spread and how Internet service providers run their businesses.

To offer features like this, content providers now may find they have to hire programmers, says Polese and Nisenholz.

Another reason for content providers to hire developers is that a complete line of interoperable tools doesn't exist now to help Web publishers put out rich, interactive content on the Internet, says Jeffrey Ballowe, president of Ziff-Davis Interactive Media.

"No remotely complete and scalable solution exists," says Ballowe. "We'd like to use integrated industry standard tools but we can't." What's needed, he says, are: multimedia authoring tools; data mining tools to track users; a dynamic server environment; flexible client templates for push technology; and client/server technology for Web and TV integration.

But the keynote speakers agree that new Internet technology will not replace older forms of publishing and information dissemination. They also agreed that there is no "one-size fits-all" model or technology for publishing content on the Web.

"New media is not a replacement for physical media," says Adobe's Geshke, noting that "desktop publishing has put more paper in offices and the U.S. mail than all technologies that preceded it."

"I don't agree that browsers will go away," Polese says. "The browser/Web model is a great way to do searches and to serendipitously come across things."

In addition, though she pushed Marimba technology, even Polese concedes that complete interactive updating of information and application management between content provider and users isn't available today.

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