Interview With Steve Kotrch/Simon & Schuster

On December 13, 2010, I had the distinct privilege to conduct an interview with Mr. Steve Kotrch, the Director for Publishing Technology at Simon & Schuster on the CMS system they have incorporated into their technology structure for archiving and disseminating their DAMs.

Company Profile— Simon & Schuster-Simon & Schuster, Inc. is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, providing consumers worldwide with a diverse range of quality books across a wide variety of genres and formats. It is the publishing operation of CBS Corporation, one of the world’s premier media companies. (Company Website Information) Interviewee: Mr. Steve Kotrch Currently Steve Kotrch is Director of Publishing Technology for Simon & Schuster. He is responsible for creating and supporting all systems having to do with design and editorial, and the company’s digital asset management system. He recently designed a system that takes data from S&S’s product database, uses Mark Logic to create book cover layouts, and re-ingests the text with any changes on those layouts back into the database for distribution over the internet. Steve has been involved for over 20 years in various kinds of publishing: of not only consumer books, but reference and elementary and high-school texts; in publishing financial newsletters, magazines and major retail catalogs.


Don: What is the primary Digital Asset Management system that you use for the creation, archiving and delivery of your content?

Steve Kotrch: Chuckwalla, v. 4 for DAM, MarkLogic Server v.4.1 for delivery

Don: What were the discussions and R & D investigations that led you to choose this Information Delivery System?

Steve Kotrch: Chuckwalla is .NET-based, which has been key to integrating it with our other systems, particularly with our product database. It also has a robust Mac client. MarkLogic was the most powerful XML database at the time (it may still be), needed for combining feeds and content, excerpting content (e.g., sample chapters).

Don: Have you seen any ROI from your decision to use this particular system? If so, do you have any idea what the difference would have been if you had not integrated this system into your overall strategic company initiative?

Steve Kotrch: The system was not done for cost savings, but for pursuing a digital strategy: being able to better market our products on the internet as well as conventionally; being able to reach our customers with more timely information. E.g., providing the Ad/Promo department with the latest book covers, author photos, etc.; the subsidiary rights department with interior files on a timely basis, so they could sell the rights to book clubs and foreign publishers. The DAMS also powers a digital catalog which has up-to-date prices, the latest images and metadata of our products. If we had not implemented this strategy we would not be able to, for example, sell our ebooks nearly as efficiently. Without the systems we have in place I don’t believe we would have any of our ebooks available on iBooks at this date.

Don: Were there any unexpected benefits from integrating this system?

Steve Kotrch: We have been able to create the digital catalog in record time, with an effectiveness we couldn’t have counted on. We now sell our files to subsidiary rights customers, e.g., book clubs. In the past, we simply directed them to purchase those files from the printer. With the kinds of exception reports and ad hoc reporting the system allows us to do we can make sure the sales support materials needed are available exactly on time. We can attain favorable status with our largest vendors, e.g., Amazon, because our data is so timely and clean. And because it is so complete and clean, our books appear higher in the search results on their web pages.

Don: What were the challenges that confronted you and your company once you made the decision to go with this technical advancement in your ability to deliver your content and/or services?

Steve Kotrch: Eleven years ago, when we first embarked on building an enterprise-wide DAM, people did not understand what it was, why it was needed, why they needed to change the way they did things, what it was for. Change management, including a great deal of training, was a large part of the implementation. Once we changed, more recently, to Chuckwalla, we had to cope with the problem that Chuckwalla’s system was not robust enough for the quantity of data we had. It took them months and months before the system could be counted on to reliably deliver previews of our files, and had to be optimized in terms of response times. Now it is very quick and responsive. People had to become accustomed to the notion that it was imperative that materials be available on-time and correctly. There could be no lag between a file going to the printer, for example, and its being placed into the DAMS.

What system are you using?


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