Autonomy’s Data Software: Newspaper Savior?

Hewlett-Packard’s Autonomy business unit has generated a lot of headlines for all the wrong reasons, including serious allegations of accounting fraud. However, Autonomy’s core products remain a key example of using metadata technologies to transform large amounts of unstructured data into a useful asset for companies.

Case in point is the Tampa Bay Times, which is about to re-launch its digital media properties using a content management system (CMS) that is based on the Autonomy platform. According to newly promoted Tampa Bay Times CIO Ed Nicholson, the goal of the new platform is to streamline searching for content on the newspaper’s Website, regardless of the media format: “We got a new publisher who quickly identified that the mission of the business should be to derive more value from out content.”

Executives at the newspaper (which also owns Politifact.com) believed they could enhance search in a way that not only made it easier to surface additional video and audio content, but also take the preferences of specific users into account. “We’re trying to provide people with a lot of personalization,” Nicholson added.

To achieve that goal, a team tested multiple CMS alternatives before settling on the Autonomy TeamSite CMS, which is built atop the Intelligent Data Operating Layer (IDOL) platform that first attracted HP to Autonomy. IDOL collects massive amounts of data, which is subsequently indexed via a server optimized to handle information retrieval. With this metadata server in place, IDOL can assign conceptual and contextual understanding to data residing in more than 1,000 different formats. IDOL can automate tasks such as hyperlinking, creating agents, summarization, taxonomy generation, clustering, identifying relationships between similar data sets, setting up profiles, alerting and data retrieval.

And the Tampa Bay Times was all about automating tasks, which would give its employees more time to create valuable content. In this context, time is money: the more content on the Website, the more revenues from advertising. The Autonomy platform let the newspaper squeeze more value from its existing data while allowing writers and editors to develop more compelling content using WYSIWYG management tools.

Executives also decided to implement Autonomy on the Amazon Web Services cloud-computing platform, in order to ensure that employees could still access the site in the event of a local disaster such as a hurricane.

Nicholson would be the first concede that building a new digital media platform on top of Autonomy hasn’t been simple. While IDOL has worked well when deployed in a standalone configuration, the implementation within specific HP Autonomy application modules has proven inconsistent. The project has taken longer than expected to implement, which Nicholson attributes to having to work with emerging technologies, as well as a lack of Autonomy expertise within HP: “You can tell that the recent news surrounding Autonomy has had an effect on the morale of the Autonomy services organization.”

Like many organizations, the Tampa Bay Times is trying to more effectively manage massive amounts of data as a business asset. In order for data to become an asset, however, IT departments need to figure out how to manage it effectively—as well as determine the best tools for mining datasets for insights.

Nowhere is that a higher priority than the publishing industry, where once-mighty print publications have seen their readership erode in the face of online competition. For many newspaper organizations, profit margins on digital-media platforms are razor thin, requiring them to get as much mileage out of every site visitor as possible. But that can only happen with a sophisticated CMS platform that delivers highly personalized content on demand.

 

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