Sun Media begins content management pilot

While many newspapers are going out of business and even the National Post was threatened with closure last week, one of Canada’s largest chains is investing in content management and storage technologies to improve its operations.

Sun Media is in the early stages of a pilot project that will eventually spread out to the entire Quebecor QMI Agency, which includes many different media properties. Quebecor will be deploying EMC’s Documentum content management software, as well its content-addressable storage system, Centera. EMC’s Celerra unified storage system will also be used at Sun Media, as will its Symmetrix V-Max product to create a larger content repository. Sun Media’s assets include not only the Toronto Sun and but 44 dailies and 200 community newspapers.

According to Richard Roy, Sun Media’s vice-president of IS/IT and CIO, when he joined the organization about three years ago it was still highly paper-centric, with little sharing of content across various newspapers. A cultural shift started to happen, however, once Quebecor was successful in bidding in the most recent spectrum auction.

“Now we’re a wireless company. Our CEO said, ‘The differentiator for Quebecor will be content. We will be able to provide content to our customer base,’” he said. “That’s when we all realized, ‘Oh my God, I need to know where my content is.’ Not just to share in Sun Media but across Quebecor.”

One of the biggest components of the project, requirements definition, is already complete, Roy said. This was important, given that each publisher in Sun Media had its own IT group and major differences in terms of IT environments. “We did not want to design on the fly,” he said. “We have some newspapers that already use state-of-the-art technology and some that are really archaic.”

Some of Sun Media’s largest urban dailies, for example, will not necessarily do away with enterprise content management systems they have already purchased or developed from scratch, he said. Instead, Roy’s team will simply ensure their systems interface with Documentum so their employees have the same access to the main repository as everyone else.

“Integration is paramount here,” he said. “We’re changing the workflow associated with the newspapers.” Several community newspapers, for example, probably don’t have a content management system. “They’re probably just typing a Word document and sending it over e-mail. Now they’ll have a Web page where they can upload things.”

The next stage is data migration, and Roy said it has just gotten under way. Beyond the content management work, for example, Sun Media needs to start looking at how it stores all the content it produces, and whether the content-addressable capabilities of Centera and other EMC gear will change that.

“It’s creating a large debate in the organization as to what should be our policy,” he said. “When you get into media, holding text files – the size of those are so small it’s irrelevant. It’s the videos and the photos that can creep up and it can eat up storage if you’re not careful.”

Roy expects the ability to boost content sharing at Sun Media will be seen as a key driver for adoption across Quebecor. “News has a value; it’s an asset, but only as long as you’re able to use it,” he said. “If you don’t have access to it, it has no value.”

Sun Media will be working with EMC partner Dell on some of the integration and deployment work associated with the project, which the company hopes to complete by June of next year.

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