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Multimedia News Systems - Introduction, Multimedia News, Multimedia News Distribution and Presentation, News Networks, Conclusion

services content management data

Markus W. Schranz
Pressetext GmbH, Austria

Schahram Dustdar
Technical University of Vienna, Austria

Definition: Multimedia news systems deal with architectures to manage complex multimedia news databases, online presentation and distribution services or the integration of several existing services to meta-services using intelligent news retrieval engines.

The full integration of digital media as a commonly available data type for business applications such as multimedia news services causes a major transition in computing infrastructure and solution architectures. While many corporate uses of digital media can be handled with the current infrastructure, in multimedia application domains, as the amount and file size of the digital media grows, more than simple capacity improvements need to be implemented. The business needs for media are concrete; the problems we need to address are real. The media and news operating community needs to find real solutions too, for high-level semantic analysis, provisioning and management of mixed-media information, and distribution and delivery of media data to satisfy requirements dictated by business scenarios. The article describes technical and business backgrounds of the multimedia news application domain, focusing on architectures, standards, network topologies and the variety of offered services. Additionally we describe scenarios that show how corporations are using digital media to enhance their employee and customer communications, improve the effectiveness and efficiency of business processes, and create new business and revenue opportunities.

Introduction

Advertising campaigns and highly popular government programs have for many years emphasized the need to get people connected to the Internet. That meant solving the technological and sociological issues involved in providing network access to the population and turning them into regular users. The message echoes today in a slightly muted form. Except in developing parts of the world, getting people connected is no longer a major challenge. The challenge today is to create and support experiences and contents that users continue to value. In particular, we concentrate on multimedia content that might be the glue that connects, defines, and supports communities on the Internet. Irrespective of views on intellectual property issues or business models, even a cursory reading of recent news and events makes it undeniable that the Web is becoming a remarkably effective-if not yet efficient-multimedia content distribution platform. While this may not have been a design goal earlier, it’s now a significant driving force in the evolution of network technology, user services, and access devices. Overlooking the manifold entrepreneurs and business developments in online advertising, marketing, internet services and the publishing industry, the wide acceptance and utilization of current news as reliable and reputable service contents document the success of multimedia news contents in the networked information industry.

As the fastest growing medium in the last decade the Internet has brought unmanageable amounts of information to the average user’s fingertips. This especially holds true for the multimedia news application domain with hundreds of thousands of journalists and digital news professionals producing a steadily increasing set of news content day by day. Since this growth will only continue, it is vital that users be supported in channeling this universe of information into improved productivity. Failing to address information overload will be costly for enterprises and individuals, often in ways not easily measured. To really satisfy user needs and restricted budgets, the myriads of news information need to be structured and organized in intelligent and user-oriented ways.

Technically, appropriate architectures to manage complex multimedia news databases, online presentation and distribution services or the integration of several existing services to meta-services using intelligent news retrieval engines have been developed. Appropriate standards such as XML as well as current communication technologies like Web Services are being used for news management and transportation. Modern database and content management features handle text and graphical contents and specific multimedia formats and technologies integrate even audio and video material in complex multimedia news systems.

News services have taken the Internet by storm in the late 90’s. The successful use of digital media requires new or transformed genres of digital communication. Not only particular technologies or modes of communication or presentation such as hypertext, email, or the Web, but also complex communicative forms anchored in specific institutions and practices prove the establishment of new and emergent genres of the digital community. Initially news sites were conceived as “electronic newspapers” or “digital newspaper” but have generated a specific genre of their own with special use and design elements. Ihlström documents a move from print to multimedia in the sense that the news is not only presented as text but as audio and video as well at the news sites today.

Technical solutions provide the presentation, management and distribution of multimedia news based on dozens of different business models. Integrated multilingual and multinational services provide amongst others news syndication, online streaming or customer oriented news monitoring and media clipping services.

Multimedia News

Based on the typical news sources provided by individual journalists, national and international news agencies, and worldwide broadcast networks the contents have been handled with appropriate multimedia management systems. Since content assets are typically out of academic and technical administration, specific user-oriented software has emerged and has become widely popular within the last 5 years: Content Management Systems.

Content Management Systems

Based on research oriented web engineering methodologies the news market has started to adopt management features and high volume capabilities for developing and utilizing commercial and open source systems. Market leaders like Stellent , Microsoft , Vignette , IBM , Tridion , OpenText and others are offering customer-oriented features in their commercial services, thus competing with open source CMS leaders like Zope, OpenCMS, Typo3, Mambo, or Bricolage. All systems manage multimedia news based on specific content repositories and with increasing usability for their target market, the content administrators. Content management systems strictly separate three classes of user services: the service design, the content organization and structuring, and the content manipulation. Obeying the non-technical background of most of the content creators such as journalists and editors, all CMS provide an easy-to-use interface for multimedia content creation and further management in the content asset’s lifecycle.

Content Types

Historically most relevant information concerning progress in sciences and the growth of general information within human knowledge and accessible to mankind has been documented in written text and occasionally described in images and maps. The technological developments of the 20 th century has brought tools and communication channels that increased the ways of communicating and distributing news concerning all facets of human live in various ways. Multimedia news services involve now besides enormous amounts of digitized textual information also images, audio and video material, supported by multiple technical tools for seamless integration and modern distribution. Schneiderman describes in the emphasis on focusing news technologies around our visual capabilities. Image capture many people’s thrills, emotions, and concerns. Art can shock or inspire, and news images cover most relevant events over the entire globe. Most readers depend on visual and multimedia contents to understand the world around them and as a basis for further creative activities. The popularity of visual media such as photos, videos, and animations attests to their mainstream acceptance.

Technically multimedia integration has been adapted to middleware software and content management applications to allow a seamless integration with current news management and distribution applications. XML standards like SMIL provide synchronization and integration frameworks and document description standards that cope with both traditional and future textual base information and multimedia data that support modern user’s needs.

News Formats and Standards

Although most significant information in the news area is stored in traditional text files, the information management in the news context has been modernized and adopted towards a unique set of contents within international cooperation work. The international Press and Telecommunication Council IPTC, based in Windsor, UK is a consortium of the world’s major news agencies and news industry vendors.

Following the specific needs and requirements of the multimedia news industry the IPTC has been developing news formats and standards to capture data and meta-information on news. Since the development of XML the work on meta data management has been seriously improved and the IPTC has developed two specific formats for online news management: NITF (News Industry Text Format, current Version 3.2), and NewsML. NewsML provides metadata management for any type of news contents. Consequently, the IPTC does not only provide news exchange formats to the news industry but also creates and maintains sets of topics to be assigned as metadata values to news objects in NewsML or NITF, like text, photographs, graphics, audio- and video files and streams. This allows for a consistent coding of news metadata over the course of time – thus making these sets the IPTC NewsCodes (cf. www.iptc.org). The universe of NewsCodes is by 2005 split into 28 individual sets for increased manageability as topics usually relate to a specific area and likely to be used exclusively in a specific metadata element of a news exchange format. Typical NewsCode sets include format, genre, media type, subject code, urgency, etc.

Modern multimedia services integrate content types of text, images, audio data and streams and current video formats such as MPEG2, MPEG4, MPEG7, and multimedia broadcasting technologies and initiatives like MHP and DVB for providing future interactive digital news access via television, internet, and mobile devices.

News Management

As described above research and industry developments in the news management and distribution domain have lead to dozens of modern and appropriate products to handle multimedia news contents. The market leaders (both commercial and open source frameworks and solutions) cover most relevant aspects of the news content lifecycle as shown in Figure 1.

Content management systems generally distinguish application design from information organization and content manipulation. Most emphasis in the news application domain is given to the content manipulation section, thus providing journalists and editors with appropriate modern tools to author, categorize, control, revise, and publish multimedia contents for the news presentation and distribution services.

General purpose news editing systems integrate easy-to-use textual interfaces, mostly based on Web architectures with modern multimedia features like video studios, composing for example MPEG-4 audio-visual scenes (cf. MPEG-4 STUDIO in). Some content management systems focus on end user personalization, providing a unique and specific experience for the individually guided and supported end user. Based on classification frameworks user modeling provides appropriate input parameters to individually present news services for the subscriber s and readers.

Multimedia News Distribution and Presentation

Multimedia news are presented as commercial services by national and international agencies and organizations all over the world. Digital media as a commonly available data type for business applications like news presentation and distribution services brings challenges for computing infrastructure and solution architectures. While many corporate uses of digital media can be handled with current infrastructure, multimedia news services, as the amount and file size of the digital media grows, require more than simple capacity improvements. The news community is researching for solutions in multiple areas such as high level semantic analysis, provisioning and management of mixed information, and distribution and presentation of media data to satisfy requirements dictated by business scenarios.

Modern news networks, news syndication services, media observation and international news exchange networks are following the customers’ needs and provide specific services within the multimedia news application domain. The leading presentation platform in multimedia news presentation are clearly news networks providing Television services and Internet content distribution. Considering the language and geographical restrictions of TV, Internet-based services are in the main focus of multimedia news systems within this article. The most-used presentation platform for multimedia news herein is the World Wide Web, providing all facets of news aggregation, manipulation, and dissemination discussed in section “news networks”. Modern web-based content management systems (WCMS) handle all assets of multimedia news data for personalized user-oriented news presentation.

Architectures

Multimedia news systems typically follow a layered architecture approach as shown in Figure 2. The data layer contains multimedia data that are stored in modern appropriate formats like NewsML for texts, modern image formats such as JPG, PNG, etc. and current versions of multimedia encoding (e.g. MPEG versions) for audio- and video files. The content manipulation layer provides access to the multimedia data via specific tools that provide methods to control and access news contents along the various transitions in the content lifecycle (see Figure 1). The news services layer includes gateways that provide structured and standardized access to the contents by end user applications. Within this layer, tools and services of content provider networks take care of the presentation and distribution of multimedia contents. Most providers run multimedia gateways such as streaming servers or web services and sites to present the multimedia contents.

The top layer presents the end user environment, providing access to multimedia news services based on direct access to multimedia gateways or special services of the news services layer such as multi-agency full-text search engines, semantically coupling services or commercially related gateways like billing servers or subscription access gateways.

Infrastructure

Multimedia news services are facing multiple challenges in storing, providing, and distributing high volume data contents. Competing news providers manage voluminous textual databases, image repositories and multimedia databases. Most appropriate server cluster technology and storage networks handle the data and application management for highly available and scalable multimedia systems.

Modern Internet protocols like HTTP for web-based presentation of text and images, and streaming protocols such as RTSP for audio and video streaming cover the distribution and presentation services of multimedia news systems.

Besides the technical enabling of news presentation and distribution, legal and commercial constraints contribute challenges to the news application domain and the main business players within this area. Recent misuse and content theft by illegal file sharing or copyright violence have introduced security topics to multimedia news services. Besides customer oriented access restrictions and modern billing systems, multimedia news are enriched with up-to-date encrypting mechanisms. Especially for audio and video formats, the time constraints in encoding and decoding live streams have brought challenges which are met by modern approaches such as encryption and watermarking for copyrighted MPEG. Multimedia data security is vital for multimedia commerce. Early cryptography have focused and solved text data. For multimedia applications, light weight encryption algorithms as discussed in are attractive and appropriate.

Common network problems and known issues like bandwidth restrictions at end user sites and peak loads at certain times of the day in news distributions are handled via appropriate network topologies (strategically located service caches) and server side caching of frequently retrieved news data. Caching mechanisms in multimedia news systems allow even smaller providers to approach some hundreds of thousands of subscribers of multimedia news with small and cost-efficient server clusters and open source news systems .

News Networks

The demand for networked consumer systems such as news presentation and distribution software is growing rapidly. As a result, consumer networking is gaining increasing attention from industry, spawning a range of different solutions in different environments such as wireless, wireline, and satellite communication systems. News networks reach the professional news consumer at every corner of our world at almost any electronic device imaginable.

The purpose of news networks is to reach as many targeted consumers as possible to present and distribute multimedia news at the cost of the providing customer.

Since technology has driven the expansion of news networks dramatically in the last decades, this field is attracting researchers and commercial entrepreneurs with a yet unbroken vehemence.

While the industry is optimizing quality of service parameters such as connectivity, data transfer speed, availability and scalability of data exchange and news distribution, research is focusing on qualitative enhancements such as security optimization, semantic coupling of relevant news items, improved multimedia authoring and integration of ubiquitous computing services. The EC-funded project Nedine manages a modern multimedia news distribution network consisting of the integration of international news agency partner systems based on a modern P2P approach. Nedine provides multimedia news content exchange as well as semantic coupling of the most relevant business news based on modern Vector Space methodology.

Searching and retrieval optimization is a major issue in news systems, thus research progress is requested and presented in various fields. Multimedia news are currently searched mainly on a textual basis by performance optimized full-text keyword search engines. Alternatives are involving semantics like the weighted vector space model as discussed in, the contextual integration of content types and document features, the ranking of relationships between news based on multiple data facets, or the automated extraction of video highlights in video files that are based on audio, text, and image features.

News networks are based on modern Internet communication, but additionally and especially for commercial reason trust in dedicated fixed lines, encrypted satellite networks or specific broadcasting frequencies. Since security and availability in standard Internet communication has evolved, modern multimedia news services are based on standardized protocols such as HTTP for textual and image contents and for example RTSP for video streaming purposes.

Business Branches

The current market for multimedia news systems is enabling various business solutions and marketing concepts in the news application area. General purpose news broadcasting and distribution is provided by Television cable and satellite networks, future encryption standards and activities are targeting towards Video on demand based on Internet technology. Business news networks are using news presentation and distribution platforms on WWW servers and email distribution networks. Multimedia data are offered by streaming servers on Internet protocols, thus allowing full service news providers and such as U.S. Newswire , Reuters , Factiva , Yahoo!News , MSN , LexisNexis , Apdigitalnews and many others.

Specific news services such as content brokering for multimedia news syndication, news monitoring services, or multilingual and multinational news search and retrieval services round up the enormous variety of business services in the multimedia news domain.

Conclusion

The management of multimedia data, servicing ubiquitous computing and the fact that every news professional around the globe wants to be first informed on all relevant news occurred in his interest area cause new challenges to business applications, computing infrastructure, and solution architectures. The news application area is researching concrete basic solutions for multimedia news management, presentation, and distribution and additionally tries to satisfy requirements dictated by business scenarios of the news industry world. We have discussed the application area of multimedia news, the specific tasks of news presentation and distribution in multimedia news systems and their industrial and commercial application in current news networks. Especially the growing commercialization of digital information systems in the multimedia news domain is facing new issues, in terms of security, scalability and service quality that attract researchers and entrepreneurs as well as experienced market-players in the news domain.

Multimedia News Systems Infrastructure [next] [back] Multimedia Libraries - Role of Digital Libraries in Content-to-Community Mediation, Metadata and Search Services

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