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XML Standard Simplifies e-commerce for Publishing Industry

PRISM Working Group releases first public specification

SAN FRANCISCO (Seybold Conference, August 29, 2000) - Publishers and other content providers who want a common means of exchanging, syndicating and re-purposing digital content now have an industry standard vocabulary. The International Digital Enterprise Alliance (IDEAlliance) today announced that it has released the first publicly available version of the PRISM (Publishing Requirements for Industry Standard Metadata) standard. The Beta specification is available at There are also copies of the specification available at the IDEAlliance booth in the XML Pavilion at Seybold Seminars 2000 in San Francisco.

The culmination of more than a year's work by leading publishers and publishing software vendors, the PRISM specification delivers an extensible industry standard vocabulary for syndicating, aggregating, post-processing and multi-purposing magazine, news, catalog, book and mainstream journal content. This will greatly expand the market for licensed content.

PRISM Addresses Core Publishing Requirements: The PRISM specification defines an XML metadata vocabulary. It provides a framework for the exchange and preservation of content and metadata, and also provides a set of controlled vocabularies used to describe the content being exchanged. The specification focuses on four kinds of metadata:

  • Metadata to describe resources as a whole. For instance, being able to describe a package of photographs, stories, captions and information graphics as an "article"
  • Metadata about a resource's relationships to other resources. For instance, being able to indicate that a caption belongs to a specific photograph or that certain articles were once published together as a Special Section.
  • Metadata to support specific purposes, particularly intellectual property rights and permissions including information such as geographic restrictions, time, language, market, format, alterations or restrictive use. For instance being able to communicate to someone that an informational graphic can only be used on a web site in a specific country domain or for a certain time period.
  • Inline metadata (that is, markup within the resource itself) such as product name, company name, etc. *

Metadata makes content more valuable because it helps humans and software applications to retrieve and use specific content components in a particular way. Tools that support the PRISM vocabulary will have a tremendous impact on many business processes, making it possible for publishers and other content providers to:

  • Repurpose information efficiently, standardizing searches, categorization, extraction and personalization
  • Improve post processing for syndication, aggregation and archiving improve search precision for querying and data mining, resulting in better data for "what ifs," and new product development
  • Facilitate management of rights and permissions

Similar to the ICE protocol, PRISM is designed to be straightforward to use over the Internet, to support a wide variety of applications, to conform to a defined XML syntax and to be practical and implementable by the leading software vendors.

"In order to more fully automate their business processes, content providers have needed a common language to specify and describe data. PRISM is that vocabulary. Used with complementary standards such as ICE (Information Content & Exchange) PRISM provides a solid foundation for more efficient publishing processes," Linda Burman, founder and co-chair of the PRISM Working Group and Vice President of Standards and Evangelism at Kinecta Corporation, explained. "Release of the PRISM specification is a breakthrough for enabling seamless online information exchange.

"Its simple. The PRISM specification helps us to help our customers and their partners." comments Ron Daniel, a Senior Information Scientist at Metacode and co-chair of the PRISM effort. "PRISM defines a standard XML output format, letting our content enhancement software seamlessly team up with other software in the distribution chain to meet the needs of publishers for repurposing their content."


The publishing landscape is rapidly changing. Recent technological innovations have led to a proliferation of display devices and formats - print media, hand-helds, mobile devices, desktop displays, screens and kiosks. While offering content providers exciting new opportunities for revenue sources and growth, such innovations also present challenges. A content provider must capture, manipulate, combine, protect, manage, personalize, re-express and syndicate content for multiple media without invoking labor-intensive processes. And, they must deliver that content in a manner consumers expect - high aesthetic quality and logical context that transcends media boundaries.

Because there is no reliable way for publishers to automatically retrieve similar types of content components, today, lack of agreement on descriptions of content types also affects rapid aggregation and syndication. Publishers, aggregators and syndicators require knowledge of rights and permissions not only of entire documents, but also of each content component within a document. Today, management of rights and permissions and all the related details - geographic restrictions, time, language, market, format, alterations or restrictive use can be a very haphazard, time consuming, and expensive manual process. The PRISM standard provides reliability, consistency and some automation to this labor-intensive process.

The PRISM Working Group and the PRISM Network: The PRISM Working Group includes senior developers, standards leaders and strategists tasked with planning the future. The current Working Group member companies are Adobe Systems, Artesia Technologies, Cahners Business Information, Condé Nast Publications, Getty Images,, International Data Group (IDG/ITWorld), MarketSoft, Metacode Technologies, Quark Inc., Kinecta Corporation, Time Inc, Vignette Corporation and Wavo Corporation. Members of the IPTC from Reuters and Business Wire are also working with the PRISM WG members. To join PRISM either as a Working Group or a Network member, go to, visit the IDEAlliance booth at Seybold or contact IDEAlliance at 703 519-8190.

IDEAlliance is a vendor-neutral organization supporting the development of industry information standards. The formation of IDEAlliance is the latest step in GCA's more than 30-year history of fostering the development of various structured information standards. For more information on IDEAlliance or PRISM, visit their web site at, or contact IDEAlliance Public Information Officer Pete Janhunen at 703/519-8190 or

* The PRISM specification refers to other XML standards including the Dublin Core Subset, NITF (News Industry Text Format) and NewsML V1.0Beta


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