From the Seybold coverage of America East 2000:
Saxotech debuts planning tool and Web publishing system
Saxotech featured two key developments: the U.S. debut of its impressive Publicus Web publishing system and a new version of its SaxoPress editorial system with a planning tool called SaxoPlan.
The most notable aspect of Publicus at this stage is its completeness. Unlike the fairly basic Web capabilities that are appearing as part of most editorial systems these days, Publicus incorporates a well-rounded set of features that should make it easy for newspapers to create sites that do more than merely repurpose news stories.
We'll return to Publicus after covering the new editorial system.
Saxotech also announced a deal with Tansa of Norway to distribute the Tansa Media System usage checker in the U.S.
This major new release of the editorial system addresses a variety of areas, including not only editorial planning, but also tools to control the appearance of stories and photos on the page, and support for a thin-client workstation with full editorial functionality.
Element editing. Different users can work on different pieces of the same story at the same time, such as to have a headline writer work on the headline while a copy editor works on the body text. If a portion of a story is locked by one user, a second user can open it, but the locked portion is grayed out and uneditable. While working, the second user can ask for an update to the locked portion to see the latest changes saved by the editor working on it.
Assigning shapes. A new toolbar enables an editor making an assignment to create a shape for the story and attach the shape to the assignment for the reporter to write to.
Writing to fit. The reporter can be asked to write a story to fit its Xpress geometry by H&J'ing the story against the layout as it is written. This function uses the standard Saxotech H&J capability. A new feature is the use of a color change to indicate that the story is overset.
Composing photos. A writer who has specific ideas about where a photo should be placed in a story and how it should be cropped can create a mockup of the story, within a shape, with the photo location marked and cropping instructions added.
Edit trace. A new Edit Tracking feature enables users to view all the additions and deletions made to a story as it moves through the editing process. Changes can be viewed by user, date and time. Colors differentiate different users' work. It's possible to view earlier versions of a story and bring back portions of them by cutting blocks from a window and pasting them in the main version.
Administration. To simplify system administration, Saxotech provides one control panel to handle a variety of functionsthe creation of new users, the setting of security and workflow attributes, and the ability to modify design and layout parameters.
Thin client. Saxotech points out that one feature of the thin client is the ability to write to fit by sending a story over the network to be H&J'ed on the server and returned to the workstation.
SaxoPlan. SaxoPlan integrates planning with other editorial processes. It handles the management of resources, the assignment of tasks, the sharing of contacts and schedules, and the monitoring of activities in the workflow. It is integrated with other SaxoPress modules, allowing, for example, stories and photos to be linked to tasks and meetings, although the photo-booking module introduced a year ago runs separately from the story assignment booking. They will be integrated later.
Existing stories can be attached to assignments for background.
SaxoPlan has a convenient user interface, enabling assignments to be made by dragging a reporter (i.e., a resource) to a task. Users are warned when deadlines approach.
SaxoPlan is in use at two newspaper sites and is available as an extra-cost option with SaxoPress 3.0.
Publicus portal. Saxotech has done more to enhance its Web publishing than any other company at the show. Besides offering nice features for publishing editorial content, its Publicus system provides shopping capabilities, discussion forums, reader polls with interactive response reports and many other features. It was developed by users.
Saxotech has been unveiling this system piece by piece (see our story from America East a year ago), but this was our first view of it with E-commerce capabilities and a portal module for supporting community activities. Altogether, it provides the functionality needed for a newspaper to get going with an active Web site.
Publicus is built around its own Web server, complete with an extensive set of features. Among them are a full-text indexing engine, an image processing module that automatically optimizes all imported images for the Web, browser-based editing and administration features, a smart caching system that knows when content in the database has been updated and automatically updates the cache, load balancing to optimize browsing, and statistical analysis tools that report usage data.
Publicus supports electronic commerce on the Web site. Visitors can shop and purchase products featured on the site, allowing publishers either to make partnerships with local merchants or to create their own new E-businesses. At Nexpo, Saxotech will show the ability for the reader to buy items from multiple vendors and be presented with a single bill.
The portal module supports movie and TV listings, local weather services, a chat service, and questions or forums that enable readers to participate and see the results of their responses. (It even has a provision for preventing readers from voting twice. If a reader has already voted and places another vote, it counts only the latest one.)
It calculates the number of hits on articles and can report, for example, the top ten items based on number of hits. At Nexpo, Saxotech will add profiling software with the ability to ignore quick hits in its calculations, to track the kinds of ads that are looked at or stories read.
This portion of the site can be linked to the E-commerce capability, such as to require users to be subscribers to a service before they can access the movie listings or other specific features. Or the reader can access free summaries of articles but be required to pay to see the full text.
Event calendars can be posted, searchable by type, date, etc., with the ability to shift the burden of updating them to the organizer, subject to the approval of the newspaper.
These portal features can be programmed to be launched and purged at specified times.
Publicus is priced at about $40,000 for a system for a midsize metropolitan paper, including the basic software, installation and some Web design assistance, but not including the extras such as E-commerce and portal functionality. (That is about two-thirds the cost of a similar configuration for producing a printed paper.)
The system is in use at 24 papers in Europe and is being brought to the U.S., for sale with Saxotech or other suppliers' systems. Saxotech says it has three orders pending in the U.S.
Besides selling the system, Saxotech is offering to host newspapers' Web sites. We were told that all 24 of its customers in Europe are using the hosting service, which is handled through a facility in Oslo. The company is building a similar facility in the U.S.
Tansa Media System.
Saxotech has formed a partnership with Tansa Systems AS of Norway to bring Tansa's spelling, style and hyphenation checking system to North America. The first English-language version, being developed for the Washington Times, will be available in May. The system wasn't demonstrated at America East, but it will be shown at Nexpo.
Three features, in particular, differentiate it from other checkers of spelling and usage:
It is based on a methodical, computerized study of an organization's own files to capture the specific usage habits of the organization. To do so, Tansa analyzes a year's worth of a company's materials and compiles a custom dictionary for that site.
Its checking routine considers groups of words, not single words, which enables it to correct hyphenation within
phrases (tête-à-tête), full names (Stephen Edwards vs. Steven Edwards) and other complex problems.
It uses artificial intelligence to learn the common mistakes made by a newspaper's workers and makes suggestions to the administrator to check them and perhaps add them to the correction routine.
Saxotech has exclusive sales rights in the U.S. The system comes with the AP style guide in its database. It runs on a server to ensure that all users are accessing the same dictionary at all times.
The Tansa system is offered for licensing by sites in small, medium and large configurations. A typical price for a 300-seat sale is $200 per seat.