Pivoting on metadata

Since January, I've been working with the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and BookNet Canada on a project to map the flow of metadata throughout the supply chain. I presented an assessment and preliminary recommendations earlier this month, at BISG's "Making Information Pay" conference. A final report will be published next month.

This particular metadata study focuses on the way that physical and digital objects – books – are described by publishers, wholesalers, data aggregators, conversion houses, retailers and others. There are several opportunities for supply-chain participants to collaborate to improve how metadata is created and used to drive discovery and purchase.

It's beyond the scope of the study, but lately I have been reading (and re-reading) Gautam Ramdurai's blog post, "When data about data matters most". Ramdurai is a strategist at Google Creative Lab, though the post is his own.

Ramdurai links digital formats, abundance and the evolution of metadata to argue that:

"In a world where everyday behavior is being digitized, data of any sort will become abundant. Once that happens, metadata becomes the key to organize, relate and discover. Metadata lies in the eyes of the beholder. If the interpretation, manipulation and use of it comes from core human understanding, what comes out of it will become a digital conduit to serve a human desire."

Describing a music service, Ramdurai goes on to note: "Planetary does exactly this – it takes musical data, extracts the metadata and finds an entirely new way of looking at it – and eventually visualizing it. It doesn’t answer the question 'What else can I do with this music?' but 'How else can I imagine this data?'"

We're a bit removed from fingerprinting book or magazine content at the level of a waveform, but start-ups like ReadSocialAPI and Small Demons are trying to bridge that gap. I think the metadata research I've been doing will help make the book industry supply chain more efficient, which is a good goal. Finding new ways to imagine metadata holds the promise of making book publishing more effective.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.