ChannelManager: What does it buy you?

October 20, 1997

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 2

ChannelManager has implications for publishers, both in terms of how to present information to customers and how employees will use such systems internally.

Internally, for example, a sales manager can have one-click access to an orders database, a prospect database and a contact manager application, and to significant documents such as monthly memos on sales calls. In the same company, managed by the same server, a marketing employee could get one-click access to the customer database, industry newsletters and an events calendar. All of this was possible before, but not as easily; at least not from a single, central administrative console, with a single user interface, with this degree of flexibility for users and administrators alike.

Managing channels by XML metadata provides further potential payoffs for those who have diligently structured information in open formats. For example, let’s say you publish a journal from SGML source files. The original plan for Internet publishing may have been on-the-fly translation to HTML. Now, XML bibliographies and footnotes become metadata that can be imported into the ChannelBase repository and linked to the referenced material. If the link targets are tagged in XML (or SGML) as well, the connection can be made to sections and paragraphs within the material, not just to the top of the document. ChannelBase, in effect, becomes an asset manager that can link objects to the level of granularity described in the markup.

Pool observed that at CompuServe, one of the main "pain points" was its failure to retain customers. He also found that if you can customize the user interface, the user is less likely to switch online services, because the individual has become invested in the service, in its user interface. In his view, more customization of the user interface means higher retention, greater satisfaction and higher profits for an online service. If he’s right, this is as true for delivery of Internet services as it is for delivery of health-care services or any other information-based service business.