At the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) Autumn meeting in Vienna this week the rNews version 1.0 standard will be voted on and hopefully approved. rNews uses RDFa to annotate web pages and embed metadata in these pages, particularly in the field of news publishing.
The IPTC has existed since 1965 and now promulgates digital standards that can be helpful in the exchange of news information. Its list of voting members includes such organisations as Getty Images, Press Association Ltd., the Associated Press and the Xinhua News Agency to name just a few.
The New York Times Company is also a member and just prior to the Autumn meeting we spoke to Evan Sandhaus, Lead Architect of Semantic Platforms in the New York Times Research and Development Department about the development of rNews and its forthcoming integration with schema.org.
We asked Evan how the initiative began: “The impetus came for the most recent work came at the 2010 Semantic Technology Conference when I went to a session (Semantic Tools for More Profitable Online Commerce) given by Best Buy’s Jay Myers. His organisation was able to leverage RDFa and the Good Relations ontology to mark up Best Buy data in such a way that it made it more helpful to the search engines, social sites and aggregators.
“I got to thinking that’s really cool that you can do that. I got to thinking is there anything we could do in my sector that would let us do this kind of markup. I realized immediately that it was going to be a standardizations effort.”
“As we worked on rNews we originally started with the idea that an RDFa only standard. But we quickly realized that there were competing formats for expressing semantic markup in html documents.
“We thought that the interesting thing was that the data model and the vocabulary that we developed was not tied to a particular implementation but rather as a data model that could have multiple implementations.”
A parallel effort was taking place with Bing, Google and Yahoo who came together to create Schema.org, a vocabulary that people can use to semantically mark up their content. The hope is that if webmasters adopted the vocabulary there would be a much more consistent return on search results for web users amongst other things.
“What we didn’t want to have happen was to release a standard that was competing with schema.org.” Evan says, “We didn’t want the publishers to be faced with a choice between supporting an IPTC standard and a standard that was supported by three major search engines.
“We immediately realised that half of our standard existed in some form already in schema.org. Some of the ideas are so obvious about what you want to mark up that multiple people, working independently, would arrive at them.
“Through this process we were able to integrate many features of rNews into the vocabulary that is published at schema.org”
What that now means is that publishers can use schema.org to implement the rNews data model. We see the schema.org collaboration with IPTC as a commercially supported implementation of the rNews data model.
rNews offers three major benefits:
- Better Machine Generated Links: Oftentimes the links that are created to your content are not created by people but by machines. Social sites may have instructions to link to your content and search engines may have crawled to your content and they have display a link to it. Humans would find it easy to identify the content and mark it up accordingly as a headline or as a picture but machines find this sort of identification problematical.
Evan says, “We anticipate rNews empowering machines with the information they need to create attractive links to our content.”
- Superior Analytics for Publishers: Because rNews can express whether content is about or mentions a concept it becomes possible to create analytics around the meaning of content rather than just the number of page views. A concept can be an idea like war or terrorism; a person like Barack Obama or a place like New York City.
- Better Ad Placement: The possibility exists for ad targeting algorithms to benefit from high fidelity information about the content. “We believe that there is an opportunity to provide these platforms with higher quality metadata about the content that they are targeting.”
“All three of these benefits are contingent on the adoption of the standard and the support that the broader web eco-system provides to the standard. But we see these three reasons as why publishers might want to seriously consider rNews for their publishing stack.”