Database Publishing: How the Bi-directional Approach Helps You Optimally Connect Datasets and Documents

Since the invention of “mail merge” in 1980, companies have developed new and better ways to personalize their documents by using multiple data sources and smart technologies to create customized catalogs and other materials.

To know where multichannel marketing is going, we need to travel back in time and understand what technological advances have changed our processes since then.

The Print Publishing Evolution
In the 1980s, people in general, and especially in the print industry, had the idea that personal computers would make our lives much easier. Forty-one years later we can see, here with the example of database publishing, whether this idea was correct or whether too much was expected of it. At the beginning of the decade, the cumbersome, costly, manual process was done with cameras, scanners, litho film, pull-off tables and Rubylith.

A short time later, Scitex became the digital system for high volume publications, job costs of over $1 million were not uncommon.

By the end of the decade, design software, image editing software and PostScript were used for this production, making the old methods of producing a printed page obsolete.

Database Publishing
While publishing technologies improved by leaps and bounds, the information and data side proved more complex. Early on, we figured out how to merge data files with documents, from physical letters to packaging and shipping labels. More complex documents such as directories, technical manuals and telephone directories followed, allowing large amounts of data to be inserted into page layout templates.

But: consumer catalogues and product directories needed an exact product description AND a good design. Inflexible phone book style layouts were not enough. Users wanted to design layouts with the creative possibilities offered by QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign AND the ability to automatically insert text, images and prices from a database.

Versioning and regionalisation of listings
The development of online marketplaces and shopping apps increased the pressure on advertisers to create a smart system where ads are as personalised as possible. Digital tools began to facilitate this process. Data flowed from large, interconnected databases to pre-determined locations on the printed page. This, of course, in turn opened up the possibility for even more complex workflows, such as adapting versioned, vertically aligned catalogues to different regions of the country, or even personalising each copy through digital printing.

But: the data flow was usually only in one direction. Complete automation could thus be achieved at the expense of flexibility. Last-minute changes to the product description, such as special prices, size or colour changes, or even simple spelling corrections, could only be made with some effort at the user level.

Cloud-based software systems
Other technical innovations affecting entire IT landscapes were also gaining momentum in database publishing. The rise of cloud-based software systems meant that all these databases and associated applications were moved from on-site servers to the cloud. On the one hand, this involved long-term cost savings (no more investing in large servers!). After the decision for cloud-based software, it is up to the IT department to ensure the necessary connection of interfaces to a PIM and DAM system, as well as the guarantee of information security in this strategic step (on the other hand, this means an additional expenditure of human resources).

Multichannel Software LAGO
In the 1990s, Comosoft began to address this problem by connecting database content to QuarkXPress documents, using QuarkXPress’ XTension approach. This soon evolved into a broader systems approach, now known as LAGO. Over time, LAGO encompassed several different types of applications, including Product Information Management (PIM), Digital Asset Management (DAM), marketing campaign management and other important systems. Meanwhile, in print publishing, LAGO focuses primarily on Adobe InDesign and InDesign Server for page design, giving it a prominent position in database publishing.

What differentiates LAGO from other database publishing systems is that it is not a one-way street of data into the digital publishing ecosystem. Users can make necessary changes or adjustments within the normal process in a time-saving manner without destroying previous design adjustments.

Not only in print publishing (e.g. catalogue and flyer production) does LAGO make your processes efficient, but our consultants also design a customised solution with LAGO for your digital output.