logo-openpublish-2010-04.jpg Acquia, the commercial company founded by Drupal (news, site) project lead Dries Buytaert, and Phase2 Technology have joined forces around the OpenPublish (news, site) content publishing platform. OpenPublish combines the open source Drupal Web CMS framework with OpenCalais (news, site), a free semantic web metadata service provided by Thomson Reuters.

Introducing OpenPublish

A relatively recent arrival in the Drupal derivatives scene, OpenPublish is a Drupal distribution tailored for the needs of modern online publishers. The project has been developed by Phase2 Technology with the support of Thomson Reuters. The idea was to put together a Drupal build which could combine Drupal's extensible content management platform with Drupal's strong social publishing capabilities, and mix in the semantic web technologies from the OpenCalais project.

Core OpenPublish Features

Phase2 claims that OpenPublish has all the bells, whistles and agility that modern publishers require. These are the key features:

  • Content Types
    Default content types include articles, blogs, multimedia content, events, resources (e.g., links, files, documents, etc.) and news packages (e.g., everything about an election).
  • Semantic Web Tools
    The semantic web features in OpenPublish come courtesy of the OpenCalais integration. These include auto-tagging of content -- either per item or in bulk, geo-tagging and mapping, Calais-driven topic hubs (e.g., subject matter hubs, geo-hubs, related subject hubs, most read, etc.) and content suggestions (e.g., "related articles").
  • Monetization
    There isn't a lot to say here. Most serious publishers are going to integrate a 3rd party ad serving system or three. And like any Web CMS, the Drupal framework can support this via integration at the template level. If you want to serve ads out of OpenPublish itself, Phase2 says that can be done too. Note that the integration of semantic tagging with ad serving might be of some value -- enhanced relevance of advertising is a plausible outcome.
  • Engagement
    OpenPublish proponents say that the product can help build community. Drupal does have a fairly solid threaded commenting system, with anti-spam in the form of Mollom and CAPTCHA integration. Beyond this the creation of rich topic hubs -- driven both by Drupal and OpenCalais technology has strong appeal and is likely to increase engagement. Aperture integration may not be for everyone, but it's supported and allow publishers to automatically tie-in 3rd party multi-media content.

    The Drupal core also supports content ratings and like/dislike feedback as well as related data-driven content views (e.g., most liked). Social bookmarking and email forwarding are also plumb standard features these days, and you'll find them in the OpenPublish package.
  • Syndication & Promotion
     OpenPublish doesn't break any new ground here from what I see. The Drupal framework supports RSS rendering of just about anything, so you've got plenty of that. Beyond this, via template customization or custom coding, you can render content in just about any format one could desire. On the promotion side, the package offers a Featured Content capability, allowing you to highlight certain content items on your homepage or topic hubs, etc.
  • SEO Optimization
    There are no breathtaking features in this department either -- it's mostly standard checkbox items like metatag generation, XML sitemaps and SEO-friendly URLs. Wee! (read more about making Drupal SEO friendly)

    One possible advantage with OpenPublish goes back to the OpenCalais integration. How many of you have a metadata star on staff? That's what I thought. Rich tagging via OpenCalais suggestions or bulk operations are likely to benefit you SEO situation in some small way.

OpenPublish -- The Content Authoring Interface

Introducing OpenCalais

The OpenCalais Web Service takes content in (e.g., your article) and automatically creates rich semantic metadata. The behind the scenes wizard uses natural language processing, machine learning and other methods to derive the semantics -- what you mean to say -- and packages them up in XML.

Calais analyzes your content, finds the entities as well as the statements of fact and events contained in it. Once the magic has been completed, the XML data is delivered to you and can be incorporated into your application context.

The pitch for publishers is that in the bloody business of profitable online publishing, Calais gives your content an edge, and nearly automatically. It also has the compelling ability to process and tag your entire archive in a matter of hours. Finally, searching -- which we all do so often -- is improved and thus so is the general utility of your publications.

OpenCalais Diagram
OpenCalais -- Deriving Entities, Facts and Events

If you're not familiar with OpenCalais, the Document Viewer example is a great way to quickly see the system in action. The following video also provides a solid introduction.

The Varied Acquia Support System

Several OpenPublish-related announcements have hit the wire recently. On April 16th we saw the release of OpenPublish 2.0 and today, in timely coordination with Drupalcon San Francisco, we have Acquia (news, site) teaming up with the OpenPublish project to provide a seamless package -- as they'd have you believe -- including professional services, software, training, support, hosting and remote administration.

To our knowledge Acquia have received about $15 million in funding to-date. With their hands in a range of pots, from Drupal distributions, to Mollom and Search hosting, to enterprise managed hosting, to remote Drupal administration, to the Drupal SaaS project called Drupal Gardens (see our recent Drupal Gardens review), we're starting to wonder how many plates they can keep spinning.

Nevertheless, we'll concede that the OpenPublish and Acquia partnership makes a ton of sense. We also like the look of the OpenPublish feature set.

Drupal's problem has never been breadth. Rather it's the usability and packaging that scares most people off. Projects like OpenPublish, Buzzr, Drupal Gardens and Open Atrium are doing a lot to address these concerns.

Who's going to stick around and who's going to come out ahead? Those kind of questions are still far from decided.