What is… Database Publishing?

Automatically create product catalogs and pricelists using PIM and InDesign

German? Zur deutschen Version von Database Publishing


The term “database publishing” refers to using a central data source to automatically create certain types of target documents. This publishing process is most frequently used to create print media such as catalogs or price lists.

How does the automated production of print media work

Three essential components are required for the production process:

  • a data source
  • a layout program
  • a plugin to connect the data source to the layout program

The data source

The data source is the basis on which all publications are created. After all, without the product details, images and prices, a catalog would have little chance of success, let alone sales appeal! For the large, complex production processes, PIM (product information management) systems are especially beneficial. These manage large volumes of product data, all kinds of texts and media assets, such as images, videos and audio from a central location. For this reason, PIM systems are often enhanced by a media asset management (MAM) system. They offer the benefit of collecting massive volumes of product and marketing-related content in a single location.

In addition to having a data source such as PIM, it is essential that data is structured clearly and uniformly, and that it is regularly maintained. If new products and articles are added to a product range, the relevant information must be entered in the system. When there are changes to key data like price, color or size, the data must be updated. If these requirements are met, it lays the foundation for successful database publishing.

The layout program

To transfer the structured data to a print medium, a layout program such as Adobe InDesign is needed. The layout program is used to fill the individual pages with content. The product images are then manually added to the pages along with product descriptions, charts, prices and any additional information. Database publishing makes these steps unnecessary. The desired content is exported to the program at the push of a button. This is made possible by first defining a customized layout and creating appropriate templates for products and pages. These are added to the layout document as placeholders and linked to the data source. This allows critical product information (price, article number, order number, etc.) to be updated from the database shortly before the file goes to print. By updating the placeholders in the document, precisely these changes are identified and implemented. This makes the catalog production process more accurate, quicker and less expensive. If a catalog is produced in multiple languages, these benefits multiply many times over, which results in enormous long-term savings in terms of time and cost.

The plugin

A connection, known as a plugin, is required so that the data source and the layout program can communicate with each other. Plugins are used, such as priint:suite projects to create the templates and placeholders that are required for database publishing. Production is planned online in priint:planner; products and structures are categorized. The plugin’s various components allow a customized export of data with a high degree of automation.

An overview of the benefits of database publishing

6 reasons to choose database publishing

1. Quality
A high level of quality can be ensured as long as the database is consistently kept up to date and the project was successfully implemented. The data is imported precisely and last-minute changes to, e.g. prices, can be made at the push of a button. This is particularly helpful when a project includes hundreds of pages of price lists — in these cases, manual proofreading is a truly Herculean task. The catalog and price list production processes become extremely reliable.

2. Time savings
What do people so often want more of? That’s right — time. After an intense period of project planning and implementation, the content manager will benefit from immense time savings. Even large print publications can now be produced at the click of a mouse, which frees up time and budget for additional marketing efforts. In addition, it creates a competitive advantage by allowing companies to respond more quickly to market demands.

3. Long-term value
After the initial setup, the infrastructure, place holders, product templates and page templates are available for use in all future publications. Product data is maintained by all users in one central location, which means that data sets no longer need to be looked up, copied and pasted from old emails, Excel lists, Word documents etc. every time a catalog needs to be produced.

4. Always up to date
Shortly before finalizing the print media, an update can be carried out to ensure that all data is up to date. This makes it possible to update product information at the last minute without needing to search the entire document and potentially introduce typos.

5. Easy to use
Database publishing simplifies the production process immensely. Automation plays a very important role — page-long lists and references within the document are created and filled in automatically. The intuitive user interface makes production at the push of a button a reality.

6. Multilingual
Producing content in multiple languages is child’s play with database publishing, because neither the templates nor the structures need to be adjusted. The only requirement is that the multilingual content is entered and available in the database.

5 steps to a successful database publishing project

Keep these 5 steps in mind for your own database publishing project

Step 1: Publication analysis

It is important to get an overview of exactly what should be created during the database publishing process. These are some important key questions: How will the finished products be structured? Are there standards that need to be fulfilled? Can different elements be unified? Which text and image blocks will be needed? Which text and image blocks will be needed? To get a holistic view, these points need to be thoroughly addressed.

Step 2: Data source analysis

The next important step is the analysis of the data source. Is information about the products already stored centrally, or will multiple sources need to be merged? As a general rule of thumb, a more structured data source will result in greater time savings.

Step 3: Process analysis

You will need to analyze what the current roadblocks are and where responsibilities should be assigned. The following questions will help:

Which people and entities are participating in the process?

Which sequence and approval steps should be followed?

Who is the first point of contact for the project? Who is taking care of what?

When all questions have been answered, it’s time to begin implementation. If the current data sources are not sufficiently structured, this will need to be addressed before going forward.

Step 4: Choosing an implementation partner

So that things go smoothly on the big day, you should get your implementation partner on board early in the process. Technology is not the only important factor in the process – practical expertise is essential to ensure maximum efficiency in the overall process. For this reason, you should carefully check the references of those you are considering. If possible, speak with some of their previous customers about their experience.

Step 5: Implementation

This is where the database publishing project gets really interesting! You will need to be technically creative and ready to find compromises in this phase. An optimized, custom-designed process will be developed on the basis of the software and interfaces you have chosen. The process will be automated to as great an extent as possible. Templates will be designed for the individual product categories, along with placeholders and page layouts.

Let the production begin!

Updated: 5. Januar 2023

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