LAKEWOOD RANCH -- According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a content management system manages "the content of a website or other electronic resource that is used collaboratively by a number of people."
The folks at the Cambridge University Press, the publisher of the Cambridge dictionary and a multitude of others published in print and online, should know what they're talking about. After all, print and electronic editions of, entries in and changes to the dictionary are managed by software created by an international tech company that has its U.S. headquarters in Lakewood Ranch.
IDM, a French company that bought its way into the U.S. market in Bradenton in 2008, is where many dictionaries publishers, document archives, libraries and other reference publishers with a lot of content go to get their products to the reading public. Not that anyone would know.
"One of our biggest issues is that people don't know about it," said Stephen Perkins, IDM's deputy managing director and office leader at the company's U.S. headquarters in Lakewood Ranch.
Looking to end that issue, IDM is in the midst of a rebrand and other changes. Perkins, who owned and operated Bradenton content management company Dataformat.com until IDM bought him out five years ago, wants more potential customers to know what IDM does. Content management appeals particularly to clients with content that has a long life span because it is continually updated and frequently re-purposed, he said. In addition to dictionaries and historical material, scientific journals and
legal resources are candidates for content management.
Used inside the editing process, content management creates a virtual paper trail that can assure that work is not lost and content changes are always accurate.
Over the years, software developers with IDM and the subsidiaries the company has purchased have quietly built the software that allows many editors to work on publishing projects that can last years or even decades.
When content is ready, the software can be used to put it into print, online, into e-book form or for use in a mobile app. It is also used to attract online advertisers to publishers' web-based pages.
"We're very interested in the demographics and analytics," Perkins said. "We help advertisers to find their markets."
From a new, 3,000-square-foot office at 9031 Town Center Parkway, IDM's seven U.S. employees continue to develop and service several content management software platforms. Clients include the Cambridge University Press, Dun and Bradstreet, Harper Collins, Amazon and the Oxford University Press. One of its online platforms, called Reach, is used by websites representing 18 percent of the world's online dictionary market, Perkins said.
Sue Purdue, director of Virginia publishing house Documents Compass, said her organization purchased its first content management software from Perkins when Dataformat.com was an independent company. Documents Compass is currently using IDM software to store and edit transcriptions of thousands of letters written by the nation's founding fathers.
The three-year project, funded by the National Archives and Records Administration, has such a short timeframe that she could not imagine building content management software from scratch.
"Nobody on our staff could have done that," Purdue said.
Customer feedback like this is gold for Perkins, who is leading the rebranding effort. The company is redesigning its website to focus on what clients say IDM does for them, something he believes will draw new business.
Perkins' team recently moved from two office suites on State Road 64 to Lakewood Ranch. The new location will allow the company to comfortably host international employees and clients, and gives software developers quieter offices. Perkins also likes the availability of places to go to lunch.
"This area was really appealing to us," he said.
IDM is a textbook example of a global company that stretches its reach with technology. The company employs about 40 people across locations in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Denmark. But it has clients all over the Americas, Europe and Asia. Its software can be licensed both on co-located local servers and from the cloud, making it available anywhere. IDM employees communicate with each other and clients across the globe via Skype and WebEx to extend their virtual offices.
The company's revenue is earned on IDM's publishing suite, maintenance contracts, writing custom software, and setting up its products to work with clients' workflows. IDM also has a sideline in collecting online user data for advertisers to be used in web and mobile applications.
As much as anything, IDM helps its clients maintain or increase the value of intellectual property, Perkins said. In a world where books can have a limited reach, good content management in "the back office" and attractive presentation to the consumer via print, web and mobile devices increases the number of eyes that see content, whether on an ad-sponsored dictionary definition web page, or in the scholarly archives of a presidential library.
This year, Perkins said, IDM will do a number of things that will build its business. His office is hiring two new developers this spring. By the end of the year -- in addition to its other services -- the company will manage 360 server nodes on Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing division of the online retailer Amazon.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.