Digital Asset Management and the FIFA World Cup

Spain's Andres Iniesta scores the 1-0 winning goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup final match between the Netherlands and Spain. Photo by EPA/Marcus Brandt/Landov

Spain’s Andres Iniesta scores the 1-0 winning goal during the 2010 FIFA World Cup final match between the Netherlands and Spain.

Suddenly everyone I know is a football fan. No, not the kind of football game with guys all padded up to play on Saturday or Sunday (I live in the South where those football fans have always existed). This is the kind we Americans refer to as soccer. By-the-way, I did read an article that the word “soccer” really came from the Brits, who apparently scorn the US for calling it that today. Life is hard when the rules keep changing….

Of course the American team making it past the first round of the 2010 World Cup probably prompted the sudden popularity. Although ironically around here in the US South hundreds, perhaps thousands, of kids play soccer, my son included. He just made the travel team- meaning I get to travel a hundred miles to Jacksonville, Fl., every other Saturday this Fall. But previously we rarely watched soccer on television or saw any pictures in our local newspaper.

For the last couple weeks restaurants and bars have been advertising their big screen televisions and food and drink specials for the World Cup tournament game days, just like what they do for our college and professional football game days in the Fall.

The interest in the FIFA World Cup is of course huge in the rest of the world. It takes place every four years and rotates locations around the world. The 2010 tournament is being placed in South Africa. The 2014 FIFA World Cup is expected to be played in Brazil.

The spike in interest here in the US and around the world impacts our digital asset management system since many of the larger newspapers use our system to manage photographs-those generated by their staffs and those that come from the wire services. USA TODAY, one of our customers, has reported more than 3000 “football” pictures being sent from wire services on game days. The usual TOTAL number of pictures they get per day from all stories around the world runs between 7000 and 8000. That’s a lot of pictures of guys playing soccer (err, “football”). But wait…

De Telegraaf in The Netherlands uses a Merlin digital asset management system to manage their photos, along with their stories and PDF pages for several of their publications throughout the country. Since The Netherlands team played and beat Uruguay in the semi-final match and made it to the finals against Spain, interest is enormous for their readers. They have a large Merlin system and typically ingest around 70,000 pictures per day. On the day of the semi-final game they put in 17,000 more pictures just from the World Cup, or an average of one soccer (sorry, “football”) picture every 5 seconds, for 24 hours a day (in reality they probably were seeing a few new soccer pictures each second during the games, and hopefully some quiet during the overnight periods!).

With Merlin’s modular expansion, our support team was able to help De Telegraaf configure their system to process and index (so that the captions and metadata are searchable) this overflow amount. They distributed the various wire service and local photographers’ flows across a couple servers running our input processing tool. Editors were able to monitor all incoming pictures in one screen, or they could have multiple screens, each with pictures from a different game, all updating dynamically non stop. I can only imagine 30-45 new pictures to look at every minute during and right after game time!

Not to date myself, but when I started in photojournalism in the 80’s the most prolific source of photos, the Associated Press, delivered one photo every 10 minutes, or a maximum of 144 transmissions per day (and about 15 of those were things like weather maps and charts). Now de Telegraaf’s Merlin is receiving and presenting that many in just over a minute!

I did watch the final game Sunday and I was cheering for the orange-The Netherlands team-because I do have friends there. The only good thing was the little guy on Spain’s team scored the winning goal and that made my son (who is on the small side) happy and gave him confidence for his upcoming season.

Posted by Rande Simpson
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