Database Publishing – The Essentials Overview

Database Publishing – The Essentials Overview

Many companies regularly publish information materials in printed and digital form, such as product catalogs, flyers, brochures, etc., and are therefore faced with the challenge of implementing the publication process as efficiently as possible.

All product data is scattered across several files and systems and is available in different formats, which have to be processed manually and merged into one publication. If centralized and media-neutral data storage is not planned, the workload increases enormously. This often results in a high error rate. Database publishing is a good solution to these problems.

What is database publishing?

Database publishing (DP) is an automated publishing process in which a layout program is linked to a database in which the data is prepared in a media-neutral way and automatically transferred to the preconfigured templates. The unformatted data is converted into formatted publications.

Instead of manually transferring and placing content such as text, tables and images in the layout program, database publishing technology is used to automate this process. The layouts are automatically filled with the content and, after minor corrections, the publication can go to print.

The term "Database Publishing®" was created by VIVA GmbH at the end of the 1980s and is a registered trademark of this company.

For whom is database publishing interesting?

Database publishing is used to prepare materials that are produced on a regular basis. This often involves product information and the creation of product catalogs, price lists, data sheets, brochures, flyers, etc. The special feature is that the new publications have to be created again and again according to the same pattern. The product information is updated, new products are added and old products are discarded. Corresponding publications can be created in several languages.

This means that DP is of interest to anyone who needs this type of publication. In most cases, these are brands, manufacturers or wholesalers.

How does database publishing work?

The three main components of database publishing are

The print extraction takes place in four steps:

  1. Data is prepared – all product data is prepared and structured in a database.
  2. Templates are prepared – the templates are created directly or the rules for template creation are defined.
  3. Templates are filled with the data and the publication is created.
  4. minor corrections are made.

The templates with the completed data can be created in three ways. The process takes place with almost no manual work, which shortens the production time enormously.

Direct template creation

With this method, the templates are created directly and the placeholders are inserted for the data. A template is created for each page type and the product information can directly contain the information about which template to use for a product. However, please note: The more templates are used, the more potential problems with data filling are possible and the subsequent correction loop can take longer.

Rule-based template creation

With this approach, it is not the templates themselves that are created, but the rules according to which the texts and images are to be placed. The programming of such rules takes longer than the manual creation of templates, but rules can be used to implement more complicated layouts and better control the filling of pages with data. This means that the correction loop will not be necessary at all.

Mixed template creation

This approach combines the possibilities of the two previous scenarios. This allows you to exploit the advantages of both methods. Rules can be used to shorten or eliminate the correction loop. You can also save a lot of working time by preconfiguring the templates with the placeholders.

Data preparation

In order for a print rejection to work, all data used should be recorded in a standardized data source in a media-neutral manner. The following data is prepared:

  • Product information
    • Product name
    • Dimensions of the product (height, width, length, diagonal)
    • Weight
    • Technical information about the product (e.g. number of pixels, energy efficiency, etc.)
    • Marketing information (e.g. product descriptions etc.)
    • Packaging information
    • Relationships between products (e.g. cross-selling or up-selling)
    • other product-related information
  • Digital assets
    • Product images, banners, background images
    • product certificates
    • other digital assets.

This data is transferred to a layout program using special formats, e.g. XML or JSON. The texts to be transferred can be unformatted or formatted, only permitted formats are allowed, e.g. some words are marked in bold.

Database publishing and PIM

A product information management system (PIM) is software that is used to consolidate, enrich and provide product information. Thanks to this central data source, the product information can be forwarded to various sales channels using automated workflows. A layout program can be one such channel.

PIM systems are therefore the perfect media-neutral database and data source for digital publishing. Many PIM systems offer their own solutions for this. For example, they use their own plugins for InDesign so that the data can be transferred directly and automatically. The product information and other data required for a publication are then prepared directly in a PIM system. No middleware or other additional solutions are required to prepare the data.

Another advantage of using a PIM system for the implementation of database publishing is the system's focus on the preparation of high-quality product information. The workflows in the system make it possible to prepare the data much faster and save costs in the process.

What types of publication are conceivable?

Highly structured publications

In B2B retail, you can't do without publications - price lists with several products or product catalogs in different versions, depending on country, season and currency are important sales tools. The use of digital publishing is highly recommended for such highly structured publications in particular, as all data can be transferred fully automatically from a single data source in a well-structured manner and the templates can be filled with data very quickly.

Design-intensive publications

Creative and original advertising materials are a significant competitive advantage in B2C and now also B2B business. The use of DP is also helpful for the creation of design-intensive publications, as the creative templates can be prepared in advance with placeholders and the data transfer from the source is significantly accelerated. Even if the templates are subsequently changed, the data can be transferred again quickly and easily.

International publications

For companies that operate internationally, not only do the translations have to be right, the content should also be adapted. Depending on the country, different product variants, prices, currencies and perhaps even background images are used. A good system makes it possible to speed up the creation of regional publications.

One-page publications

Thanks to the separation of content from layout, you can create any number of similar publications at the touch of a button. The advantages of DP can be fully utilized, especially with single-page publications.

What are the advantages?

Database publishing has many advantages:

Publications can be created faster

There are various studies that examine this question in more detail - in general, one could say that the time it takes to create a product catalog can be reduced from a few months to a few weeks or even a few days thanks to digital publishing. Other types of publications can also be produced much faster.

Broader range of publications is possible

Thanks to the time savings achieved, users can afford to create more types of publications, giving them a competitive edge. Suddenly seasonal catalogs can be created, which was previously unthinkable, or catalogs in languages that were previously less important.

Higher quality publications

The fact that the data is transferred to the layout program reduces the error rate enormously. Even if errors do creep in, they can be corrected more quickly and easily, within minutes instead of days.

Much faster updating of publications

If you update your publications regularly, database publishing is inevitable. The data can be updated in the publication at the click of a mouse as soon as it has been updated in the data source.

Clear specialization is possible

Responsibilities can be clearly separated: there are those employees who are responsible for data and texts, those who take care of the visuals and those who take care of the templates. A clear separation of responsibilities makes it possible to work in parallel.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge for database publishing is the provision of a central data source, as the data in a company is normally scattered across different departments. The banners and background images are to be found in one department, the product images in another, the product information is to be collected across 2-3 other departments. On top of that, you need to ensure the quality of the data you receive, which can end up taking a lot of time.

If you are already making the effort to structure and centralize the data, you can immediately ask yourself whether a PIM system should be introduced, because it is precisely these problems that are solved by a PIM system.

Another challenge is the creation of suitable templates or rules according to which these templates should be created. Not every graphic designer is familiar with this and needs to acquire a certain amount of technical know-how. Of course, creating the publications should save time, but if the templates are poorly prepared, the subsequent correction loops can take up the time saved. It is therefore sometimes worth using the services of an external agency.

Database publishing is becoming increasingly popular due to its clear advantages. The most important trends in database publishing are

  • More regional publications are created, even for less important markets.
  • Personalized publications are created - thanks to the overall reduction in production costs.
  • The up-to-dateness of the information in the publications increases – because they can be updated much faster.
  • The diversity of publications increases – more different publications can be produced more quickly to meet market expectations.
  • Independence on agencies – more and more users are creating professional-looking catalogs themselves and minimizing the use of agencies.


With database publishing, data is imported directly from the database into a ready-made template; the product data does not have to be formatted additionally. If required, the data in a publication can be updated at the touch of a button, which also eliminates a potential source of errors and correction loops.

The product descriptions only need to be entered once in the database and are then available for reuse. Media are served with one and the same data, be it print media (product catalogs, brochures, flyers) or online media (PDF price lists, catalogs, etc.). This is an obvious advantage for regular publications with a large volume or several publications with the same structure. Time savings, cost reduction and the ability to update product information in the event of changes are further clear advantages.

Database publishing not only speeds up production, but also automates the entire publishing process. Extensive media such as product price lists, catalogs and data sheets can be created automatically. Provided that the data is structured, because publication creation goes hand in hand with product data preparation. The rule is: if you keep the product data in a database, you also save time when publishing. This means less production time, effort and sources of error. Especially with the combination of a PIM system and database publishing, you can benefit from a fast publication process.

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