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This report was presented by Stuart Myles, IPTC Chairman, at the IPTC Annual General Meeting in Toronto, Canada on October 17 2018.

IPTC has had a good year – the 53rd year for the organization!

We’ve updated key standards, including NewsML-G2, the Video Metadata Hub and the Media Topics, as well as launching RightsML 2.0, a significant upgrade in the way to express machine processable rights for news and media.

Of course, IPTC standards are a means, not an end. The value of the standards is the easier exchange, consumption and handling of news and media by organizations large and small around the world. So it is important that we continue to focus on making our standards straightforward to use and have them adopted as widely as possible. I think we are making progress on the usability front, such as moving away from zip’d PDFs towards actual HTML web pages for documentation of NewsML-G2. Over the last year, we’ve continued to work with other organizations – W3C, Europeana and MINDS – to develop standards, increase adoption – and, perhaps most importantly, to open up IPTC to other perspectives. And we have had a huge win in the recognition of key photo metadata by Google Images. But we clearly need to do more for both usability and adoption. During the course of this meeting, we’ve had some good discussion about what more we can do in both areas and I encourage all members to help spread the word about IPTC standards, and suggest ways we can accelerate adoption.

Of course, the nature of news and media continues to evolve. On the one hand, new forms of story telling are emerging, such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Equally, using data as the way to power stories continues to increase both data-driven stories and data-supported stories. By data-driven stories, I mean journalists reviewing large databases of information and creating stories based on the trends they find. By data-supported stories, I mean content creators using visually-interesting graphics to support their content. The automated production, curation and consumption of news and media is likely to increase for the foreseeable future, driven by both technological improvements and the seductive economics of replacing people with algorithms. And it is not only economics which are driving these changes and challenges, just as it is no longer fill-in-the-blank text stories being written by robot journalists. Synthetic media – such as “deep fakes” – are able to produce increasingly convincing photo, video and audio stories that are indistinguishable from “real” media. Inevitably, the existence and debunking of these fakes will be used to deny legitimate reporting, with the implications of continued erosion of trust in media. All of these trends – AR, VR, data-powered journalism and dealing with trust, credibility and misinformation – are topics which IPTC has discussed over the last few years, but we have not developed any tracks of work to try to address them. In part, this is because these are, by definition, outside of the areas that our member organizations traditionally deal in and are so quite difficult to tackle in terms of establishing standards.

However, even within the context of standards, IPTC is opening up to new forms of experimentation. As we heard on Monday, the joint project between IPTC and MINDS, to allow for the identification of audience and interest metadata, has lead to the introduction of structures within NewsML-G2 to support rapid prototyping and experimentation. I see this as a positive move, with great potential to accelerate the work we do and to help keep it lightweight and relevant.

Of course, IPTC has had significant changes of its own over the last year. We bid goodbye to Michael Steidl as our Managing Director of 15 years, and welcomed Brendan Quinn as our new Managing Director this summer. We’re grateful that we continue to benefit from Michael’s skills and experience, as he has remained the Chairman of the Photo and Video Working Groups. And I think that Brendan has made a great start in his new role in helping us keep the IPTC moving forward.

As part of the handover from Michael to Brendan, we decided to scan a lot of the old paper documents (link available to members only), including various types of IPTC newsletter, dating back to 1967, two years after the organization was founded. I thought I would look back to what IPTC was up to in the year 2000, the year I became a delegate to the IPTC, back when I worked for Dow Jones.

And there I am in the photo at the top of the page. Or, at least, the back of my head. Some things are quite reminiscent of this week’s meeting – the birth of NewsML, a focus on improved communications, cooperation with other organizations e.g. MPEG-7.

Then I thought I would look back on IPTC in 1968, the year I was born:

Some things were similar to today – such as a focus on fine technical details such as Alphabet Number 5 and a plan to go to Lisbon next year for a meeting. However, most of the focus in those days was mainly on lobbying against tariffs and satellite monopolies. 

So I think it is fair to say that the IPTC has never been just a standards body. It is also, more broadly, a community of practice. We are a group of people from around the world who have a common interest in news and media technology. The process of sharing information and experiences with the group, through these face to face meetings and the online development of standards, means that the members of IPTC learn from each other, and so have an opportunity to develop professionally and personally. I hope you will agree that yesterday’s discussion of news search and classification was an excellent example of exchange of experiences, both good and bad, which can help many of us avoid problems and seize opportunities, and so accelerate our work.

I think it is helpful for us to recognize that IPTC is a community which continues to evolve, as the interests, goals and membership of the organization change.  I’m confident that – working together – we can continue to reshape the IPTC to better meet the needs of the membership and to move us further forward in support of solving the business and editorial needs of the news and media industry. I look forward to working with all of you on addressing the challenges in 2019 and beyond.