World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers


Trends leading up to Expo

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Trends leading up to Expo

The latest industry developments, such as Axel Springer’s sale of two large regional dailies or Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of The Washington Post, repeat the questions to publishers or – less sentimentally – media entrepreneurs: What has priority, the newspaper business or achieving maximum margins? Is it a matter of digitisation at all costs? Anybody investing in newspapers should invest in innovation. And this is where the World Publishing Expo comes in.

Naturally, in addition to sellers there are also acquirers of newspaper operations, so we are witnessing a sorting by business interests. Some players are gradually withdrawing from publishing while others are investing in the industry, apparently for quite different reasons.

For those intending to invest, the World Publishing Expo has a lot to offer. Seldom before has it been possible to invest so favourably in such a wide range of new processes, installations, software and equipment as in 2013. There are entire markets – mainly in North America – that for many years have suffered a lack of investment and thus a lack of innovation. The time has arrived to end this state of affairs, because without investment it is practically impossible for the newspaper industry to prepare itself for the future.

Innovations for publishing houses

Designers, authors and editors are among the early adaptors of the mobile devices and systems of the post-PC era. Software and workflow programmers and integrators discovered smartphones and tablets early on and adapted them for the newspaper – for both consumption of content and creation and processing of editorial and advertising contents.

Thus the publishing industry is especially well prepared in terms of know-how and device manipulation for the next stage of development: the replacement of PCs by tablets and other mobile devices as well as the replacement of the central server by cloud computing.

Following this development towards the post-PC era is a quantum leap in the performance level of software applications. While up to now it was still a matter of supporting long-standing processes – such as page layout – modern applications automatically and fully independently adapt the page contents to different screen output sizes. Under the motto “responsive design” (and “responsive type”), the software essentially becomes a page designer. These and similar software trends are emerging throughout the publishing industry and relieving designers, reporters, and editors from technical tasks that only distract from their actual duties.

Such autonomous “expert systems” support not just the editorial tasks, but also advertising sales and the work management process, from product planning up to output and production control.

External experts who participate in editorial or production tasks can be more effectively integrated into the work process with the aid of mobile devices and cloud systems. Advertising customers can use their tablets to directly check the positioning of their ad on the page and correct it if necessary. This greatly intensifies the relationship with customers, involving them more closely in the process and increasing their identification with the product.

It is becoming clear that mobile/tablet publishing, cloud computing, and the burgeoning social media are not only bringing about far-reaching changes on the output side of the newspaper business, but also influencing entire internal and external business processes as well as customer relations.

The evolution of publishing houses

Newspaper publishing houses are changing. One trend leads towards becoming media and entertainment businesses. Another leads towards concentration on regional and local news with which the user can identify. Regardless of which direction a publishing house ultimately decides to take, it must be equipped for multimedia operations and prepared to serve its customers across all suitable platforms.

For this reason, the adoption of the new IT technology and philosophy by the publishing houses comes at exactly the right time. It will help publishing houses restructure for the future, because it reduces the distance to readers and advertising customers and strengthens the loyalty of customers to their newspaper.

Modularity and retrofitting

Press manufacturers are increasingly offering highly modular printing systems. For printers and publishing houses acquiring new installations, this enables them – much more than in the past – to start out on a small scale, with the option to expand or reconfigure later on as the situation changes.

A standard automation package is taking shape, incorporating workflow control, low-chemistry plate production, automatic plate change, closed-loop register and ink control. But that does not mean all those automation functions have to be included right from the start. Publishing houses tend to invest only to the extent that it will directly help generate business – which is perfectly reasonable in times such as these. And many manufacturers are already catering to this trend by developing modular concepts.

The increasingly popular retrofit strategy should also be mentioned in this context. Everything is possible, from the classical modernisation of press control to press extension by adding printing towers – even ones from a different manufacturer. There is large scope for creative investment while at the same time prolonging the operational life of the existing installations.

Semi-commercial printing, with or without drying, is becoming increasingly important for newspaper printing plants. Newspaper printers are entering new business segments by acquiring print jobs that once were reserved exclusively for heatset printing plants. This is made possible by suitably equipping coldset newspaper presses, something unimaginable in the past.

That development is based on newspaper presses that permit previously undreamt-of screen frequency and a high degree of register precision.

There are also devices that permit the use of improved materials, such as heatset dryers or UV curers that allow printers to use conventional coated paper grades (SC and LWC). Varnishing devices can be used in coldset presses for the same purpose. The use of different inks, offering a significantly larger colour space, richer colours and higher contrast, also becomes possible.

Indeed, it is no longer easy to distinguish between the quality that newspaper presses can produce and the results of heatset presses. Even experts often cannot say with certainty which process was used to produce a given print product.

Revenues from the printing market

Newspaper printing plants are also coming under increasing pressure to cover a significant portion of their costs through revenues from the printing market. This trend undoubtedly will continue to gain momentum, which explains the interest in extended printing and finishing possibilities.

Fortunately, today’s newspaper production technology is so advanced that practically every wish can be satisfied – from the technical standpoint, anyway.

For the printer, making the right investment decision means evaluating the market and his own possibilities both momentarily and with a view to future business development. Then he must decide his investment – and innovation – direction accordingly.

 

Manfred Werfel, Deputy CEO and Executive Director Competence Centre Newspaper Production, WAN-IFRA

 

Author

WAN-IFRA External Contributor

Date

2013-10-04 13:16

Author information

World Publishing Expo & Digital Content Expo

The leading exhibition for technology to publish news on mobile, in print and online, featuring the two free conferences – Digital Media World & Print World – plus expert Guided Tours.

www.ifra-expo.com


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