Excelling at Expo: Essential tips and trends
- Article ID:
Cooperation, partnership, automation, innovation, new business, and everything “e-media” – all topics that are sure to swirl through the halls of the Hamburg Messe during IFRA Expo 2010 from 4-6 October. In part 2 of our Expo preview coverage, our editors and research specialists analyse the trends leading up to the show and what to keep an eye on during the busy week that includes a number of special conferences and side events.
New media, again and again
The least that we can say is that both newspapers and providers have been incredibly quick to react to the announcement of the iPad in January. And the first phase of this “agility test” will be demonstrated at IFRA Expo with the inclusion of Apple’s tablet into the multiple-media editorial workflow.
Having already developed solutions for mobile applications and in particular iPhone apps, the most advanced content management systems had already built a framework for mobile reading platforms. And if they were not entirely satisfied with their own solution, they chose a partner to bridge the gap, for example, the recent partnership between CCI and WoodWing to include the WoodWing’s iPad Reader App as part of CCI’s solutions.
Mobile and iPad applications or mobile websites are still at an early stage of their development and possibilities. Millions of users are expected to join the e-reading “ambassadors” group by the end of the year. And this comes with an intense battle on the manufacturer front: new smartphone and e-reader, but also iPad, competitors. Toshiba in September-October 2010; Acer and Hewlett-Packard (HP) could also spring a surprise. Naturally, Apple is not sitting on its hands as rumours abound about new versions of its iPad, possibly with smaller screens.
The outcome of this news is that customers will rapidly become so comfortable with their new toys that their expectations for rich services will soar. What it means for the industry is that the less effort you dedicate to managing the technical processes the more you can focus on what is essential: work on the content offer.
What is true for content is also true for the advertising side of all those new digital channels. As the advertising department is essentially required to take the driver’s seat in steering customers though their complicated multimedia offers, there is a need to facilitate the sales, automate the technical processes and centralise the management of advertising campaigns. Advertising systems providers are helping on all fronts. From facilitating a more scientific approach of digital ad sales (advertisers want performance-based ratings and real-time analytics on their digital campaign) to exploring new alternatives for ad packages. Hence, this unusual partnership between ppi Media and XNiP codes to allow readers to text articles or ads to store them in their Facebook account or transmit them easily into multimedia form. – By Valérie Arnould (email@example.com)
Publishing systems – competing concepts
Inevitably, discussions about concepts and architectures quickly get down to basics and are treated like questions of faith. That is fully inappropriate as well as counterproductive. Every concept has its pros and cons, and it is the job of the specialised departments to consider, evaluate and decide as objectively as possible. The result is open and can vary depending on the type of products (newspaper, magazine, ePaper, digital) of the existing publishing house or editorial organisation as well as the IT infrastructure and workflows already in place. The individual manufacturers have decided in favour of a certain concept due to their product development and consequently promote this as the only way to go. But, there are always alternatives.
The question “Mac or PC” should no longer be an issue. If the application was programmed to be platform-independent, e.g. in Java, it can run on both Mac and PC. But some manufacturers continue to commit themselves to one platform, either due to the server or database performance or for other reasons that can also have a historical background.
Open Source applications can match the performance of professional software. What has long been the case for the prepress and office area is now also reaching web content management. Although acquiring and operating Open Source software is free of charge, a great deal of professional industry know-how is necessary to satisfy the needs of newsrooms in relation to simplicity and workflow automation in practice. Several companies specialise in providing this type of service.
All-in-One or Best-of-Breed, all individual components good enough or the best components in each case in your particular area, as far as possible all from the one source with clear responsibility and minimised integration risk, or many manufacturers with a possible confusion of competencies and integration problems – which do you choose? IFRA Expo helps your decision-making process.
Although nearly all traditional suppliers see their product also as a Web CMS and the latest competitors have developed their product as a CMS or even a knowledge management system from the start, in reality almost all you find are installations that have introduced a further Web CMS in addition to the print editorial system. – By Harald Löffler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Work sharing, the underestimated way to increase efficiency
Do you know the LOW principle? If you do, you are perhaps a successful businessman, politician, captain of industry … or Google. Google shows how it operates every day: “Let Others Work!”
Making content accessible seems to be a lot more lucrative than producing content. While not wanting to get involved at this point in the discussion concerning “paid content,” isn’t there a lesson to be learned here for the “normal” newspaper publishing house? We are convinced that there is!
The “sacred cow” of every newspaper publishing house having its own printing press has long gone to the slaughterhouse, newsrooms report not only for print but also online, and the tiny TV studio in the newsroom is now a common sight. The big publishing houses are leading the way – whereas in the past individual newsrooms went to great lengths to keep their top stories secret within the publishing house until deadline, now researching and producing are done jointly, contents adapted to suit specific audiences, products and distribution channels, and common use is made of resources that are becoming scarcer and more costly. At the other end of the spectrum, i.e. the local newspapers, there are numerous examples of publishing houses within proximity of one another sharing content, in most cases by a very simple but highly effective technical process. Collective cooperation agreements are in use all over Germany and in numerous places worldwide.
It is time that the publishing houses once again call to mind a partner that may even belong to them in many countries or in which they have a financial stake: the national news agency. In contrast to news agencies operating on an international scale – exceptions prove the rule – these are not involved in the b2b business, i.e. the customer is not addressed directly.
News agencies have vast experience of indexing and archiving media content. Geo-indexing and enriching the metadata with tags and links to people, organisations, events, wikis, etc., as well as other relevant data for searches for additional information already belong to the daily business of news agencies. Why should every publishing house have to build up this know-how and the necessary IT infrastructure itself in each case? Why not use the service of agencies or other providers?
Regional and local newspapers are having recourse to their competence at local level, making sure to reinforce their presence on the ground and increasingly adopting the approach of dividing work processes into those to be carried out by reporters and those by production personnel – not only for print. Is it not a logical step to offer this valuable content also to other publishing houses outside of the small group of “partner publishing operations”? Here also, the news agency could provide the exchange platform, as in the European MINDS project for mobile services.
Modern editorial and content management systems do not begin with the article, but mirror the upstream editorial processes, such as research, optimisation of output channels, time and resources planning. Editorial management must constantly reconsider whether it is better to produce content in-house or buy it on the outside. To have a sound basis on which to make this decision, the editor needs precise and above all reliable information about what content for which news channels in which medium should be available when. No one can nor wants to input this sensitive data manually into a planning or editorial system, rather it is here a case of synchronising processes and preparing them in such a way that facilitates the editor’s decision-making. The media elements supplied as a result should then be integrated seamlessly into the neutral and channel-specific publishing systems.
The technical basis for intersystem communication and for the exchange of event data as well as enriched metadata for the content is available. It has been developed by the IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council) and approved at international level. Agencies have begun to offer services on this basis. Now it is time to seize the opportunities for cooperation and motivate the manufacturers of editorial and planning systems to “open up” and in this way make cooperation simple, transparent and efficient. This is not just a matter of optimising in-house processes, but rather incorporating business partners into the value-added chain. Take a close look at what the manufacturers have to offer in this respect and which services agencies have in store for you. – By Harald Löffler (email@example.com)
Auto-image processing (AIP)
Until recently, the automatic processing of the images in PDF page files was only offered by a few companies such as Agfa. However, as RGB and PDF workflows are becoming more common, other manufacturers – Fuji, Fotoware, and KlearVision – are upgrading their AIP software to fit into these workflows. Other AIP vendors, like Anygraaf, binuscan, Elpical and OneVision are similarly providing the support needed for the automatic image processing of Quark or InDesign pages.
All AIP systems not only enhance the contrast, colour, tone and sharpness of the image but also reduce noise and JPEG artefacts in three seconds or less. Even small subtle faults in the image that would be considered insignificant and not worth improving are detected and corrected. So the quality level rises, in an instant and with totally consistent results. Even operators, with years of experience, find the AIP processing software more than a close competitor. The price, speed, consistency and sophistication of AIP software is unbeatable.
This year, it’s steady progress in AIP. – By Andy Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are more than 15 commercially available soft proofing solutions, without including the partnerships between suppliers needing additional key elements to complete a soft proof solution. Various press control system, rotary press and monitor manufacturers, as well as RIP software specialists are offering hybrid packages. Some are intended for use as content proofing systems, those from Group Logic and Lucid Dream, but a growing number of others are colour-managed systems, aimed at competitive high-quality printers. Among the latter soft proof suppliers are Agfa, BasICColor with K-Flow, CGS, Creo (KPG), Dalim, Fujifilm, Hamillroad, ICS, and Serendipity.
A development here is the use of the Adobe Print Engine in the workflow of several OEMs to minimise the difference between pre-press and final production data. Up-to-date colour calibration data stored in the monitor’s video card, custom ICC profiles and the latest CMM ensure the necessary accuracy.
For press console page proofing systems process- and spot colour accuracy is important. Equal attention has to be paid to the monitor display as to the lighting conditions needed to match on-screen displays with the freshly printed copy. The use of production G4/TIFF RIPped data for the soft proof is the starting point for accurate high resolution screened page proofs for the pressman. Automatic synchronisation of the printed page under review and the displayed page is also welcome.
When selecting a remote proofing system, consideration should be given to security issues; less secure systems tend to be easier to implement while more secure systems require a higher level of support from the host and clients IT departments. Nearly all use a standard web browser over a secure Internet connection.
Collaborative systems allow several clients and all involved in the workflow to view the proof simultaneously, while other systems move the proof from host to client to client in a successive fashion, and there are some systems that allow for both.
Also important is the need for a comprehensive set of tools for annotating, mark-up, correction, history tracking (versioning) and reporting, while supporting different image and page formats. Content reviews with visual comparisons between revisions, along with approval and automatic e-mail notification are useful additional features. Integration with other applications through JDF is also a step forward. – By Andy Williams (email@example.com)
When will we see the all-automated newspaper plant?
Travel broadens the mind. Participants in the WAN-IFRA printing study tour to Japan in late March were able to take home an array of new insights. It became apparent during visits paid to major newspaper newsrooms, printing plants and one paper mill that the Japanese newspaper industry has achieved a very high level of automation in several areas. This includes the nearly totally automated plate production by means of CTP systems, automation of all stages in the reel management process from the reel store to automatic unwrapping and splice preparation with the aid of robots and AGVs (Automatically Guided Vehicles).
This extends also to the equipping of many newspaper presses with non-branded inline colour control systems. Web-wide scanners built into the press measure the printed colour in the image and compare the results with the target colours. Any necessary corrections are transmitted automatically to the press ink control system that then carries them out. Japanese printers report short reaction times of these systems as well as significant waste savings and automatically consistent production run. This applies also for harmonising the printed result at different locations which, for a country with record circulations of up to 14 million copies daily, is of major importance.
A mental combination of the various automation areas in which both Europeans and Americans on the one hand and Japanese companies on the other hand are strong will give an impression of just how far we already are on the road towards fully-automated newspaper production.
To begin with, there is the technical prepress with pre-flight check of the print data and automatic error correction, including automatic image optimisation and ink saving. There follows highly automated platemaking with automatic quality control and video-controlled punching and bending. This should be seen in connection with automatic plate transport to the printing tower and automatic plate change.
Automatic ink key presetting and colour measurement and control of the press direct the printing process. The printer has at his disposal a colour-true softproof of the pages to carry out a visual check. In the reel basement, the required reels are removed automatically from the automatically managed store, unwrapped by robots, the splice prepared and guided to the press by automatic transport systems, where they are then loaded automatically into the reelstands, while the expired reel cores are removed and collected for recycling. This is done while the printed copies are guided automatically for finishing in the mailroom where, in a de-coupled process, online converting and finishing of the products continues with inserting, collating, stitching, trimming, addressing, bundling and loading.
Brave new newspaper printing world?
Yes, technically the vision of the automated newspaper plant is getting closer to reality. But how much of this will be translated into reality, when and by whom, is not a question of technology. Instead, publishers and newspaper printers will base their decision concerning the use of automation techniques on their business objectives and needs.
Maximum productivity and efficiency have long ceased to be the sole yardstick for newspaper production. When newspaper printing plants become profit centres, there is a need for more than just straightforward newspaper coldset printing. Various paper grades are used, printable colour spaces extended and screen frequencies increased. The merger of glossy jackets and coldset inner sections into the mailroom result in new magazine and catalogue products. Hybrid products that combine coldset and heatset or use UV curing create unique selling points for the commercially-oriented newspaper printer.
Special advertising that can make use of technical specialities such as tinted or transparent paper, half-page strip ads (“flying pages”), perforated ads, etc., is becoming increasingly important also for publishing houses.
Technical variability and flexibility in every respect (also format flexibility) is an important objective for modern newspaper printers. Automation alone will not be sufficient here. If automatic production means committing to one specific production process, then it will even be an obstacle. For this reason, the use of automatic systems is never simply a technical question, but must be considered always in conjunction with the specific requirements of the printing plants concerned. – By Manfred Werfel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Added value in the mailroom
The trend towards generating added value in the mailroom continues to gain momentum. Newspapers see it as a way to gain competitive advantages as well as additional revenues, for example, by offering innovative advertising possibilities, such as attaching Post-it-style messages, wrappers, or product samples. But also with the finishing of own and outside print products by trimming, stitching, folding and gathering of combined products consisting of different parts (e.g. glossy jacket, coldset inside section, bound-in inserts, etc.). Flexibility is the biggest trump that suitably equipped mailrooms can play in this context. Short delivery times constitute a further trump.
However, penetration of new market segments is not guaranteed by fulfilling the technical conditions alone. Potential customers must be found, convinced of the effectiveness of the production facilities and their loyalty retained by quality and reliability. An important component here is the offer of consulting in relation to the product concept.
The insert business – production and inserting – represents another important source of income for newspapers, though it has also felt the effects of the economic crisis. There are two major factors to be taken into account when considering inserting: the number of objects and the speed at which they can be inserted into the main product. There are various solutions for increasing the number of inserts:
- pre-inserting, winding-on and repeating the inserting process,
- pre-gathering and inserting the gathered inserts,
- adding hopper feeders to suitably designed systems (up to ca. 40 stations).
For the first variation, corresponding buffer stores as well as wind-on and unwinding systems are required (e.g. Ferag MultiDisk, Müller Martini FlexiRoll or Schur Packaging Systems System A 830) as well as a sufficiently large time slot. Pre-gathering systems (Ferag RollStream, Müller Martini CoLiner), which permit inserting practically without any loss of time, are offered for the second variation. – By Charlotte Janischewski (email@example.com)