Production: Is The ‘Berliner’ Format What U.S. Readers Need?
Posted: 12/8/2011 | By: Mark Vruno
From full color and UV printing (see below) to better paper, saddle-stitch binding, and magazine-like formats, European newspapers have reinvented their print products through investment in innovation. Will U.S. publishers follow their lead?
“When we talk about the newspaper of the future … (we) expect that smaller newspaper formats will become increasingly popular due to ease of handling,” said Gerd Finkbeiner, chairman of German printing press manufacturer manroland. “They will also contain more color and especially be like a magazine.”
Even six years ago, it had become apparent that the ways in which people consumed their daily staple of news, commentary, and features were changing. In late 2005, free tabloid newspapers saturated the U.K. market; access to a high-speed broadband Internet connection in the home was more widespread and getting cheaper; and WAP and 3G phones already were bringing the Web to the mobile generation.
For the Guardian and Observer newspapers (and parent firm Guardian News and Media) to thrive in this new, dynamic and fluid marketplace, a new direction — and a comprehensive review of the way they delivered content to readers — was needed. “The challenge for us was to remain true to our journalism, now attracting a record worldwide audience online, while at the same time finding a modern print format for a new generation of readers in this country,” Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explained at the time.
It had become obvious that the traditional broadsheet format no longer fit the needs of the paper and its readers. Something fresh and exciting was needed. And while the Times and Independent had turned tabloid with some success, the format didn’t feel right for the Guardian. (One year later, the Observer would follow the Guardian’s lead.) Although now more familiar, the so-called “Berliner” size — midway between a tabloid and a broadsheet — was common in Europe (France, Italy, Spain) but had never been used before in the U.K. Named after a newspaper designer, the format is popular because it still allows separately folded sections, yet feels more like a magazine size when folded.
Guardian Print Center is able to print in two sizes straight off the press: full Berliner and half Berliner. The print site is capable of eight to 80 pages, full Berliner, full color, in a single pass, and 16 to 160 pages, half Berliner, full color, in a single pass. (Other sizes are available but would require offline trimming.) The entire enterprise involved an investment of £80m, of which £50m was spent on new, state-of-the-art presses specially commissioned from German manufacturer manroland. The other £30m went into the construction of new print sites for them in London and Manchester.
One in the U.S. to date
In a 2006 U.S. debut, the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, Ind., 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis, began running the Berliner size on a manroland press. At 18.5 inches long by 12 inches wide, the J&C’s Berliner is smaller than the broadsheet common to U.S. dailies. (The Journal and Courier previously was 22.5 inches by 13.5 inches.) But the new format is larger than a typical tabloid newspaper’s 13.5 inches x 11.25 inches. Most importantly, perhaps, it allows an edition to be packaged in familiar, physically separate newspaper sections.
The smaller page means there are more of them so that the amount of space devoted to news coverage stays about the same, said executive editor Julie Doll. Most Monday morning editions are between 28 and 32 pages, compared with the previous format of 24 pages. Besides making the paper smaller, the new presses added more color pages — up to 48 a day. The previous plant could print fewer than 20 pages in color.
Readers seem to like the format, according to focus group studies, as do advertisers. In addition to market differentiation, the Berliner option offers full color and better print reproduction. And instead of selling ad space in the traditional measurement of inches, ads in the Berliner are sold based on the percentage of space they fill on a page, so the value proposition is different.
With a daily circulation of some 36,000, the J&C is produced at a $24 million offset printing plant that Gannett fitted specifically for the Berliner. Its MAN Geoman press consists of three full-color towers, four inline end-mounted reelstands, five formers (two pairs and a commercial former for webs up to 35 inches wide), a jaw folder with quarter- folding capability, and a stitcher.
It was time for a U.S. newspaper to try the new format, said Barbara Henry, senior president of the Interstate Group of Gannett Co., parent of the Journal and Courier, at the time. “I think we’re slow to change in this business,” said Henry, who retired in mid-2008.
As always, especially in the current economy, cost is a major consideration. But the Berliner format may be appealing to newspaper owners already looking for new equipment. Gannett chose Lafayette for the Berliner, because the paper needed to replace its mid-1960s letterpress operation anyway, according to president and publisher Gary Suisman.
And then there’s the consumables consideration, namely ink and paper. Newspapers across the country have been getting smaller in size as the cost of newsprint has increased steadily. Suisman estimates that the Berliner is reducing the paper’s newsprint costs by 10 to 15 percent annually. “Green” sustainability is another production benefit. For companies that pride themselves on their commitment to the environment, the Berliner switch is an excellent way to save paper.
Benefits of UV printing and other press innovations
As newspapers continue to look for ways to improve their product with enhanced quality that will attract new readers and advertisers, manroland is leading the way with UV printing. Existing installations worldwide are experiencing success with this groundbreaking and innovative technology.
• Easy upgrade to existing press. The physical size of the UV equipment is small enough to make the upgrade relatively simple.
• Generates lower waste than conventional heatset. Waste from UV is comparable to that of coldset waste. Lower initial capital investment than conventional heatset. The capital investment for the necessary UV equipment is much less than adding conventional heatset equipment.
• More ecologically friendly. UV consumes less energy than heatset and emits fewer volatile organic compounds.
• Small physical footprint. UV technology allows for retrofit of the technology in an existing pressroom.
• Options for press installations.
• Applications for both blanket-toblanket and CIC are available.
• Improved curing process. UV now meets the demand for high-volume printing at speeds up to 80,000 iph.
New Modular Press
At IFRA, manroland introduced a new modular, blanket-to-blanket newspaper press. The COLORMAN e:line is designed to operate different modules that would allow it to print in different configurations — such as printing a newspaper during the morning hours, and then printing a magazine or color ad inserts for the rest of the day. The first e:line will operate at newspaper publisher Allgäuer Zeitungsverlag in Kempten, Germany. Installation is to begin next spring with live production scheduled to start in autumn 2012. “It was always our dream to build a hall where we could replace presses without stopping production, and this is what we are now able to do,” said managing director Markus Brehm.
“We planned to use the two presses we bought in 1998 for 12 to 14 years,” Brehm said. “Now we expect a considerable increase in productivity through the new features and the higher printing speed. Furthermore, we can print in higher quality and with fewer personnel, but there will not be any layoffs. We have not cut any jobs for operational reasons since 1993. The staffs are moved to other areas of the company that are growing.
“The new press is a technological leap forward for us,” Brehm said. “In (the) future, we will be printing on one press instead of two, which will result in considerable savings in consumable materials and energy. We aim to offer premium products, and so we expect much higher print quality.”
A U.K. First For Goss
Newspaper publisher DC Thomson in Scotland will be the first U.K. publisher to install the new Colorliner CPS press, a compact double-width model developed by Goss International to provide versatility, high print quality, simplified operation, and a high level of performance relative to investment cost. The eight-tower system with heatset capacity will print at up to 90,000 copies per hour, driven by a full automation package including Goss Autoplate plate-changing technology and closed-loop controls.
“We are pleased to be continuing our 100-year partnership with Goss through the installation of a new Colorliner CPS press,” said chief operating officer David Thomson. “The press will provide the high levels of quality and automation required to take our newspapers forward with renewed confidence. DC Thomson is proud to be investing in the future of print.”
Thomson added that the company also will reconfigure existing Goss equipment into a seven-tower, two-folder system as part of its investment. “A major controls upgrade and other enhancements, combined with the robust design of the Colorliner press family, will extend the productivity and competitive efficiency of our existing equipment well into the future,” he said.
Océ at IFRA
At the IFRA Expo in October, Océ presented how efficiently its new JetStream and ColorStream series can handle multiple runs of thousands of digital newspapers in one shift. As a service to show attendees, daily newspapers in tabloid format were produced on a Canon imagePRESS.
Océ also announced two new newspaper print sites:
• Swiss Post started production of personalized newspapers Nov. 1 on a JetStream 1000.
• Interval, a Paris-based French print service provider, introduces the JetStream 1400 for national and international newspaper production this month.
Managing Workflow Better
Newspaper publishers learned how to improve efficiency and reduce production overhead at the Agfa Graphics stand at IFRA, where the company demonstrated the newest enhancements to its market-leading :Arkitex workflow software suite. “Software can help you get out in front in the most efficient way when faced with challenging economic conditions,” said Barry Landsberg, Agfa’s product manager for newspapers. “Advanced software solutions such as those in the :Arkitex family provide newspaper printers with the added advantage they need to help optimize resources and increase their bottom line.”
The :Arkitex Director workflow management system acts as a control center for the entire workflow, automating complex tasks with ease and allowing the monitoring of production all the way to press. Visitors to the Agfa Graphics stand saw demonstrations of the newly enhanced Version 8, which includes the ability to display soft-proofs as a flip-book, and to stitch advertisements into the page.
Meanwhile, :Arkitex PlateReady software enhances the Barenschee Plate Tower by giving it a more intuitive user interface. The Plate Tower plate buffer, which stores plates after imaging and before punching and bending, allows the pressroom to get plates when needed without having to wait for all of the plates to image or without sorting through stacks of pre-imaged plates.
Kodak Extends Newspaper Reach
The Kodak booth at IFRA was dedicated to addressing the varied requirements of newspaper and semi-commercial newspaper printers, such as fully automated online computer-toplate systems with flexible plate formats offering minimal operator effort, monitoring, and intervention. Kodak R&D focused on the advantages of thermal over violet technology. Visitors to the Kodak booth saw how the company’s thermal systems have addressed the common environmental issues as well as enhanced sustainability through lowchemistry and true chemistry-free production.
Kodak also highlighted future development activities with a plate technology demo for high-volume applications. Improvements are focused on reduced environmental impact, including elimination of preheat, reduced water consumption, low-chemistry consumption and a smaller processing footprint, while maintaining or improving the current benefits of robustness and speed. The firm also introduced its second-generation nonprocess newspaper printing plate. Kodak said it has already achieved great success with the first-generation plate, which is used in more than 100 accounts. Nonprocess technology doesn’t need chemistry, chemicals, cleanout solutions, or water to mix with chemistry or wash out the plate. Also, it doesn’t require additional energy to run processors, cleanout units, or a debris removal system. It eliminates disposal of contaminated water/waste and containers, is compatible with most thermal platesetters, and offers stochastic screening capabilities at up to 200,000 impressions in typical coldset web applications. It also can be read by the human eye as well as the latest inline camera systems.
Kodak also showcased its ColorFlow Pro Software with Ink Optimizing Solution option within the Prinergy Workflow System. This innovative solution can help significantly reduce ink consumption, while improving print quality through greater press stability.