Production: Rethinking Newspapers in Print
Posted: 4/9/2013  |  By: Mark Vruno
In a Feb. 25 article, AdWeek’s Tim Peterson asked of Google senior vice president of advertising Susan Wojcicki (in a screaming headline, no less): “Is this the most important person in advertising?” The staff writer quickly pointed out that Wojcicki runs a $43.7 billion ad business. In a follow-up report, Business Insider spun its own headline: “Google just described its vision for the demise of print advertising.”  

Does this really come as a surprise to anyone?  

“Wojcicki told AdWeek how she sees ad dollars continuing to move out of traditional media in favor of online,” wrote BI deputy editor Jim Edwards. “In response to a question about how Google chief business officer Nikesh Arora believes 50 percent of all ad spend will switch online in five years, she said she believed print would continue to be the preferred victim of that shift, as people stop buying magazines and papers because they already own tablets and iPads. At that point, all Google has to do is wait until advertisers’ dollars catch up to where the customers’ eyes already are.”  

Globally, newspaper readership has declined by some 20 percent, according to industry analyst Neil Falconer, managing director at U.K. firm Print Future. Last year, Google raked in nearly $43.7 billion — more than print advertising in newspapers and magazines combined (see March 2013 issue of E&P).  

Also in 2012, Richard Gingras, Google’s head of news and social products and Boston College alumnus (class of 1973), made the university circuit with stops at Harvard and MIT before heading back west to Stanford. With roots in television, Gingras’ work in online services reaches back to the beginning of interactive media in the U.S. He has shaken up “old media” by likening newspapers to outdated Internet portals such as AOL and Yahoo. Unless print publishers can adapt to the Web — rather than fight it — they are doomed, Gingras has warned.  

“Sometimes, I think folks in the news industry like to comfort themselves by thinking that somehow we’re going from a transition from one point of stasis to another, and then it’ll all become cozy again, and we can sit back and breathe easy for another 50 years,” Gingras said in an October 2012 seminar at Stanford. “That’s clearly not going to be the case — things are going to continue to change.”  

TV threatened newspapers, too
In January, Gingras spoke at Arizona State University, again stressing that old models for revenue, content, and storytelling need to be completely rethought, rather than merely transformed, for the news business to thrive in the digital age. “As long as one thinks transformationally, you limit your capabilities because you limit yourself,” he said. “It doesn’t work. Worse than not working, it becomes self-defeating … We really do need to rethink everything.”  

Gingras’ ASU keynote covered some of the same ground as his speech last August at the annual Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference, as reported by Craig Silverman for the Poynter Institute. The Google exec shared data that explained how the introduction of television in 1949 took advertising dollars away from newspapers, causing the loss of some local newspapers. This contraction resulted in monopoly or near-monopoly papers that suddenly became hugely profitable.  

“They went from fighting for every ad dollar to having near monopolistic control over local ad pricing,” he said. “They had tremendous distribution leverage and used it to their fullest advantage. The open distribution of the Internet destroyed that leverage, but the openness of the Internet also brought the potential for many new voices.”  

Speaking earlier this year, Gingras said that because of the Internet, “the underlying distribution technology” is causing things to change “whether we like it or not.” Anyone looking to create successful news products cannot be tied to the past, he said: “(A main problem is that) the industry is thinking about rearguard action to protect historical models and historical thinking.” An example of that thinking is lack of innovation when it comes to story pages online. “It stuns me that 15 years in, we’re still seeing story architectures mimicking the traditional architecture of print,” he said.  

Instead, Gingras told the audience they should develop ideas, products, and companies that operate with “zero baggage.” Media organizations need to re-engineer the ways they gather and distribute news, and the way they do business. They need to change their strategies at the rapid pace that the digital world changes.  

Gingras also disputed the now familiar criticism that Google has leeched eyeballs — and ad dollars — from news homepages, thanks to its Google News aggregator, which turned 10 years old last month. Knight Fellow David Sarno (Stanford, class of 2013) reported Gingras said, as Google has frequently maintained in the past, that Google News sends a billion pageviews every month back to news sources. That means Google is supplying the news industry with a huge number of “marketing opportunities,” Gingras added, “which, frankly, are less expensive than opportunities you would’ve found 20 years ago.”  

Still, Gingras acknowledged that it’s not easy to turn those opportunities into profit. News sites are caught in the middle of a highly competitive market for online display advertising, and Google itself is now a multibillion-dollar player in the display ad world.  

There is an old saying in the graphic design community: “There’s no such thing as an original idea.” For the sake of printed newspapers, creativity had better not be dead — perhaps it’s merely hibernating.  

How does one extract value from the many marketing opportunities Google and the Internet send en masse to news sites? Whoever has the answer isn’t telling, at least not yet. After all, being first to market with an innovative product idea is a key to profitability until copycat competitors come along and do something similar.  

Hybrid Print Answer?
At a late January open house in Italy, Centro Stampa Quotidiani (CSQ) showed how it is taking advantage of growing demand from newspaper publishers for full-color digital production, and localized inserts with an HP T230 Color Inkjet Web Press. General manager Dario de Cian and his team now are producing advertising inserts featuring local content inline. One hybrid example shown was an outsert with a conventionally printed body and versioned covers printed with inkjet (See a video at: myprintresource.com/video/10875498).  

The firm’s 13-year-old Newspapers Print Center represents the newest and largest Italian coldest technology operating for a number of publishers, printing newspapers, magazines, and other products, yielding some 150 million copies distributed annually throughout central and northern Italy.  


Automated Stickies  

Ad-a-Note says it is revolutionizing the newspaper sticky note industry with a patented, turnkey solution applied on press and at full press speeds from a continuous web, eliminating postpress equipment requirements and application issues. The Pittsburgh-based firm provides its application equipment free of charge to qualified newspapers and also prints the Ad-a-Notes in roll form, without the wax paper backing of prior-technology sticky notes, eliminating waste and waste removal costs.  

Full-color Ad-a-Notes are available in two sizes: 3.5 x 3.5 and 7 x 3.5 inches, all with sequential numbering as an option on the reverse side. The technology also allows printing two different notes on a single roll, with each then applied to a different section front when a newspaper prints on a two-around press operating in collect mode.  

“We’ve succeeded in our goal to provide the newspaper industry with an automated sticky note program that doesn’t require a capital investment,” said executive vice president Bruce Barna, who was with Goss Intl. for 10 years and more recently spent two years with Trib Total Media in Pittsburgh. “While at Trib as executive director of distribution, my carriers were hand applying sticky notes, so I brought in Ad-a-Note, and it was an immediate success,” Barna said. The program was such a success that he left Trib to join Ad-a-Note.  

As an added benefit, Ad-a-Note can be installed on all presses. The Observer-Reporter in southwest Pennsylvania operates Ad-a-Note on its manroland MediaMan offset press; West Penn Printing installed Ad-a-Note on a DGM 1050 folder; the Plain Dealer in Cleveland uses the system on its four Goss Colorliner presses; and Trib Total Media operates five Ad-a-Note systems on its five Goss presses — a Newsliner, Universal 70, Urbanite, Metroliner, and Community models.    


Printing Moves in Colorado  

Colorado Springs Gazette publisher Dan Steever said the newspaper is moving its printing operations to The Denver Post’s press facility this month, noting that the move will allow the Gazette to provide readers and advertisers with more pages with color.  

The paper reports that phasing out local printing operations eventually will lead to elimination of 51 full-time and part-time regular positions in its press and production area. However, Steever said he estimates the newspaper will increase the number of employees in its news, advertising, marketing, financial, and circulation operations by at least 20 percent in 2013. The Gazette is owned by Denver-based Clarity Media Group, which is owned by billionaire Phil Anschutz.    


Layoffs in Minnesota  

Fifty-four full- and part-time employees in production, press, and mailroom areas were laid off last month as a nine-year-old northern Minnesota printing plant owned by American Consolidated Media (ACM) closed March 31. Printing of the group’s Hibbing Daily Tribune, Mesabi Daily News, Grand Rapids Herald-Review, Chisholm Tribune Press, and Manney’s Shopper moved to Forum Communications’ new state-of-the-art facility in Duluth on April 1.  

Ken Browall, publisher of the Duluth News Tribune, called Forum’s $7 million investment a big step forward in the region’s newspaper and media business community.  

ACM chief executive officer Randy Cope said, “This new technology offers us the ability to improve our printed products while, at the same time, freeing up resources that we can use to improve the digital products our advertisers and readers are asking for.”  

This represents the latest cost-cutting move by Wisconsin-based ACM, which owns some 100 newspapers in nine states, reaching a total readership of more than 2.6 million. In 2010, Southern Cross Media Group Ltd. of Australia walked away from ACM, its U.S. newspaper group, which was forced to restructure with lenders that held nearly $134 million in debt. In the past few years, Forum Communications has shuttered older presses in Superior, Wis., and Bemidji, Minn.    


Better Weekends in Sri Lanka  

Wijeya Newspapers (WNL), a leading Sri Lankan newspaper group, said it is adding a six-tower Goss Magnum press this month to improve color capacity in weekend titles and meet a growing demand for Sunday newspapers. The new press is being installed this month at one of the publishers’ two print facilities in the commercial capital of Colombo.  

As a new customer to Goss Intl., WNL chose to invest in advanced technology as well as greater production capacity. Totaling 24 units configured as six four-high towers, six zero-speed reelstands, and a 1:3:3 half-page jaw folder, the new 2 x 1 (single-width, single-circumference) Magnum press features a 546 mm cut-off and will operate at speeds up to 45,000 copies per hour. It will also incorporate shaftless drive technology as well as motorized ink keys and advanced spraybar dampening and blanket washer technology for improved quality and production versatility.  

WNL production director P.S. Wijewardene said the Goss Magnum press is expected to increase capacity by 30 percent at the plant. “In addition to an increased demand for Sunday newspapers, our customers are becoming more quality conscious, so we were looking to upgrade our capabilities with advanced technology from Goss,” he said. “Choosing the Goss Magnum press gives us the confidence that we can meet growing demands and improve quality of reproduction and color capacity in our weekend products.”  

According to Wijewardene, the investment is part of a company-wide quality improvement program, representing a real opportunity for the publisher. “With political developments in the country, new reader regions have opened up to us in the last few years, meaning that run lengths have increased and brought with them significant growth potential,” he said. “As readers continue to become more discerning, the ability to maximize this potential in coming years will require versatile, multipurpose production systems incorporating a variety of progressive technologies. For this reason, we have decided the time is right to take a step up in capabilities with this latest press investment.”  

Established in 1979, WNL’s portfolio includes the leading title, Daily Lankadeepa, Daily Mirror, Daily FT, and the Sunday Times, as well as Adha, a national Sinhalese daily paper, targeted at young people to encourage new readers. Weeklies and glossy magazines are also published in the three main languages of Sinhala, Tamil, and English.  


C&W Distributing Xingraphics Thermal CTP Plates 
 

Xingraphics, one of the largest thermal CTP plate manufacturers in the world, has signed a new distributor partnership with C&W Pressroom Products. Research and development teams from both companies have been working to improve the compatibility between printing plates and chemistry for qualitative and economic efficiencies.  

C&W offers customers a bundled package of ink, prepress and pressroom chemistry, printing plates, blanket wash, and splicing tape to help improve performance and reduce cost. Technical support teams from Xingraphics will be working alongside the C&W team to support plate trials and prepress operations. 


April Events  

AmericaEast, April 8-10  
At the annual AmericaEast Technology and Operations Conference this month in Hershey, Pa., keynote speaker Ken Doctor, news media analyst for Newsonomics and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, will help make sense of audience and ad crossover. Among the many challenges, Doctor said there is good news for publishers. He will share best practices that are beginning to form the core of next-generation business models.  

In a session titled “Print-based Revenue Ideas: Improving Revenue from Operations,” print industry guru Frank Romano will pick the brains of three executives who are making money from digital printing capabilities: Rodd Winscott, president of Newsweb Corp., which utilizes a TKS Jetleader 1500 inkjet press to capture a niche market; Tim Street, operations director at Tribune Direct, which employs a Kodak Prosper Press to drive additional revenue; and Ron Sams, sales vice president of manroland web systems, who will present information related to the digital printing and inline variable cut-off finishing solution that manroland has developed in partnership with Océ.  

An April 10 session features a case study of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, which has converted its newspaper and presses from a two-around to a three-around format. This session will review some of the newspaper’s marketing activities, the actual conversion project and recent results of the project, as reported by Joe Gallo, executive vice president and chief information officer.  

FNP Printing and Publishing in Frederick, Md., has won first place for print quality from the America East Print Quality Contest in the 25,000 to 50,000 circulation category.  

“Judges took a certain week and checked the quality every day,” general manager William Randall said. Criteria included ink laydown, registration, page alignment, photo reproduction quality, and overall print appearance. The contest was sponsored by Flint Group and U.S. Ink.  

The overall Best of Show winner will be announced at the conference.  


mediaXchange, April 14-17  
The Newspaper Association of America takes its NAA mediaXchange conference to Orlando, Fla., this month. General session topics include:  


Summer Events  

KBA User Group will meet June 26 to 29 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Conference Center in Buffalo, N.Y. In early March, printing press manufacturer Koenig & Bauer AG (KBA) released preliminary figures for 2012, reporting that its operating profit tripled, and sales experienced double-digit growth. For more information, visit kbausersgroup.com/annual_events.  

PRINT 13
Mark your calendar: Only about five months remain until the quadrennial PRINT show (print2013.com) returns to Chicago’s McCormick Place Sept. 8-12. The News Print pavilion returns, providing a dedicated section for newspaper printers and production executives. Global automation firm ABB Inc., with technologies for printing systems for newspapers, is among the exhibitors.