Digital Printing 101

By: Tim Sohn

Digital Printing 101

Newspapers have increasingly been turning to the creation of targeted, hyperlocal, and international editions to increase revenue. It makes sense for these publishers to either consider purchasing a digital printing press or outsource those services.

The traditional offset process of printing newspapers flowed from computer to plate to press to paper. Digital printing eliminates the second and third steps, speeding up the process. However, digital is not meant for runs of more than a few thousand.

Different process for a different audience
Right now, digital is predominantly used for printing of international, as well as micro-zoned, editions.

“Another big difference at the moment is that digital presses print on a single web, and therefore, pages need to be printed sequentially and then collated. So the cut, collate, and fold process is totally different than with offset presses,” said Chandni Dighe, worldwide marketing manager of publishing at The Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, N.Y.

Dighe added that many prepress steps are eliminated with shorter press runs. “In this environment, the final print-ready data is sent directly to the press and can include any level of variability from page to page. Also, the addition of color is much more affordable in a digital environment, and the print quality is outstanding,” she said. “Traditional offset printing is still the most economical solution for long runs of static content.”

She said that digital printing also provides “outstanding” print quality and offers more affordable color. Kodak manufactures digital presses as well as digital imprinting systems.

Thomas Hauser, executive vice president of corporate marketing for manroland AG, based in Germany, said he agrees that digital printing is the way to go for regional short runs and international newspapers.

“Digitally produced supplements enhance the value of the newspaper and enable new business models. Through full integration of inkjet presses in the entire networking workflow of newspaper production, new editorial concepts are efficiently realizable,” he said, adding that the typical run length per day and title ranges between 50 and 1,000 copies.

Production currently varies between 2,000 and 8,000 newspapers daily.

“For these run lengths in international short-run markets, digital printing is the only economical option to provide Day A availability for newspapers. This counts even more if transportation cost from one country to another needs to be added,” Hauser said.

He said that short-run opportunities allow newspapers to print and then insert hyperlocal publications, or targeted advertising, inside papers already run on an offset press.

Green, global, and personalized
Janice Gibson, public relations manager at Ricoh — which has regional headquarters in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and Japan — said that one advantage to using inkjet digital technology is less energy consumption.

“So, with low coverage, inkjet can mean low energy consumption. Ricoh InfoPrint’s color inkjet printers are continuous feed. This means that a single large roll of paper is fed into the print engines and then finished using a variety of options — cut sheet, folded, bound, etc.,” she said, adding that maintenance on machines with Operator Replaceable Units can generally be handled more quickly by the press operator.

Gibson said that using offset printers still makes the most sense in terms of high-quality print and cost-effectiveness for large runs. However, she said, the IP5000 Continuous Feed Inkjet is designed for high-volume printing at speeds from approximately 210 to 722 feet per minute.

Ricoh manufactures the Ricoh Pro C901 Graphic Arts Edition digital printing press.

Publishers are looking for new business models, including targeting specific niches, Gibson said, both in print and online.

“With the trend toward shorter, more versioned, and even personalized newspapers, publishers are looking for ways to maintain sales in a challenging environment further impacted by the growth in mobile devices and individuals preferring targeted information based on their likes and dislikes,” Gibson said. “A key strength in digital newspaper production is the fact it enables publishers to print their product instantly on any digital engine around the world. As a result, readers can get their news the same time of the day wherever they are. Then there is also the ability to create a high-quality product that can be used as part of a long-term strategy to retain and engage customers.”

She added that using digital printing allows the personalization of every page if desired.

Digital printer manufacturer Océ, with headquarters in Holland, announced in June that Stroma Ltd., based in London and a partner in Océ’s Digital Newspaper Network, has started printing color editions of international newspapers with its digital printers around the world. The network covers London, Singapore, New York, Los Angeles, and Sydney. It prints such newspapers as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Moscow Times, The Australian, and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Stroma also announced in July that it is collaborating with Newspaper Abroad to increase production by 45 publications. Newspaper Abroad is a digital newspaper production facility, with daily morning distribution in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Paris. It also offers sales, fulfillment/subscription, and local advertising services. It sells and distributes to embassies, offices, expatriots, press shops, retail shops, libraries, airports, and hotels. Newspaper Abroad partners with production and distribution services in Spain, France, Thailand, Turkey, Canary Islands, Mallorca, Mauritius, Greenland, and London.

Stroma is using the Océ JetStream 1000 inkjet production press, which allows for longer runs — an exception to the rule in digital printing up to this point. The press prints more than 1,000 36-page tabloids per hour.

“Now we’re in color, we’ve expanded our titles from eight black-and-white, and now we have a choice of about 1,400 different titles. Currently, we run anything between 50 and 60 titles a day. This is something the publishers have been wanting for a long time and will now be realized. Color has made a huge difference from an advertising and publishing perspective,” said Steve Brown, managing director of Stroma, at a recent Digital Newspaper Forum at the Océ Production Printing Summit in Poing, Germany.

The bottom line
Craig Nethercott, Océ UK’s director of production printing, said in a statement that an advantage of digital printing is cutting the cost of distribution, because the network has printing locations globally.

“The availability of full-color digital printing is a serious growth opportunity for printed newspapers, particularly as it enables newspaper publishers to cut out crippling distribution costs while still offering distant readers the tactile and visual pleasures of a physical newspaper,” he said.

When it comes down to cost, Dighe at Kodak said it is cheaper to print digitally if the circulation is in the low-thousands.

“As the technology evolves, the costs will improve, and the crossover point will rise. With current Kodak Versamark VL-Series newspaper installations, the longest print run for a daily newspaper is 2,500 copies in full color. However, it is not fair to compare just print costs, as the majority of installations will be closer to the readers and will greatly reduce logistics costs. This is particularly so if airfreight is involved, which explains why most of the current installations are being used to print international editions, which would otherwise have to be flown in,” Dighe said, adding that the ability to improve supply chain efficiency, reduce waste, and target recipients with relevant materials makes digital printing appealing, and sometimes even more profitable.

Kodak also produces the Prosper S-Series Imprinting Systems, which are used to add monochrome or full-color text and images to any offset print job and are ideal for individual barcodes, personalized gaming applications, and targeted advertising. The company, through its Marketmover Business Advantage Solutions program, offers consultant services by identifying areas for improvement, and leverages digital and offset technology for the best results.

According to Hauser at manroland AG, digital printing offers new value-added business possibilities for newspapers.

“First of all, we can support our customers in making print even more competitive. We offer numerous new technologies to produce printed media better, different, and of course cheaper. Take, for instance, enhancement applications to increase effects, hybrid printing to combine high-run individualized printed products, or digital printing for personalization and just-in-time production,” Hauser said. “We are sure the future will be an intelligent media mix of print, online, and mobile. We want to offer technologies, which put the printed medium in the focus of communication and provide the possibility to network with other media via cross-media applications. At this stage, things like the imprint of barcodes as a link to smartphones or tablets are willingly and frequently used. This of course offers advertisers completely new approaches.”

manroland, through a partnership with Océ, provides both digital and offset production.

“This includes the printing process, the post-processing, and respective workflows. In joint business development programs, manroland and Océ will support publishers to find the appropriate printing partners for decentralized production in remote markets. By combining our large high-tech offset presses with digital printing systems, manroland will be in a unique position to provide a tangible added value for our customers in the newspaper industry,” Hauser said.

Even though more and more people are using mobile devices, and print readership is down, digital printing is providing targeted opportunities for new content and advertising strategies.

 

Océ’s role in digital history
Until 2001, the only way small runs of newspapers could reach overseas readers was to be physically transported. Then, Océ began digital printing, which allowed the printing of newspapers in black-and-white immediately. It cut out high distribution costs. The content was sent over the Web via Internet connections, and the newspaper could be printing 20 minutes later.

Partnering with Stroma Digital Printers, in May 2001, Océ unveiled a commercial digital newspaper plant in London. It was the gateway to opening other newspaper sites across the world under the Océ Digital Newspaper Network. Inkjet technology enables the digital printing of newspapers quickly and cost effectively for the first time in color, according to Océ.

Stroma has expanded its titles from eight black-and-white to a choice of 1,400 titles. Currently, it runs between 50 and 60 titles per day. Typically, a run might be hundreds of copies per title, but some people might want as few as one. Airlines, hotels, restaurants, libraries, exhibitions, and conferences are also using Stroma for digital printing. For instance, Qantas Airlines requests daily deliveries of the London-printed Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian for its premium-class passengers. As another example, an Arab royal family wanted to read homeland coverage on a flight home after attending Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding. The newspaper was printed and delivered to the Heathrow flight within 30 minutes.

Even though publishers are developing applications for the iPad and other tablets and mobile devices, digital printing is opening up new revenue streams for print.

Océ stresses that print is still the medium that sustains the national newspaper business, and international sales are a crucial component going forward.

Stroma has branched out into digital book printing, including technical manuals and on-demand publishing, as well as large-format poster printing.

 

 

Kodak’s digital clients include:  
• CN Newsprint in Carlisle, UK, which uses a Kodak Prosper S20 Imprinting System inline on its offset presses for customized retail marketing, geographic ads and vouchers, individual barcodes, interactive games, and lotteries.
• Miller Newsprint in Malta, which uses a Kodak Versamark VL4200 Printing System to digitally print and distribute international dailies to retail outlets, hotels, businesses, and homes around the island. Its production of The Sunday Times won the title of “Best Digitally Printed Newspaper of the Year.”
• Hellenic-Miller Newsprint Ltd. in Cyprus, which uses the Kodak Versamark VL4200 Printing System and has been in production for six months.
• RotOcéan, on Reunion Island in France, which is using a Kodak Versamark VL4200 Printing System to digitally print and deliver daily newspapers from around the world on the same day throughout the remote island.
• Newsfax Ltd. in London, UK, which has recently invested in a Versamark VL 4200 Printing System to print short-run international newspapers and regional newspapers wishing to have a London presence.
• Acierta in Madrid, Spain, a transactional printer that recently invested in a newspaper finishing line in order to print newspapers as well.

Tim Sohn is a veteran of the news business, specializing in online innovations. He most recently served as editor of LH! Weekly newspaper in northwestern New Jersey. He can be reached at twcsu@aol.com.

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Published: August 11, 2011

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