Roundup of High-Tech Suppliers for Newspaper Publishers

By: Mark Vruno

Raise your hand if you’re not a techie “geek.” Perhaps you’re a 40- or 50-something, “old-guard” print publisher, or even a 30-something editor who may not be hip to all the latest technologies available this year, this month, this week.

Grasping an understanding of new tech businesses is critical to the success of 21st century publishers as newspapers continue to tweak their business models, shifting to more resourceful revenue streams. Whether your publication is independent or group-owned, keeping up with supplemental tools such as tablet publishing, app making, website redesign, cloud computing, etc. is practically a full-time job in itself. With tax season in full swing, E&P is like the government: We’re here to help, but in a good way.

Attracting new audiences, calculating viewers and readership, redesigning sections, outsourcing, ad booking, and production consolidation are just a few of the services demanded by newspapers, especially in the U.S. The bottom-line, ROI challenge is finding ways to reduce costs and get more out of existing technology investments.

To support their online ad needs, the Omaha World Herald and Paddock Publications’ Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs have begun partnering with ZEDO, Inc. Who the heck is ZEDO? Appropriately situated in San Francisco near Silicon Valley, ZEDO is a 10-year-old digital ad solutions firm now playing in the newspaper space. With four development centers in Russia and India, it is one of many high-tech vendors vying for your business. “ZEDO’s ad ops team is experienced with our ad server and works with us to make sure they understand our specific needs,” said Kelly Bolyard, assistant VP at Paddock, who added “… we never have to worry about being short on trafficking resources.”

Competitors and partners sometimes become blurred in today’s new media techscape, when virtually everyone in the industry is trying to reinvent themselves – vendors and publishers alike. In late January, German newspaper Nordkurier announced that its ads and banners (and radio spots) will be entered and placed using a cross-media solution developed by ppi Media, a subsidiary of printing press manufacturer manroland. And in the middle of America, there’s a newspaper publisher in the interactive mix: Mediaphormedia has two dozen Web developers, designers, project managers, sales staffers, and managers working in Lawrence, Kan., across the street from the headquarters of The World Co., its parent firm, and the office/printing operations of flagship newspaper the Lawrence Journal-World. Launched in 2004 with a single license, the division has grown into its own profit center. Mediaphormedia’s tools focus on content publishing, user and social media, and local business services. Cross-media products, based on its Ellington operating system, include CMS software that allows (other) media companies – from small dailies to large metro newspapers – to more efficiently support interaction.

“We immediately saw a significant traffic increase after joining the Ellington CMS and Marketplace platforms,” said Shar Hermanson, online sales director at 100-year-old Bliss Communications. “GazetteXtra.com doubled in traffic (to 4 million monthly page views); WCLO.com and WJVL.com tripled visitors and page views within the first year …” Based in Janesville, Wis., family owned Bliss owns and operates newspapers, websites, and radio stations in Wisconsin, Illinois, and the upper peninsula of Michigan. “We see the realistic potential of a new million-dollar revenue stream,” Hermanson said.

Mediaphormedia, ppi, and ZEDO are three of the myriad tech firms offering products that can enhance your business and bottom line. So how does a newspaper choose partners from a virtual sea of options, especially the newly emerging technology companies? Knowledge is power, and while the following list of nine additional tech companies (in almost-alphabetical order) isn’t meant to be a comprehensive, who’s-who guide for new-age editors and publishers, it is a place to start.

CCI Europe plays with more than just the ‘big boys’
“The new mindset in the way audiences use media is quickly pushing media companies in the direction of increasing convergence and multi-channel publishing,” said Dan Korsgaard, CEO of Danish publishing systems developer CCI Europe. “Our solutions are developed for media convergence.” With deep roots as a newsprint company, CCI is a leading provider of editorial solutions for multimedia news environments. CCI is part of Stibo Holding (formerly Aarhuus Stiftsbogtrykkerie), one of Scandinavia’s most prominent players within the graphic arts industry. Stibo’s five divisions (of which CCI Europe is the largest) are end-to-end suppliers of advanced publishing solutions for newspapers, magazines, catalogs, telephone directories, and books. CCI provides scalable solutions and the platform to support the evolving needs of the world’s largest news organizations.

As an Oracle Certified Partner and Adobe Gold Solution Partner, the firm aims to empower news publishers to manage cross-media publishing, reuse content across properties, enhance editorial quality, and streamline advertising sales and production. Its AdDesk, NewsDesk, and NewsGate products – among the most robust in the industry – are implemented across five continents within more than 100 news organizations. U.S. clients include Hearst, Gannett, McClatchy, Media General, The Oklahoman, and The Orange County Register.

As the flagship of Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications, The Orange County Register has deployed NewsGate as the technological platform to help realize its news-gathering and production visions. CCI NewsGate has enabled Freedom to quickly create new products through staff collaboration and the extension of existing content. It has made staff location unimportant, streamlined planning and budgeting, and helped journalists better cover their communities. To serve its diverse county, the Register needed an extensive CMS that integrated not just with print publishing but also with other publishing platforms, including online, broadcast, archival, and future, as-yet-unknown technologies.

McClatchy, meanwhile, has pooled resources and information between publications in the CCI NewsGate Data Center installed at the Charlotte Observer. The data center is part of a strategy to enhance news coverage for readers and Web users for its seven newspapers in the Carolinas. With NewsGate, McClatchy newsrooms are able to share news coverage and research assignments and content plans, helping to make the best possible use of staff resources to cover events for multiple papers. The group shares stories, photos, graphics, and active media content, as well as full articles and pages of common interest in areas such as features, sports, and local news.

Lead, don’t follow, says Green Shoot Media
Another tech firm with ink-on-paper roots is classified ad content creator Green Shoot Media, out of Texas, which also has branched out. These days, when a newspaper executive dares to utter Craigslist, Green Shoot retorts with this charge: “Socialize your classifieds.” It’s 2011, so stop denying that your readers are turning to Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phones to obtain their information. And if a paper already has social media followers, and maybe even a version of its website for mobile phones, why not take classified ads into the social media age as well? Green Shoot’s Web app can extend classifieds into Facebook, Twitter, and mobile devices including iPhone, iPad, and BlackBerry.

The firm’s next-gen classifieds Web application works like this: Enter classified ads into Green Shoot’s “Local Deals” app. Classifieds are made available on Facebook, and a message is sent to Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Plus, a mobile version of the ad is automatically created. It’s that easy.

For Mediaspectrum, cloudy is sunny
Since its founding in 2001, Boston-based Mediaspectrum has been publishing and upgrading advertising and content management software. Literally billions of dollars pass through its systems across the globe’s largest publishers, including, most recently, News Corp. But in 2011, mobile solutions and partnerships are especially poised to transform how media organizations distribute and handle their tablet content and advertising. In 2010, Mediaspectrum added nearly 800 new mobile, Web, and print titles to its comprehensive solutions for advertising sales, production, and content management. With approximately 100 employees worldwide, including offices in London, Moscow, and Sydney, its platform stands alone as the world’s only cloud technology for powering mobile advertising, content, and publishing.

In mid-2010, Mediaspectrum launched its Adrenalin solution for iPad/tablet publishing. Built using 100 percent Web-based services, it allows for the development of apps that can be repurposed for any existing mobile tablet device – and there were a host of new ones shown at the CES show – as well as for future related technology. On the market since September 2010, Adrenalin handles publishers’ complete tablet business requirements, including advertising, content, and subscriptions.

In early January, Mediaspectrum rang in the new year by announcing the latest deployment of its advertising production platform with a successful launch at the New York Post, the News Corp. publication that reaches more than 2 million readers daily. Mediaspectrum was chosen to power multichannel ad production throughout the Post organization. The new platform facilitates electronic workflows for seamless ad tracking, composition, production, and workflow management for every type of ad including mobile, Web, and print outputs, according to Mediaspectrum. AdWatch is one of the publishing industry’s most complete content management solutions for advertising, allowing users to search for ads and ad components, make ad assignments, and design and preview ads. Mediaspectrum eProofs enables internal staff and external customers to streamline ad proofing and the status of future advertisements. And with AdDrop, publishers can tap Mediaspectrum’s ad upload portal to deliver finished digital and print-ready ads.

The New York Post deployment comes on the heels of other successful implementations at Sun Media, The Washington Post, Tribune Co., Morris Communications, and Trinity Mirror.

“We’re excited about the Mediaspectrum platform and its proven reputation for helping publishers to automate and control the ad production lifecycle,” said Paul Armstrong, VP of prepress operations for the New York Post. “With the Mediaspectrum platform, we have been able to leverage Web-based software to automate processes that were traditionally extremely manual. This has ultimately helped us reduce human intervention during the production process – making our group more agile and efficient, while providing the organization significant cost savings.”

NewsEngin drives this CMS
With more than 100 newspaper customers and a suite of 11 products, NewsEngin covers everything from content management to mobile migration. Its GPS is a platform-neutral CMS designed to better create, manage, and repurpose all types of content while protecting legacy investments in pagination and Web-publishing software. GPS allows a news organization to collect, organize, categorize, and repurpose all information that flows into a newsroom – including press releases and wire stories, as well as staff-generated content and external websites, blogs, and RSS feeds. It routes and packages all content eligible for digital publication and allows all newspapers, websites, and broadcast properties in a company to track and share content.

A GPS license includes other industry-leading browser applications from NewsEngin: a module to capture, organize, and view wire stories; an embedded instant-messaging system designed for newsroom use; and an intuitive tool to automatically categorize content and to use those categories to track and route content. It features an intuitive Quark XTension and also can be customized to exchange content with Adobe InDesign.

GPS can receive stories in any structured format – XML, HTML, ANPA, IPTC – over virtually any transmission protocol, including serial, FTP, NNTP, HTTP, or TCP/IP socket. Stories can be captured and delivered in a variety of content packages at the rate of 40 to 50 stories per second. It can deliver stories in any text-based format using FTP, NFS, e-mail, or TCP/IP socket. GPS is built on the LAMP architecture (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP). This open-standards platform offers the best combination of stability, cost, and flexibility. The browser-based software also features a configurable interface that allows an organization to mold the software to its local needs, typically without any scripting or coding.

Ampere is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CMS option for newsrooms looking for an affordable monthly fee without capital expense. A true cloud service, simply plug it in for a complete set of tools for producing and publishing content, from conception to syndication. Users can be trained on the system in less than four hours, according to NewsEngin. And because Ampere runs on Amazon’s EC2 cloud-computing service, NewsEngin can provide almost every corner of the wired world with high-throughput, low-latency access to live and archived content of all types. From the cloud, the software runs faster than other systems that require server hardware on site.

RouteSmart delivers high-tech
RouteSmart Technologies makes a low-tech operation such as delivery into a model of automated efficiency for newspaper publishers of all sizes. Based in Columbia, Md., RouteSmart is a specialized provider of route-optimization software and logistics services that help newspapers around the globe automate daily routing processes. For more than 15 years, the firm has worked closely with home delivery and single-copy newspaper distribution clients looking to improve operational efficiency and customer service for their subscribers. RouteSmart, a subsidiary of Bowne AE&T Group, offers both hosted and on-premise solutions.

Clients include the The Columbus Dispatch, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and The Virginian-Pilot, the latter of which distributes 196,000 papers daily and 232,000 on Sundays with 900 home delivery routes. For The New York Times, RouteSoft performs what it calls the “six-hour miracle” on a daily basis: trucking, busing, and flying more than 1 million newspapers (that’s more than 500 tons) to more than 200 cities, then handing them off to local carriers for delivery to 750,000 homes, plus newsstands, hotels, schools, and offices – reaching every doorstep by 6 a.m.

Smaller publishers, too, can reap the benefits. “I’m a huge believer in the RouteSmart product,” said Gary Greider, who heads delivery services for the Lodi News-Sentinel, a small daily newspaper in California. “Their outsourcing services are a great solution for smaller companies that can’t afford to purchase the system. And it’s much cheaper than hiring someone to sequence our routes.”

After losing his home delivery manager, Greider was left to take care of all the paper’s delivery problems on his own. Over the years, the paper’s rural routes had grown substantially, making them difficult to deliver logically. Some of the addresses were so rural that the regular drivers used trees as landmarks to find the houses. When route drivers had emergencies such as illnesses, breakdowns, or accidents, it took a substantial amount of time for a substitute person – usually management staff – to gear up for the route. And while the routes took the regular drivers several hours, it took the replacements even longer, which adversely affected the 6:30 a.m. delivery deadline.

In the past, the Lodi News-Sentinel tried to map the routes itself but could not put together routes that were logical enough to repeat. Covering the routes in emergency situations was becoming more and more cumbersome. With only 18,000 subscribers, purchasing a routing solution was necessary, but not cost-effective.

“When I saw RouteSmart demonstrated at a convention, I immediately understood the vitality and viability of the system, but I was unable to afford it,” Greider said. “So instead, we chose to outsource the mapping of our motor routes to RouteSmart.” The Lodi News-Sentinel gave RouteSmart addresses for 14 routes (the equivalent of about 10,000 subscribers). Using Tele Atlas data to achieve a high geocoding match rate and provide an accurate routing base, RouteSmart created the most efficient route sequences, then produced seven-day throw lists for each, with turn-by-turn directions. RouteSmart also produced Microsoft Excel spreadsheets listing the account number, route, and sequence for every subscriber by route, so that the Lodi News-Sentinel could easily update its subscriber data with the new sequences. Because Lodi pays drivers by the number of papers delivered, RouteSmart also provided a delivery cost report detailing the total cost for each route. “The system is so easy that virtually anyone can deliver,” said Greider, adding that “for small-circulation papers, it’s a lifesaver.”

In March 2010, RouteSmart debuted its new managed service designed for managing daily routing activities via a Web-based, cloud-computing environment. Called RouteSmart Online, it is a hosted service that helps to manage the nightly process of dispatching carriers for delivery. RouteSmart Online takes uploads from a newspaper’s existing circulation system – either full file uploads or transactions from the previous day – and automatically processes and updates route sheets with subscribers sequenced in delivery order. RouteSmart Online also provides tools for managing down routes. There are no large up-front fees for licensing, and the impact on stretched and already thin IT resources is minimal, according to the firm. A quarterly billing cycle for subscriptions is standard.

Was Plastic Logic too little, too early?
Finally, there’s the story of Plastic Logic (PL), a venture capital-funded firm to which newspaper publishers can relate from a fast-paced innovation standpoint. PL is the global leader in plastic chips set to replace silicon at a fraction of the cost. The firm, spun off in 2000 by researchers from the Cambridge University Cavendish Lab, conducts R&D in England and features a high-volume, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Germany. Its executive management, product engineering, sales, and marketing staffs have headquarters in Silicon Valley (Mountain View, Calif.). Despite its impressive pedigree, however, PL moved a bit too slowly on its high-end e-reader by-product, getting caught off-guard by the massive popularity of Apple’s iPad tablet computer.

In mid-2010, the firm’s Que ProReader, the first 3G digital reading device designed for professional use, received a bronze award from the Industrial Designers Society of America. Unlike consumer e-readers, the $799 Que was designed to cater to the always-on lifestyles of today’s businesspeople, enabling access to e-mail, documents, newspapers, e-books, and other info anywhere, anytime. Weighing less than 1 pound, it featured the largest shatterproof touchscreen on the market and could store up to 75,000 files – 8GB of data (a 4GB Wi-Fi version was available for $649). And its developer’s breakthrough plastics technology yielded Que’s ultra-thin profile, making it as comfortable to hold as a pad of paper. “Whereas most e-readers aim to replace books, Que intends to replace the briefcase and all of its contents,” PL’s marketing proclaimed. So, what happened? iPad mania happened and changed everything. Last August, following delays, Plastic Logic killed plans for its Que.

In the firm’s defense, PL is not the only maker of e-readers to have its plans disrupted by the fast-growing tablet and e-reader market. But wait: The firm is rebounding and refocusing on its core plastics business. In mid-January it announced a new cash infusion – a massive $700 million overall investment – from Moscow-based RUSNANO (Russian Corp. of Nanotechnologies). As part of the financing deal, the world’s largest-volume production factory for PL’s next-generation plastic electronic displays, with the capacity to produce hundreds of thousands of them monthly, will be constructed in Zelenograd, Russia, and is slated to be operational in the 2013 to 2014 timeframe.

 

Universal Uclick provides laughs – and monetization
Universal Uclick (UU) is the world’s largest independent syndicate and a leading digital entertainment provider of humor, comic strips, editorial cartoons, and other content for print, the Web, mobile phones, and desktops (it is a division of Andrews McMeel Universal, North America’s leading publisher of humor books and calendars). UU provides editorial development, licensing, and other distribution services for major comic brands such as “Calvin and Hobbes”, “The Far Side”, “Garfield”, “For Better or For Worse”, and “Cathy”. The company’s story began in 1970, when Jim Andrews and John McMeel founded Universal Press Syndicate. Doonesbury debuted that year, “Ziggy” came along one year later, and “Dear Abby” jumped on board in 1980. In 2009, Universal Press Syndicate and Uclick merged to form Universal Uclick and, a year later, Atlantic Syndication merged with UU.

Today, Universal Uclick is a full publishing solution with cross-platform, delivery-ready content for print, online, and mobile. Online offerings include hosted Web solutions that easily place proprietary content on your website. The Washington Post comics section is an example of this. There also are custom Web solutions to help publishers reach website goals: Multiple revenue models include paid-for content and advertising-supported content such as the USA Today Puzzles Page and Yahoo Daily Games. Affiliate programs, like the one the Los Angeles Times has with the Puzzle Society, can add incremental revenue to a site. The entire UU catalog can be formatted and made available for mobile applications, which can be monetized through banner ads, text campaigns, and mobile couponing. Even UU mobile wallpapers and screen savers can help to create new revenue streams.

Another mobile solution is building your own app. With UU’s Mobile Publisher, creating a unique app only takes a matter of weeks. Completely customizable based on brand and content, the solution works across all major platforms including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, and the mobile Web. In addition to app creation, UU can help monetize customized apps through advertising, pay-for-play applications, and direct sponsorships.

NewsGator shares via social computing
Denver-based NewsGator’s enterprise networking solutions provide an integrated, behind-the-firewall, social computing platform that supports collaboration and facilitates communication. Social computing offers the greatest impact for organizations that have large groups of workers requiring large amounts of information to do their jobs. NewsGator was founded in 2004 to realize the potential of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and transform the way people consume information. Its enterprise RSS and Social Sites business solutions have more than 2.5 million paid enterprise social computing users. NewsGator also is tightly integrated with Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to make that platform more social. Late last year, the firm was named to EContent magazine’s 10th annual list of the top 100 companies that matter most in the digital content industry.

NewsGator’s Widget Services and iPhone applications enable media and brand companies to better engage their audiences and extend the value of their brands through viral syndication of content. The firm also offers free, award-winning RSS aggregators for the Web, desktop, mobile devices, and e-mail clients. The firm hosted its first-ever users group meeting, the 2011 NewsGator Collective, last month.

Advertising doesn’t cost – it pays (if you do it right).
Another firm with Danish headquarters, Integration X said its AdPoint is a single application that allows prepress operators and ad consultants to track the entire production cycle, offering a complete overview as well as a single interface for all stages. Collaborating with leading publishers, Integration X has been developing workflow automation solutions for newspaper production since 1998. Based on the most modern web application technology, AdPoint is hosted ad production software that offers flexible tools to streamline quality control and materials tracking. Integrated tools facilitate and assist all phases of ad production, from order entry through design, composition, proofing, and final control.

AdPoint offers a customizable interface for users to track single ads or to overview the entire production. Interfaces to leading design tools make AdPoint a preferred tool for in-house or offshore ad production. And with a choice between both enterprise and cloud (SaaS) versions, it can fit any-size newspaper operation. AdPoint also can be fully integrated with newspaper online ad portals to optimize and develop advertiser services, according to Integration X, which keeps its North American headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Last autumn, the Stampen Group, one of Sweden’s largest newspaper owners, said it is centralizing ad production with AdPoint 5, which is allowing the media firm to consolidate information gathered from various brands of booking systems.

Mark Vruno is a business writer reporting on the North American publishing and print communications industries. Vruno is the former executive editor of Graphic Arts Monthly magazine. Follow his daily Twitter feed at twitter.com/MarkV_Chicago and e-mail him at markvmail@comcast.net.

 

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