By: Mark Fitzgerald,Lucia Moses,Jim Rosenberg, and Carl Sullivan
Fireworks fly as the industry faces the future
LAS VEGAS ? This year’s giant Nexpo show went out with a burst of fireworks worthy of its venue, from the explosion in Internet integration to the shine of Atex’s new Omnex system to the sparkle of shaftless press technology.
The Internet and Print
Since the Web first came onto the scene, newspapers have been trying to figure out how to migrate their print product to the Web. While many newspapers now have Web sites, repurposing that material remains a challenge.
Many traditional Nexpo exhibitors are integrating HTML-export functionality to their new systems and upgrades. System Integrators Inc. (SII) told conference attendees that its 2publish! Web-publishing program would be available within six months. Other companies, such as Cybergraphic Inc. of Burlington, Mass., showcased their new publishing systems which are designed for multimedia publishing, not just print newspapers.
Overall, new media has become an integral part of Nexpo. “There’s unquestionably more new-media equipment that addresses the needs of distributing news and advertisements on the Internet,” says Eric Wolferman, the Newspaper Association of America’s senior vice president for technology. “Newspaper equipment now addresses more than just print on paper. A notable trend is data management systems that are intended to distribute data to multiple media.”
A new theme out of this year’s Nexpo was the importance of making content flow the other way ? from the Web to print. “Taking content from the Web and sinking it back into the newspaper ? that’s the future,” says Paul Camp, CEO of the new Thomson division that married Thomson Target Media and Thomson Interactive Media. The two-way street is important because it will solidify the notion that newspapers aren’t just in the print business anymore, Camp and others suggest.
Gannett Media Technologies International of Cincinnati has integrated a function called In2Print into its Celebro city guide package. Already used in Palm Springs, Fla., the feature feeds online calendar listings into a section for the print newspaper, says Karen Taylor, marketing manager.
David Frenkel, president and COO of Pentawave in Scottsdale, Ariz., told anyone who would listen about his company’s CustomCasting technology, which makes it possible to produce content in any desired mix of media, including print, Web, TV, fax, and other media as they emerge. “It’s a leap of faith, but one newspapers will have to make to survive,” he says.
Integrating the Web into a newspaper’s existing operations is essential, Frenkel says. Spinning off the new-media division into a separate company probably isn’t good business in the long run, he says. The New York Times Co., Tribune Co., and A.H. Belo Corp. are among the media groups that have recently spun off their Web holdings.
“I think it’s a very dangerous strategy,” Frenkel says. “What’s pushing them to do this is the analysts, who want everyone to follow a ‘.com’ strategy.”
Evan Neufeld of New York’s Jupiter Communications also called this trend shortsighted. “You need to really integrate your Internet division and make it part of your core business,” he says. While freeing the new-media division from the parent company may make it easier to move forward and make fast decisions in the short term, it leaves the core company with only “old” media businesses. What happens if print newspapers begin to lose circulation and advertising, Neufeld asks. What’s the core company left with?
“There are print-only people at newspapers and Web-only people,” says Lee Silverman, worldwide vice president of product marketing for Cybergraphic. The existence of these two camps (or splitting them into two separate companies, for that matter) will eventually weaken the newspaper’s greatest asset ? its brand, he says. If papers aren’t aggressive about pushing their brand onto the Web, some competitor will.
The strength of their local brands can help newspapers sew up the market in a variety of media, says Chris Jennewein, vice president/technology and operations at Knight Ridder New Media in San Jose, Calif. “In Charlotte [where The Charlotte Observer is a Knight Ridder paper], if you run ads in print and banners on the Web, you get over 50% penetration of that local market,” he says. “Packaging [print and Web] is powerful.”
Ed Manning, vice president of sales and marketing for Thomson Interactive Media in Stamford, Conn., adds, “It seems like the first wave of fear is over. Now papers are just trying to figure out how to build their Web sites.”
OLD NAMES WITH NEW SYSTEMS
As publishing systems’ technologies and purposes continue to evolve, two venerable vendors on the input side that had stumbled have unveiled systems with which they hope to march into the next century. At the same time, the engineer who sought to revolutionize output two decades ago has resurrected and modernized the technology in a bid to leapfrog competitors in a market crowded with sellers but only beginning to see the first big buyers.
After giving some thought to perhaps leaving the editorial systems market, Atex Media Solutions jumped in with both feet. Relying on its own editing and pagination software, Atex designed Omnex from the ground up to prepare copy for any medium. The London-based Financial Times is the new product’s first partner and possible buyer.
The company will still sell DewarView in the United States and Prestige outside the country. But for big news outlets and other publishing organizations, Omnex is designed to go far beyond anything imagined for the Total Publishing Environment or the Deadline newsroom front end devised by two of the firm’s earlier owners.
To support media convergence with a product lacking print or other media biases, says Atex chairman and CEO Larry Mihalchik, “we rolled the dice” and went with the Extensible Markup Language (XML) by adopting Bitstream’s NuDoc composition engine for Omnex. The choice, he and editorial product manager Jeff Litvak say, allows modification by Atex for heavy-duty newspaper use in a product “comparable in quality to what Atex has always been known for.” And with the release of Oracle 8, Atex could leverage XML for work in multiple media. Other, almost simultaneous improvements in program building further facilitated creation of the object-oriented software.
Once a publication is modeled, the system recognizes rules for editioning and sectioning. It also knows which components are appropriate for a given medium, further reducing the burden on editors, Atex executives say. Workflows will be tailored for the nature of the medium for which material is prepared.
Also at the high end, SII looks to the future with a new system that takes a different approach to product building and markets. At Nexpo it debuted its earlier-announced offering, now named Insiight, that joins groupware to off-the-shelf layout-design software for pagination. Based on work undertaken by British SII customer Associated Newspapers, Insiight was created with “middleware” derived from SII’s integration expertise and is marketed as an alternative to its System/77, which uses Compaq/Tandem servers and SII’s own NT-based Coyote software.
Unlike Atex, SII believes it is no longer best served by building systems from scratch. Instead, says president Frank Washington, “strategic relationships are a reality that SII has fully embraced. The basic technologies will be supplied by IBM-Lotus or Microsoft groupware and by QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign pagination. The choice is the customer’s.
“We designed a middleware layer that is truly XML-compatible,” says Mike Lee, SII executive vice president for worldwide sales. Components also are supplied by Hearst Corp., Pine Tree, Managing Editor, and Pongrass, among others. Though SII will work with InDesign, it inked a nonexclusive license for Quark CopyDesk to tightly integrate Xpress.
With the editorial system on its way, SII will build an Insiight advertising system based on the World Class system from Houston-based CompuText. For now, World Class is SII’s ad product for the middle market.
A third major systems change is Digital Technology International’s wholesale adoption of InDesign. The formerly Macintosh-only but XPress-averse developer that has been moving to Windows has tossed its own pagination in favor of InDesign’s functionality and flexibility ? which also makes it comparatively easy to import XPress documents and convert files from existing DT systems through InDesign’s support of the Portable Document Format (PDF).
Systems specialist David Oldham reports XPress conversions have proven about 99% accurate. And though background conversions of old files via PDF require some tweaking because “our old h&j [hyphenation and justification] engine is slightly different from Adobe’s,” users are “excited” about InDesign’s superior composition.
Elsewhere on the show floor: SaxoTech offered browser-based SaxoPress AnyWare, which can remotely call up full system functionality, as needed, from a newsroom server, and SaxoPress @ccess, a Java applet providing limited functionality; Mactive reported eight North American customer sites; Baseview and Managing Editor promoted their work with InDesign; Stauffer Media Systems showed its own versatile and easy-to-use AdQue, a Filemaker Pro-based front end to Managing Editor’s ALS ad-layout system; Miles 33 brought out the full suite of FutureProof news and advertising products; CCI-Europe new product sales manager Michael H. Tandrup predicted the “true, cross-media” AdDesk Sales system in joint development with business systems supplier Neasi-Weber International will install in Denmark next month and Britain next year.
A different sort of integration of business and publishing systems suppliers took place when Australia’s Cybergraphic Systems was purchased by Canadian computer services firm Geac Corp. Both discussed plans to establish Cybergraphic as a North American vendor under Tampa, Fla.-based Geac Publishing Systems ? formerly Collier-Jackson.
The Associated Press will replace all members’ AP Leafdesk picture desks with the new, open-architecture multimedia AP Server; replace its Photostream and GraphicsNet with ObjectStream satellite distribution; and inaugurate Your AP, a Web site that will consolidate two weeks’ worth of all AP images and copy and accept material from member sites. AP also announced the Web-based AdRES companion to the satellite AdSend ad delivery service, which transmits ad reservations, automatically alerts receiving sites and acknowledges downloads. All are free to members. Not free will be a new version of the Preserver archive.
In the output systems arena, Nexpo showed not only does the race for speed in computer-to-plate (CTP) systems seem to be setting new records, but also a remarkable new machine that was announced by a new competitor. Sonoran Scanners Inc. may be a new player, but it is the enterprise of CTP pioneer Joe Donahue, who, while at Eocom in the 1970s, attempted CTP output using ultraviolet exposure. Today, his Sonoran is building the first CactusSetters ? digital laser imagers for UV-exposed plates. Unfortunately, the prototype remains at his Tucson, Ariz., headquarters.
To achieve a very high (possibly the highest) speed of 250 plates per hour (125 double trucks), the two-plate, single-imaging-head machine requires premium-priced plates that are five times more sensitive than conventionally exposed UV offset newspaper plates. Sonoran vice president Norm Bogen assures, however, that the new imager can expose conventional, less-expensive UV plates, although at much slower speeds. Standard processor chemistry develops both plates.
Agfa introduced the economical PolarisE 85pph imager ? slower and simpler than the Polaris 100 but with some added features. The manufacturer, Belgium’s Strobbe, reportedly is making a version faster than Agfa’s 100 model for the Financial Times.
Autologic Information International highlighted a wider (27 inches) and faster (240 pph) version of its 3850 platesetter, one of which was just sold to The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, along with several 3850 film imagers. K&F Printing Systems matched that 240 pph in its LaserExpress by speeding raster-image processing and streamlining data communications. K&F says the mechanics of the imager always supported the higher speed.
Krause Newspaper Systems showed its new LS Jet, its first flatbed, with optical correction of its beam angle (not required of its drum imagers). Theoretically able to image at 265 pph, Krause prefers to quote a throughput figure of 180 pph to keep a realistic production perspective, according to CEO Rainer Schuette.
In addition to announcing sales of its DMX 2737 CTP machine to Melbourne’s Florida Today, and to 10 contract print sites of Los Angeles-based Investor’s Business Daily (23 machines valued at over $7 million), Purup-Eskofot demonstrated its ImageMaker, which exposes multiple media and can upgrade both format size and medium, outputting film and/or metal/polyester plates ? “giving our customers the ability to protect their investment,” says CEO William Schulin-Zeuthen.
FasTrak CTP is still on track at bankrupt PrePress Systems, since the company was rescued by its major lender and investors associated with Monotype Systems. PrePress Systems still exists, but Monotype took over sales and service. Monotype president Dennis Nierman reports that with the exception of one day since the May 11 bankruptcy, five to eight Panther or FasTrak imagers have been sold daily.
During a Nexpo that was so busy he was rarely out of his exhibit’s meeting rooms, Wifag America vice president/sales Joe Ondras says he heard one question repeatedly: “They always want to know, ‘What will be the next breakthrough?'”
The next breakthrough has already arrived, Ondras argues. It’s shaftless technology, which drives printing-press components individually with highly synchronized servo motors rather than a main line shaft turning elaborate gearing systems. The technology can mean quicker make-ready, plate changes while the rest of the press is still running, and reduced startup waste, its proponents say.
“In the last two years, our orders have all been for shaftless,” says Vince Lapinski, vice president of Westmont, Ill.-based MAN Roland Inc.’s newspaper group.
Yet the way newspapers are adopting shaftless reflects another big trend in the industry. At Nexpo, some of the busiest exhibitors were those offering to retrofit aging offset presses to shaftless or shaftlesslike printing (See Tech story, page 60).
Press suppliers say they are seeing more of a tendency to try to graft state-of-the-art technology on older presses. “There’s a mentality in the newspaper industry to spend only enough to solve today’s problem,” Lapinski says. “People believe they can take a 20-year-old machine and make it as good as it was before. No, they can’t. It’s like taking a 20-year-old car and giving it an upgrade and believing it will perform like a new car.”
There were no blockbuster press sales announced at Nexpo ’99. The two biggest orders reflected the industry preference to expand incrementally. Both orders went to Goss: The Star Tribune in Minneapolis is buying five new Goss Headliner Offset units, adding one unit to each of its five existing press lines of Headliner Offset; and The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City is buying two Goss Global Newsliner towers that will be located at the end of one of its three existing press lines of Goss Metroliner presses.
Still, press makers are generally optimistic about the market. For the second year in a row, TKS (USA) Inc. brought a running press to Nexpo, this time the four-high tower Color Top 6000. The distributed drive shaftless press was run at 75,000 copies per hour.
Goss Graphic Systems of Westmont, Ill., which has disclosed cash-flow problems, was the subject of rumors about its future, virtually from the show’s opening. But marketing director Barbara Gora says visitors to its exhibit were “extremely supportive.”
“Retrofit” was a bigger buzzword among post-press vendors at Nexpo ’99 than any technology. “I still feel there is a little hesitation out there on the part of newspapers,” says Tim Cooper, whose Savannah, Ga.-based Plumtree Co. introduced a QTMS Copy Counter III stream counter designed smaller for easier retrofit.
Typical of the mailroom equipment introduced this year was the Millennium, an inserter pocket designed as an add-on to Mueller-Martini’s discontinued 227 inserter model. “There’s a crying need out there for extra pockets ? not for whole machines, but for extra pockets. People have got eight, and they need nine,” says Tom Bagwell, the engineer who developed the pocket. Ferag Americas is marketing the Millennium under its brand name USA Leader.
Packaging vendors also extended their own lines with the goal of becoming one-stop shopping destinations for newspapers. Machine Design Service Inc. of Denver introduced its first stacker, which uses an open-frame design for three-sided accessibility to product. Dover, N.H.-headquartered Heidelberg Web Systems introduced the first high-volume newspaper inserter it has offered in decades, the NP1280. Miami-based Quipp Systems Inc. introduced its first automatic palletizer. Hanover Park, Ill.-based Gammerler introduced a newspaper version of its commercial stacker, the PrintPath STC-70.
Packaging vendors say they are responding to newspaper demands to gently handle ever-lighter inserts and products. “Newspapers want to be able to handle products that are lighter, that have different kinds of stock. They are facing higher and higher volumes and longer and longer runs, so we think they will want the reliability of a product that is so robustly built,” says Robert Bassett, a former Goss Graphics executive and Gammerler’s new president.
Another standard offering by packaging vendors now is remote diagnostics over the Internet. “More people have Ethernet connectivity now, so it’s a lot easier to do [remote diagnostics] than it was even three years ago,” says Brian K. Finkbone, national account manager with GE Instrument Control Service.
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