Reading Eagle Co. Converting to Berliner with KBA Colora

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By: Jim Rosenberg

A little over a year from now, Koenig & Bauer AG is to begin installing a Colora doublewide offset press for production of the Reading (Pa.) Eagle as a Berliner paper, the second such format conversion in North America, following last year’s conversion of Gannett’s Journal & Courier in Lafayette, Ind.

The Colora will go into a new facility, expected to be ready for production in 2009, that will incorporate packging and distribution operations now at a remote site.

The existing downtown facility will remain. “We’re just adding to it,” said Associate Publisher Larry Orkus, adding that the company’s four KBA Colormax units, its flexo-converted letterpress, and its singlewide flexo equipment will be sold.

The pressroom project and format conversion demonstrate “a strong commitment to the future of print,” KBA Deputy President Claus Bolza-Schuenemann said in a prepared statement.

Success requires expanding “our position among the ever-increasing electronic information-delivery systems that challenge our franchise,” said Orkus. That means, he added, taking “every opportunity to become more efficient and diverse as a printer” — both for the company’s daily and for its commercial printing business.

The commercial business provides products from sheetfed and web presses, Web site design, Web hosting and full advertising agency services.

The new Colora press will consist of five four-high (eight-couple) color towers on a concrete substructure of KBA design, five KBA Pastostar reelstands with Patras M roll-handling (with integrated stripping, and roll-prep, 14 turntables and custom-designed track system), a double (2:3:3/2:3:3) KF3 folder.

One of the five former sections will offer variable web-width capability for flexibility in newspaper and commercial production. To be set up to produce an 18.5-by-12-inch Berliner (small broadsheet), the installation will have provision for future reduction to 11.5-inch-wide pages.

The full four-color towers will enable to Eagle to print 64 pages entirely in color. An 80-page edition will be able to carry 48 pages of process color and 32 pages with spot color.

EAE will supply press controls, with three operator consoles, as well as production-planning and presetting capabilities.

Utilizing KBA’s Simultaneous Independent Production System, the Colora will allow the Reading Eagle Co. to deliver two different products at the same time, independent of speed and other functionality, according to KBA.

Semi-commercial features will include a plow former, two-part section stitcher and quarterfolder.

Commercial work is an important and successful business for the Eagle Co., where, said Orkus, “we sold an additional $2 million in commercial work in the last year.” Moreover, the company doesn’t scour the state for customers. It goes to “local ad connections for our local commercial printing business,” he added, explaining that the business is generated by the Eagle’s advertising sales staff.

Gary Owen, KBA Vice president for sales & communications, newspapers/regional, expressed confidence that, based on recent communications from North American newspapers, more titles will move to Berliner, as the format is specified in requests for proposals rather than added to RFPs merely as an option.

As a single-site company, the Eagle’s conversion can be seen as a vote of confidence in the format, and Owen said KBA was especially appreciative that an independently owned publishing company had committed to it.

The company also is committed to staying downtown and growing jobs. “That was part of the decision,” said Orkus. “We’re looking to create new opportunities for an old company.”

At its new facility, the Eagle will be able to supply stitched and trimmed products for real estate and automotive advertisers.

For the newspaper, those opportunities already are being explored and the electronic information-delivery challenges that Orkus mentioned met. The Eagle is putting video cameras in all reporters’ hands, asking them to go out and try the technology to complement their Web reporting.

Orkus said the company prefers video to be shot by those it already knows will apply journalistic standards, and that initial reluctance by some was brief.

“We have editors who are embracing the format” and the cross-media potential of the newspaper and Web site,” he said.

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