Two Ways Weeklies Adopted Adobe

By: Jim Rosenberg

Starting from Adobe Systems’ InDesign layout software, its Creative Suite package, and the sale of its InCopy editor to end users, Canada’s largest weekly group and a large weekly on New York’s Long Island took different routes to their new editorial and production environments.

As it happens, the group so far is using the Adobe software on a stand-alone basis while the stand-alone weekly has taken something of a system approach. (For a daily operation’s CS2 implementation, see ‘InDesign, InCopy, in House,’ Sept. E&P.)

110 Editions Convert to Adobe

From 20 sites, including up to a dozen “major production centers,” Metroland Printing, Publishing & Distribution Ltd. publishes 110 editions of 65 titles. “And we’re acquiring more,” says IT Director Steve Levant.

The Torstar subsidiary, headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, has an all-PDF workflow inside and out: in prepress, with advertisers, at its own five printing plants, and with outside printers. (The group outsources its printing because it doesn’t have enough capacity of its own, although it promotes itself as a large commercial printer for other publications.)
“Adobe enrolled us in a program to take advantage of incentives which would jump-start our transition to InDesign. When our people saw the integration, with Photoshop and InDesign, that’s what really impressed them,” says Steve Levant, IT Director for Metroland Printing.

The changeover from “predominantly” QuarkXPress (with some sites using Multi-Ad Creator) to Adobe InDesign for page layout began after the group started moving to Macintosh OSX last year. Levant says most of his operation was unhappy with Quark. Most sites running XPress stayed at version 4.11, he says, because there was nothing new that was useful in version 5 and 6.

So Metroland acquired some copies of InDesign and some training from Adobe. “They enrolled us in a program to take advantage of incentives which would jump-start our transition to InDesign,” says Levant. “When our people saw the integration, with Photoshop and InDesign, that’s what really impressed them,” he says.

The goal now is to move all titles at all sites to Adobe Creative Suite. Roughly two-thirds have migrated from Quark to Adobe, and Levant expects over 80% of the group’s conversion to be complete by the end of 2005.

With resources provided by Adobe, including training materials and access to an Adobe-certified trainer, Levant adds, “we developed a [scalable] workflow that we have been implementing throughout the enterprise where needed.” The effort includes preflighting for PDF integrity, font management, and workflow automation for Acrobat and InDesign using Apple scripting and the Enfocus Pitstop Server.

The work was part of a project that led to the spring 2004 launch of what became Canada’s largest weekly, Niagara This Week, based in Thorold, Ont. “We built the workflow when we were there,” using InDesign and InCopy, and keeping XPress “in the background” just in case.

From those initial 15 seats, it was rolled out to seven or eight other sites. “We try to keep an open architecture and as simple as possible,” Levant says. “The CS suite is at the heart of the architecture.” No integrator was used, and there were “huge” savings, he says, compared with the cost of the most-suitable system from a traditional vendor.

In Metroland’s original implementation, however, the InCopy text editor functions independently of InDesign because the workflow between the two applications in the first release of Creative Suite proved unsatisfactory, according to Levant. He cites, for example, the check-in, check-out procedure that was required just “to change a period or a comma.”

“We’re purchasing CS2 now,” says Levant, adding that the group has no specified schedule for upgrading from CS1.

A vendor, he says, “would have tried to sell us a complete solution, which would not have been flexible or scalable to suit the diverse operations we have at our different locations.” In contrast, he said, Metroland developed a workflow that can be customized or modified “to suit our operations — one that “can accommodate basic [PDF] preflighting and distillation or more-complex operations involving color management or color profiling.”

Publishing systems consultant Bill Rosenblatt, of New York’s GiantSteps Media Technology Strategies, says go-it-alone adoption of Adobe Creative Suite — or even just text entry on stand-alone InCopy, with stories passed to editors and designers using other Adobe applications — may work fine under some circumstances.

“A small paper may find that that’s perfectly OK, especially if they’re not on a daily deadline,” says Rosenblatt.

Levant sees nothing in a once, twice, or even thrice-weekly operation that can justify an investment in something like SoftCare’s Adobe-based K4 system. With initial sales to magazines, niche titles, and a few university newspapers, scalable, database-driven K4 is sold in North America by Managing Editor Inc.

Besides distributing 4.5 million copies of its weeklies in towns around Toronto, Metroland is among Canada’s largest distributors of flyers and circulars. It jointly owns Metro, Toronto’s leading free daily commuter newspaper, and Sing Tao, Canada’s largest Chinese daily, and publishes specialty products aiming at demographic and interest segments.

Though archiving at Metroland has been addressed based on the various locations’ different requirements, “we are working toward a common archiving strategy for the enterprise,” Levant said.

He also sees a role for Adobe software in Metroland’s Web publishing because Adobe provided developers with good application Programming Interfaces and users with good XML integration to make this happen.”

Large Weeklies Look to Plug-ins

At one end of Adobe-based solutions are systems from familiar vendors that have integrated InDesign and InCopy (or K4, designed from the start around the Adobe software). At the other is editorial and page production relying solely on Adobe’s Creative Suite. In between are solutions that implement workflows based on plug-in software for Adobe CS applications, available from WoodWing and others for system vendors and end users.

Besides K4, MEI offers the TruEdit suite of Adobe CS plug-ins that integrates Creative Suite applications in a workflow organized by status-based folders and permitting concurrent writing/editing and lay out on the same page. It’s these sorts of collaborative efficiencies that Adobe built into Creative Suite 2, particularly in the LiveEdit workflow for InCopy, whereby a documents or page may be broken up into components that can be assigned to multiple staffers.

Version 3.0 users can easily move between workflows, preview pictures and stories without opening files, customize the page interface, and move copy from InDesign to InCopy in three layout views. A sort of inexpensive publishing system without a database, TruEdit can be set up to correspond to an existing workflow, with a single click saving and forwarding a file to the next stage. Nested folder views eliminate repeated opening and closing, and a file may be saved and forwarded. Other features include header import and export for sharing files with other systems, and a search capability. MEI also offers the TruFlow tool for customizing with AppleScript to aid in work on complex page designs.

Two years ago, the Washington Post Co. launched its free commuter daily, express, produced by its own staff on a dozen OS X-based PowerMacs running TruEdit workflow with Adobe InDesign and InCopy, along with Knowledgview’s Rapid Browser for selection and automatic opening of wire copy in InCopy.

Newshole is created from ad stacks passed from the Post’s MEI Ad Layout System. PDFs of an express edition’s InDesign pages are converted to EPS files compatible with the Post’s CCI Europe system, where the editorial is paginated with the advertising for output to plates at the Post’s plants. (Begun as a 24-page paper, express has run “over 40 pages every day this week,” General Manager Arnie Applebaum said last Thursday.)

About six months later, The Southampton (N.Y.) Press implemented TruEdit. Like Metroland, The Press was an XPress user that converted to InDesign, then upgraded to Creative Suite. Unlike papers in the southern Ontario group, however, it is not moving to CS2. And unlike express, it’s a PC-based enterprise.

Southampton, N.Y.-based Press Newspaper Group has software licenses for about four-dozen staffers, a quarter of whom are designers and the rest in editorial positions. The staff produces the broadsheet Southampton Press as well as a separate tabloid for Manorville and the Moriches (pictured).

There may be no talk of swapping out PCs for Macs, but the all-PDF operation will upgrade its Adobe software — although not before next year, probably leapfrogging CS2 to the suite’s next release, according to General Manager Courtney Ratliffe.

Remembering the Quark-to-Adobe conversion as “probably the most pleasurable switch ever,” Ratcliffe rattles off a list of extinct production problems? many, if not most, ended by InDesign’s direct PDF export.

Ratcliffe also appreciated InDesign’s compatibility with her company’s Xpance ad-management system. Whereas much ad-tracking software was built to work with XPress, she says Xpance works like an InDesign plug-in. It was important because the Morcor Solutions product did on the ad side what the Adobe software did for editorial. “That saved me hours of work,” says Ratcliffe, who points to reduced staffing, electronic proofing, and knowing that everything can be found in one place.

“We began using TruEdit by MEI when we switched over from Quark[XPress] to InDesign 2.0,” says Ratcliffe. That was in February of last year, following a month of training.

The subsequent upgrade to InDesign CS called for an upgrade to TruEdit for CS, which “doesn’t work as well as the original version,” says Ratcliffe, speculating that it may in some way relate to the fact that her operation is among the few TruEdit sites running only PCs. “We’re using TruEdit, but not in the fashion that we’d like to be using it,” she continues, adding, however, that “it makes it really clean and easy to track things without using a database here.”

TruEdit says Ratcliffe, “does allow you to easily move files through a workflow” — something that would not be as easy using Creative Suite alone, especially by staffers with lesser PC skills.

The Press Newspaper Group has software licenses for about four-dozen staffers, a quarter of whom are designers and the rest in editorial positions. The staff produces The Southampton Press, a broadsheet circulating 19,000 copies in two editions, the 70- to 138-page flagship eastern edition and 60- to 84-page western edition, and The Press, a separate, 28- to 40-page, 3-year-old tabloid circulating 2,500 copies in Manorville and the Moriches.

It also produced Nuestra Prensa. Not a Press translation, the Spanish-language tabloid was a separate publication produced by its own staff. Folded in February after one year, “that was out first paginated paper and our first Adobe product,” recalls Ratcliffe.

The Southampton Press also uses Illustrator and Photoshop in CS. It does not use GoLive for its Web site.

Adobe CS and MEI’s TruEdit “kind of suited us,” says Ratcliffe, because for the size of the Southampton operation, most available solutions offered either too much or too little. “It’s hard to find that happy medium.”

Still, given the weekly operation’s large staff and large editions, for its possible 2006 upgrade “we may consider going to a database system,” says Ratcliffe. “That may be our next step.”

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