UPDATED: Kodak, ATS, Bluefin to Automate Local ‘Chicago Tribune’ Products

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By: Jim Rosenberg

In a departure from its business of supplying imaging equipment, consumables and software, Eastman Kodak Co. yesterday confirmed an earlier E&P report that it is leading a partnership that aims to supply newspapers with technology to automate the creation and operation of microzoned or hyperlocal Web sites, the content of which would largely be supplied by readers.

Putting “citizen journalism” into community Web sites, with the possibility of reverse publishing of weekly papers or sections, suggests the successful model of the Rocky Mountain News’ YourHub in the Denver area and Bluffton (S.C.) Today (E&P Online, Sept. 27, 2005). The Kodak partnership also includes Web-based self-service creation, scheduling and submission of online/print advertising.

As first reported here yesterday morning, The Chicago Tribune is the partnership’s first customer. According to Kodak’s announcement, the Tribune began using the Microzone Publishing Solution in March “to create branded TribLocal websites and microzone print products for readers and advertisers in the Chicago area.”

A source familiar with the project who insisted on anonymity told E&P that the community or neighborhood sites are designed for affordable local advertising. If the sites prove popular and ad support materializes, said the source, print products that draw on the Web sites’ content will follow.

?Instead of publishers offering a one way download of information to consumers, newspapers need to provide two way communications. People are going to ask for what they want, and we need to deliver it in order to stay relevant, both in print and on the web,? Ted Biedron, president of Chicago Tribune subsidiary Chicagoland Publishing Co., said in a statement. Kodak?s solution, he continued, ?provides a way for readers and advertisers to intuitively communicate with each other and with us. From a print publishing standpoint, the solution provides an efficient, scalable way to handle the content that is provided by and for the community. It also enables us to leverage our existing distribution system.?

Steve Rosenfeld, Bluefin Technology Partners, LLC, Andover, Mass., general partner for sales and marketing, told E&P last week that “our technology is going to be used as part of the system.” Bluefin, he explained, will supply the ad portal technology, Advanced Technical Solutions, in nearby Acton, Mass., will supply the production and workflow tools, and “Kodak has … rights to sell the MicroZone Publishing Solution in the U.S. and Canada.”

“We were approached by ATS to supply the Web portal piece for advertising,” Rosenfeld said. Bypassing a conventional ad-system infrastructure, he
continued, allows a customer “to more rapidly deploy into these [microzoned] markets,” he continued. “Publishers can easily adapt and produce new publications quickly.”

Besides its editorial and print and online advertising systems, ATS already had begun promoting the launch of its Micro-Zone Publishing Solution at Nexpo, which it says “leverages the Internet to create an entirely new approach to newspaper publishing that delivers targeted content to targeted markets economically.” Content would be aggregated, targeted and published for individual “micro-zones,” with readers contributing content without cost to the publisher and local advertisers buying online/print space to target one or more micro-zones.

Kodak said it signed an agreement with ATS “to jointly sell and support new Kodak Microzone Publishing Solution,” which, Kodak Graphic Communications Group Business Development Director Ken Swanson said in a statement, “opens new revenue streams for newspapers that do not cannibalize the existing products that they sell.”

Using an ATS-developed platform, said Kodak, the microzoning solution includes advertising and citizen-journalism portals and a publishing-management system. Kodak said its Microzone Citizen Journalism Portal “allows local citizen journalists to submit stories, photographs and community event listings for use in print and online products.”

On the advertising side, Bluefin’s Comunity Marketplace Platform (CMP) comprises the Place Ad Web-based print/online classified advertising order entry, Marketplace for for publishing online classifieds for buyers and sellers, and Command Center tools for Web site set-up and configuration, revenue tracking and transaction history, use reporting, and data feed integration management.

In addition to supplying the Pendleton East Oregonian, Victoria, B.C.-based Black Press, and The San Diego Union-Tribune with e-commerce capabilities, Bluefin already had a contract with the Chicago Tribune to provide technical assistance with its new XML-based application programming interface. It also was chosen to provide Tribune Interactive with integration technology for its Recycler Web Sites in 13 national markets.

The source familiar with the partnership project said Kodak’s objective seemed partly to be recognized by newspapers as a solutions provider, even if serving a publisher’s need means using only others’ technologies.

?We decided to partner with Kodak because they view newspapers as a core strategic segment in their business and we wanted to work with a company that is committed to serving the changing needs of this industry,? ATS New Media Group Business Development Director David Monks said in a statement.

As for the partnership’s objective, the source described it automating the processing and presentation of content as much as possible in order to minimize staffing for microzoned products. Should the enterprise eventually include print products, the source guessed they would be tabloids with print runs ranging from 200 to 2,000 copies — small enough to be inefficient on Tribune’s big Freedom Center presses.

Yesterday Kodak said microzones typically would consist of 5,000 to 10,000 households, for which newly created print publications and Web sites “allow local businesses and organizations to reach core audiences in a much more targeted fashion with news and advertising messages.”

Over the years, Atex seeded the publishing systems industry with sales and software talent that periodically reappears, sometimes reassembling into other companies. Before working at Edgil Asssociates, OpenPages and AdStar, Rosenfeld started at Atex, where he met Bill Page, before Page left to found ATS. Bluefin founder Rich Grover started his career at Atex arch-rival System Integrators Inc., then founded GDT/Nova, which provided Web ad-order management solutions to newspapers. ATS President Alden Edwards was an executive at both Atex and SII. This past winter, ATS merged with mWave Media Inc. under the ATS name (E&P Online, Jan. 2) in order to create enhanced Web and print publishing solutions to serve publishers’ changing needs. Founded in 2003, mWave is run by former Atex executives Max Coebergh and David Monks.

And, of course, it was Kodak that acquired Atex from its founders 14 years ago and owned the pioneering publishing systems developer for over 10 years, after which it passed through several owners from several countries.

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