By: Editorial Staff The following report is drawn from a presentation by Peter Green, technical manager at UK Mail International Ltd., a division of Associated Newspapers Ltd., London, that was established under the direction of Allan Marshall, formerly Associated's prepress systems director. Green was among 15 speakers, most from the United States, at "Beyond the Printed Word ? Expanding Newspapers into Digital Media," an IFRA symposium held last month in Munich, Germany.
BUILDING ON PRODUCTIVITY and quality improvements gained by achieving fully electronic prepress production of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard and some magazines, London-based Associated Newspapers Ltd. has begun adopting and adapting the digital technology to provide additional products and services. The newspaper group believes its electronically held data can be made "the basis for products that will be cash cows into the foreseeable future." A year ago, it began electronic syndication of the Evening Standard by sending files of completed pages specially prepared at 200 dpi and three-quarter size to a syndication agency's database, to which customers have dial-up access for browsing or downloading. Access is permitted at presstime so articles become available worldwide when the printed paper hits U.K. newsstands. Weekly growth, particularly among non-British clients, encouraged similar electronic syndication of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. Users are asked to select the paper, section, and page or pages they wish to see. For its PageFax telefacsimile system, the company made its own four-port fax board that includes a voice processor and other capabilities. The system will allow readers wishing to receive files from one of the newspapers to call into a 20-line system using a toll-free number and respond to voice prompts. Pages containing the sought-after information are extracted from the database holding the copies at three-quarter size and 200 dpi ? suitable for fax reproduction. Following confirmation of a caller's selection, the page or pages are faxed within a minute. The transaction was speeded after initial trials. Current trials are using access by the company's senior executives. Public availability is expected early this year. Already in use is the Information Station, a high-resolution, 24"x34" screen that displays text, halftones and line drawings. Though of the same size as ads typically posted at rail stations, this digital remote-display panel can carry repeatedly changing information ? news pages, advertising or messages from the newspaper. The "rewritable imaging panel" can be installed in various locations "as an inducement for readers to buy papers." Five Information Stations have been permanently placed; two are used in continuing field trials. A mobile system in testing is mounted on the side of a delivery van and receives transmissions on a cellular telephone network on the van's mobile phone. The panels carry TIFF files rasterized from PostScript newspaper pages. The files are sent by phone or other communications lines to a PC that drives the station, which can be part of a local or wide-area network. The PC runs software for the file conversion, image decompression and print screen driver. The station contains a Mylar belt that moves on two rollers. While one page is displayed on one side of the Mylar loop, another is being imaged on the other side with toner particles. When the rollers turn to display the new page and hide the old page, toner is removed from the latter for reuse. The 70-dpi images require less than 20 seconds to display. Toner lasts 25,000 pages; the Mylar belt lasts 50,000 pages. Associated also has moved beyond use of Kodak's Photo CD for news photo production and is experimenting with Kodak's interactive CD, which can incorporate text, still and moving images, and voice. Exploring possible future business applications for the multimedia technology, it anticipates using it to sell much of its existing data. Further out, the publishing group is looking at developing business applications for soon-to-be-released text-to-speech conversion technology from Apple Computer. Following evaluation of the product's beta version in its development lab, Associated devised a way to output ready-for-print stories in its pagination system as "excellent" quality speech from a desktop computer. All the new vehicles for electronically distributing information already gathered for newspaper use are expected to contribute some profit to Associated. With the information already available as digital data, the effort to reuse it "in electronic form is negligible, with minimal costs."