Nexpo Opens To Light Crowds -- But With Optimistic Vendors

By: Mark Fitzgerald and Jim Rosenberg Nexpo, the U.S. newspaper industry's biggest equipment show, opened Saturday with noticeably sparse floor traffic that did not appear to daunt vendors who say they expect to go home with sales contracts in their pockets by Tuesday's close.

"We're looking for attendance to be extremely low, given what we've seen in the pre-registration," Southern Lithoplate National Sales and Technical Services Manager Brandon Casson said on the show floor. "But it was low last year, and we did well."

At that show, in Chicago, Southern Lithoplate sold 15 platesetters, Casson said.

Southern Lithoplate, which at this Nexpo is introducing its lower-cost PlateRite News 2000 LE, a thermal technology CTP (computer to plate) platesetter with a lower throughput designed for small- to medium-circulation newspapers.

Official numbers on Nexpo attendance were not yet available from its operator, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), but a spokesperson said an NAA official estimates attendance will match or slightly exceed last year's show. That show was held in conjunction with the NAA's annual publisher's convention, unlike this event in the Orlando Convention Center.

In Chicago, many vendors expressed unhappiness about the attendance and what they called heavy-handed treatment by union workers at the McCormick Center venue.

Judging by interviews on the show flow this year, however, vendors appear optimistic that the floor traffic will increase -- and buyers will appear.

"It's always slow on Saturday," said Bruce Davidson, regional prepress consumables leader for Kodak's Graphic Communications Group. "I think you'll see the crowds come tomorrow."

In this year with no huge show like drupa, the international equipment event held every four years in Germany, to steal its thunder, Nexpo is again the show of choice to introduce -- or reintroduce -- newspaper technology.

Platemaking is a particularly hot technology at this year's Nexpo. The battle for dominance of the industry between ultra-violet technology, usually referred to simply as "violet," and thermal.

Kodak, for instance, showcased its thermal "processless" platemaker aimed at small- to medium-circulation papers. The plate can go straight from the platemaker to the press without any chemicals or other processing, including a "wipe-down" stage, said Balfe Bradley, a product application specialist with Kodak.

On the violet side, Agfa Graphics highlighted its own chemistry-free plates, and a new ink-saving solution.

Fittingly for an industry searching for a way to transition from print to the Internet, there was no working press on the Nexpo show floor this year. But big press manufacturers such as Goss, MAN Roland, Wifag, and Mitsubishi mounted booths that take up considerable real estate at the convention center. Japanese pressmaker TKS kicked off the informal start of the show Friday night with its annual reception featuring the ritual tapping of a wooden barrel of sake.

For the past several years, Nexpo has offered more panel discussions and educational sessions that have gone from being held only before the show floor opens to extending well into the afternoon. This year, a new series NAA calls TECH BRIEFings are being held on the show floor itself at the association's booth.

While show floor traffic was light, a big audience packed at least one panel discussion early Saturday afternoon. Dozens of attendees sat in on the discussion entitled "Advertising and marketing at papers -- what operations and production should know."


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