By: George Garneau Tabloids now can become truly sectionalized so sections can be pulled out and the paper read by more than one person at a time sp.
READERS SEARCHING FOR TV listings know where to look in most broadsheet newspapers: the entertainment section. For crime, they pick up the local news section. At the breakfast table, Dad can read the business section while Mom browses through features and Sonny peruses sports. But navigating a hulking, 200-page tabloid can confound even devotees. Anything between the news up front and sports in back can be tough to find ? for one reader at a time. All that's changing, thanks to a new generation of mailroom technology. To make its bounties more accessible to readers, Newsday, including its New York City edition, New York Newsday, added a tab to its feature section, Part 2. Readers simply grab the thumbnail-sized tab extending from the right edge of the paper and pull. Inside the color cover are arts, entertainment, health, science and lifestyle coverage; advice columns; personal ads; comics; crossword puzzle; and classified ads. With Part 2 removed, the main section, with color front and back covers and a semicircular cutout on the right edge, is all news up front. The color weather map appears toward the middle, and four pages of editorials, opinions and letters precede the centerfold. A color page begins business news after the fold, followed by stocks and sports. With a tug of the tab, Mom can read about gardening while Dad tracks the stock market or vice versa. Newsday spokeswoman Diane McNulty said the changes were in response to reader complaints about getting lost in the tabloid, which, thanks to ads from Long Island, N.Y., businesses, is usually bulkier than its city-based tabloid rivals, the New York Daily News and New York Post, neither of which runs process color. A lot more than just a tab was involved, however. The advent of sophisticated systems for storing and inserting preprinted sections into daily papers has created a quiet revolution that has unchained tabloids. For the first time, tabloids can become truly sectionalized so sections can be pulled out and the paper read by more than one person at a time. Relieved of having to print the entire paper at once, presses produce faster during the peak cycle and get fresher news in the paper. News features can be put in the same place every day instead of moving to fit fluctuating classified ad volume. More positions open up for color ads. Newsday, which sells 758,000 papers daily, 845,000 Sunday, followed a path blazed last year almost a continent away in Denver by the tabloid Rocky Mountain News, circulation 357,000 daily, 430,000 Sundays. Because advance sections are printed earlier and stored, the main news and sports section is smaller and can be printed in straight mode, meaning that at the most critical hours in a newspaper production schedule, presses can print twice as many papers per hour than the collect mode previously used for large papers. Newsday has extended its news deadline by almost an hour for the final edition. It also gets the paper out the door an hour earlier and officially has converted the remainder of its afternoon circulation on Long Island to morning, McNulty said. Newsday considered its options and could have switched to broadsheet format but "we would hesitate to do that now" he said. "We want to retain the advantages of being tab." The tabbed pullout is inserted into the news section only for single-copy customers. Home-delivery subscribers receive the two sections one on top of the other because they will pull them apart anyway. Previously, Part 2 appeared in the same place, in the middle of the paper, but without the tab. Newsday's tab idea is not new. It tried a similar concept in the 1960s, when it cut an index notch from the edge of the paper. But it suspended the practice in the '70s because the switch to offset printing made it hard to vacuum the cutouts from folders because of wetness from the offset process, McNulty said. In the new system, there are no paper cutouts because specially altered knives in the folders cut a notch out of one edge of the paper at the same time they cut a tab in the other. Both the News and Newsday use Ferag Inc. mailroom equipment to wind advance sections onto large spools as they come off the presses and then unwind them and insert them into the main news sections as they come off the presses later in the day. Before shifting to daily inserting, Newsday had two years to work out the kinks by using its four inserters to prepare Sunday papers. McNulty said initial reaction has been good. "Most people find it useful and modern," and there have been no complaints. Newsday operations manager Ken Savold reported no production problems since starting daily inserting March 31. It wasn't so easy at the News, which went right into daily inserting when it opened its $150 million plant in March 1993. "For the first three months it was just pure hell," said Larry Strutton, CEO, president and publisher of the Denver paper, who described a harrowing ride on what fits the clich? as the bleeding edge of technology. Plagued by production problems for months, the paper actually lost circulation. After "turning the corner" in September, the risk is paying off in growing circulation and advertising, he said. The News took a more ambitious path than Newsday. Its research found that readers "liked our format but couldn't share the paper with others," Strutton said. In conjunction with its new plant, the News reconfigured itself into four sections, each designed to be pulled out and read separately. Classified and arts sections are printed in advance and stored. The sports section and main news section are printed at the same time, but sports is designed to be pulled out. As news and sports come off the press, they form a jacket into which the classified and arts sections are inserted. "It makes us even more competitive than we were before," Strutton said. "You get the best of both worlds: You get the convenient size and you can share the paper . . . . We essentially have a four-section paper you can pass around the table." Engineering and training "deficiencies" still limit the post-press system to 80% to 85% of efficiency, he said, "but we're getting the paper out in good shape." Readers and advertisers alike give the reconfigured newspaper high grades, and ad revenues have gone up "substantially," Strutton said. The new makeup has created color ad positions in the back of the sports section and in the centerfolds of news and sports sections. "We get more advertising because of them," he said, adding that auto advertisers like the front of the stand-alone classified section and centerfolds are sold "pretty regularly." "Most advertisers love it because they have the option of being in the main news or the other sections," he said. Producing a tabloid always has been a problem because the size of classified dictated much of the paper's layout, forcing regular features to move within the paper day to day. Only news and sports remained anchored in the front and back. "The problem was that technically there was no way to create sections until you got something like the Ferag system," Strutton said. By printing in three runs, the News essentially has tripled the capacity of its five new eight-unit Goss Colorliner presses to 384 pages, from 128, on straight runs. That includes up to 72 pages of process color. Capital costs and start-up problems aside, the new system raises operating costs because of added press runs and increased mailroom staffing. The problems were nightmarish, Strutton said, because "no one had done it the way we were doing it, so there was no model to follow." "The decision was whether to build a plant like everybody else's or take a gamble and build a plant to put us ahead of the curve," Strutton said. "We took a gamble and it's worked. "We don't get any complaints anymore about people being able to find things in the paper," he noted. "Before, it was a matter of how many complaints you got." He said the inserting technology could benefit broadsheet newspapers as well because by adding mailroom equipment, they can avoid the need for more presses. "With these capabilities, if I was a broadsheet, I would consider it," he said. ?( To make its bounties more accessible to readers, Newsday, including its New York City edition, New York Newsday, added a tab to its feature section, Part 2. Readers simply grab the thumbnail-sized tab extending from the right edge of the paper and pull.) [Photo & Caption]