Concerns are rising about the selective news consumption habits of US readers in this election year. Facing decreased circulation numbers and poor advertising spend, some large cities, which for decades had dual and dueling daily newspapers—one leaning Democratic, the other with Republican...
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One guy who might figure it out is Jim Lucanish, president of O'Neil Data Systems in Los Angeles; one of HP's biggest inkjet web customers. One year ago, O'Neil installed a pair of the T400 models in its new 218,000-square-foot plant in Plano, TX. Its parent company publishes and prints Investor's Business Daily and still does so with conventional offset. But Lucanish believes it's only a matter of time (and money, of course) before progressive newspaper publishers learn how to leverage inkjet technology for their best advantage.
Another potential trailblazer is Tribune Co. subsidiary Tribune Direct, the first direct marketing firm to buy the Kodak Prosper 5000XL color model, which became operational last summer, at its Northlake, IL, facility. While it is conceivable that Tribune also may use the 650-fpm inkjet web press, with its 24.5-inch print width, to produce special sections and niche publications for the Chicago Tribune, president and general manager Lou Tazioli said that using the Prosper to print newspaper-oriented pieces is not (yet) a primary goal. Kodak, now restructuring under bankruptcy protection, is putting nearly all its eggs in the digital print basket, in particular its Prosper inkjet web technology.
Across the pond, "wide-boy" inkjet web presses are making their way into the newspaper printing segment. A range of newspapers are being produced in London thanks to a breakthrough from Océ/Canon. Starting last June, Stroma Limited began printing color editions of international newspapers on the latest inkjet digital technology. More than 1,400 titles are now included in Stroma's portfolio. The specialist has taken a JetStream 1000 inkjet production press, featuring a maximum web width of 20.5 inches, as part of a £1.3 million investment at its west London headquarters. The introduction of the JetStream 1000 enables longer runs of digitally produced newspapers.
"We run between 50 and 60 titles a day," explained Steve Brown, Stroma's managing director. "This is something the publishers have been wanting for a long time, and will now be realized. Color has made a huge difference from an advertising and publishing perspective. The technology lends itself to adding value to companies like Qantas Airlines, for example. We print a couple of titles for them, and they go onto the seats of business and first class. And, in effect, the passengers are reading tomorrow's news today!
Sebastian Landesberger, executive VP of Océ Production Printing, added: "Newspapers printed digitally in color provide a steady revenue stream and potential growth opportunity for newspaper publishers. The Océ JetStream inkjet technology is complementary to offset and opens up so many new doors for targeted, niche, personalized products, which is what the newspaper industry has been waiting for. Newspapers published pretty well anywhere in the world can be read on any continent at the touch of a digital button."
USA Today two years ago tapped European printer Rotomail to produce the daily on its Kodak Versamark VL4200, a roll-to-roll inkjet device that runs up to 410 feet per minute. Through an agreement with Messaggerie Internazionali, an Italian distributor of foreign newspapers, Rotomail is digitally printing an international edition of the Gannett flagship for distribution to hotels and kiosks in major tourist towns and a number of airports, Kodak said.
Meanwhile, to expand their reach stateside, international publishers have partnered with Newsworld and its New Jersey-based printing partner, AlphaGraphics, for the distribution of titles, including London's Daily Mail, in New York. AlphaGraphics is running Screen Truepress Jet520 digital print technology with Hunkeler digital finishing on the back end.
"There are environmental and commercial advantages to be gained," said CEO Malcolm Miller, the visionary entrepreneur who is using the Versamark in a similar fashion overseas in Cypress and Malta. "Publishers are looking for increased sales and improved supply chain solutions in these challenging times, and we have built up a proven model. Other locations are currently being finalized."
All 60 international titles that Miller distributes now are printed on-site, resulting in a 50 percent rise in newspaper sales, attracting more readers thanks to competitive pricing and same-day availability. "Some customers have said they receive their paper here earlier than they do at home," said Miller, whose firm overcame negative perceptions of what the digitally printed products would look like. "When the Financial Times said it was behind us, it became easier to get people on board," he said.