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The Changing Face of Newspapers

Evolving trends present a number of challenges, but also opportunities, to newspaper publishers. The newspaper industry has started to embrace new business models such as decentralized production, shorter press runs, special editions, micro-zoning, and individualization.

MyPrintResource provides an in-depth look at two such production trends in Europe. The first is a hybrid inkjet solution delivering 40,000 digitally printed and folded newspapers in five hours. The second is an innovative concept offering customized news content.

The aforementioned hybrid, integrated solution, from manroland web systems and Océ, is working well for French contract printer Rivet Presse Edition, the first official customer, the partners reported at drupa in May. Under terms of the contract, distribution-optimized newspapers are being produced in different formats — broadsheet or tabloid; long grain and short grain. Both national and regional dailies, as well as foreign editions, are printed for delivery to outlets in a defined area around Limoges, France, some 90 minutes from a new, $13 million production plant.

Printing is achieved on two Océ JetStream 4300 color inkjet presses with 30-inch reel widths that produce offset-like-quality digital newspapers at speeds of 656 feet per minute. But postpress finishing is the key to speed in this process, which is where manroland’s back-end expertise comes into play.

“Publishers across the world are increasingly looking to digital color printing with all its efficiency and cost benefits as a vehicle to produce additional income streams, particularly for advertising, in an increasingly tough marketplace,” said Sebastian Landesberger, executive VP of Océ Production Printing Systems. “Rivet Presse Edition is among the innovative commercial printers who are using world-beating systems (of) Océ and manroland to open up many new doors for very targeted, niche, regionalized, and personalized products produced whenever they want. This is something the newspaper industry has been waiting for. It’s here, it’s now, and we’re right at the forefront of developments.”

Called the Synapse project and developed in cooperation with Rivet Presse, which publishes the regional French daily L’Echo, the cutting-edge business model may open up new editorial opportunities for publishers. The newspaper of the future can be built on variable content to create a “new and stronger” relationship with readers, according to manroland and Océ, and help rebuild circulation and advertising revenues as well as improve interaction between print and new media.

The digital process offers a new economic model supporting “editorial innovation,” said Christian Sirieix, director of Rivet Presse Edition. Some of the leading names in France are expected to sign up for the commercial operation. In the future, newspapers will still have the same core news and features, but readers can receive their own personal content according to their own specific interests or their region of interest.

In the fold

manroland has devised a groundbreaking format-newspaper folding device to create the fully automated production lines that can produce up to 40,000 newspapers in variable formats in five hours. The fully variable, digital, pin-type folder VPF 211 offers the possibility to produce broadsheet or tabloid newspapers in long grain and short grain with different structures. Printing digitally on demand offers publishers a new way of working and enables costs of production and distribution to be reduced, according to the OEM partners. Rivet Presse Edition also is beginning complementary printing activities during the day shift. These commercial applications, based on variable data, help balance the business model.

“It is a unique project for newspapers anywhere in the world,” Sirieix said. “On the same production line, several different titles can be printed and released in the exact order required by the distributor. Better still, on the same basis, the production line will be able to publish newspapers à la carte; that is to say, some having a common core of content where topics can be added or removed from one day to another according to the reading interests of each subscriber. This new process is revolutionary. “We certainly don’t aim to limit competition but rather lead by example,” Sirieix continued.

“We expect production costs and the distribution cost should be considerably lessened by the fact that national newspapers can now be printed at localized print plants for their local subscribers. manroland and Océ … understood our needs: a full flexibility in the folding technology to achieve sectioned broadsheets as well as the production of tabloids. For commercial production, the additional possibilities of a quarter fold are essential for us.”

Peter Kuisle, executive VP of sales, service, and marketing at manroland web systems, said, “It’s exciting to see that our hard work in continuous research and development activities and our common expertise pays off in this future-oriented project, which can change the way some newspapers will be printed and distributed in the future.”

Customized ‘MyNewspaper’ runs digital

In Switzerland, an innovative, hybrid concept presented by Swiss Post Solutions offers customized news content: Create it online; read in print the next day. It sounds good on paper. After all, many people still prefer print to the online reading experience, especially when it comes to newspapers. Europeans, in particular, seem to love their morning paper. The printed medium is tactile – you can touch and feel it. You don’t have to plug it in. You can read it conveniently at the kitchen table, in your favorite chair and/or in the bathroom, for that matter. Research shows that newsprint users retain more of what they read than their oft-distracted, online counterparts.

So, how much would you pay to have a “personalized” newspaper delivered to your doorstep? The MyNewspaper pilot project is making ink(jet)-on-paper newspapers tailored to readers’ interests a printed reality. For the past nine months, Swiss readers have been creating their own customized paper online, choosing daily content options from a dozen national and international publications. Logistics firm Swiss Post International delivers the German-language newspapers the following day. “This means that readers can combine information from different publishers, depending on what they are interested in and their reading habits,” says Casten Vossmeyer, head of press/publishers at Swiss Post, which successfully tested the personalized paper concept three years ago under the name PersonalNews.

During its year-long pilot trial, which ends in late November, the MyNewspaper product was available in the Zurich, Basel, Berne, Lucerne, and Aarau areas of Switzerland. (The same service is available anywhere in the world as an e-paper for iPad and other tablet readers.) Pagination options are available in 24-, 36 and 64-page formats.

Software-inkjet combo

The newspaper uses software developed by Previon; contents are collated into a file based on subscribers’ orders and then transferred to Swiss Post. Individualized newspapers are then digitally printed overnight on an Océ JetStream 1000 by subsidiary Swiss Post Solutions AG in the Härkingen Letter Centre and mailed the next day.

Swiss Post Solutions has been operating the JetStream 1000 since mid-2010, primarily for transaction and transpromo applications in day-shift operation. MyNewspaper permits additional capacity utilization of the system during the night shift. The JetStream -- in its quality, performance and costs -- is optimally tailored for the digitally printed newspaper market, says Océ: More than 1,000 36-page tabloid newspapers per hour can be printed in high quality and in full color on original newsprint.

The JetStream 1000 is “the optimal product for implementing the personalized newspaper concept,” said Roland Glauser, MyNewspaper project manager. “The many years of experience possessed by Océ in the printing of fully variable data considerably simplified implementation of the project.”

Océ holds several international patents in the area of personalized newspapers. “We patented the concept for personalized newspapers and founded the Digital Newspaper Network,” noted Océ’s Landesberger. “As the partner of Swiss Post … Océ is once again a pioneer in the digital newspaper market.”

New distribution channel for publishers

In theory, the MyNewspaper concept offers new perspectives for publishers and advertisers with the customer-individual newspaper. Its target groups include several hundred thousand readers from Germany who live and work in Switzerland. “This model is particularly interesting for publishers working internationally in combination with digital printing,” said Max Rubens, head of Press International, another Swiss Post subsidiary. “After all, there will still be people in the future who attach importance to a printed newspaper and don't want to read everything on screen.”

But the proverbial jury is still out as to whether the project continues into 2013 and beyond. As of mid-September, “no decision [had] been made … ,” Bernhard Buerki, a spokesperson within Swiss Post’s media unit, reported via email, noting that “demand for the service and economic feasibility will be the most important criteria for the continuation of MyNewspaper.”

After the first six months, he admitted, Swiss Post had not “gained as many subscribers as we were expecting.” Buerki added that program changes have been made, based on customer surveys, including more newspapers from which to select content and a downward adjustment of pricing. (The printed version of MyNewspaper had started at the USD equivalent of $62/month, or about $2 per day/issue.)

“We are happy with the print quality and how the pilot is working out from the technical aspect in general,” Buerki shared.

Content repurposed with permission from Editor & Publisher, where it originally appeared this summer.