GWG "Cross Media Standards and Best Practices" Survey Highlights Importance of Cross Media Workflows

The Ghent Workgroup (GWG), dedicated to establishing best practices and specifications for graphic arts workflows, recently completed a survey to assess the cross media needs and interests of publishing, production, and creative professionals worldwide. Two significant findings include the fact that the proliferation of mobile devices has propelled cross media publishing's growth; as well as evidence that 75% of jobs are destined for both print and at least one, additional electronic vehicle.

Because there are many application tools available for PDF, printers are able to utilize the familiar PDF format for cross media jobs. They typically choose one of the following 3 workflows:  

1. repurposing PDF files prepared for print production;

2. establishing a device-independent PDF as a digital master file; or

3. creating dedicated PDF files for each output channel.

Another conclusion reached in analysis of the survey provides that cross media will continue to have a large impact on traditional, print-oriented, workflows; precisely because of the 75% share of jobs destined for both print and electronic output.

About the survey

Publishing, production and creative professionals; employed in production through management positions around the world; completed the survey. Sections included:

• General questions, to uncover respondents' current involvement in cross-media

• Sending, receiving, creating, and interoperability of mixed media jobs

• Flow

• File formats: XML, ePub, PDF

• Metadata and validation

To demonstrate its commitment and support for global education, GWG sponsored donations to the international literacy charity, World Education[1], for each survey completed.

Survey results will be utilized for new standards and best practice development

Based on the findings from the Cross Media survey, the GWG will develop new standards and best practices for publishing, creation, processing, workflow, exchange and output in cross media environments.

The future is now – Growing percentages of jobs call for print plus at least one electronic destination

Even as cross media publishing is still in its early stages - as is the proliferation of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets - more than 45% of the survey respondents have been involved in cross media publishing for more than 3 years.

As referenced earlier, 75% of print jobs produced today have at least one other electronic destination, such as online, smart phone, tablet, electronic kiosk, etc. The survey shows that the majority of clients are targeting iOS and Android devices, but Kindle, as well as other operating systems and devices, are gaining in importance.

Use of PDF

PDF is still the traditional format used for print and is very well established in all of today's workflows and processes. There are also many cross media tools available to work with PDF files, and most professionals possess knowledge of how to utilize them.

Each of the 3 most common PDF workflows, as mentioned above, brings its own limitations on flexibility and quality.

Workflows

The survey shows that quality control for cross media products typically remains a manual task, as 45% of respondents are using some type of semi-automated internal workflow, instead of a database-driven, automatic workflow, to generate content for cross media use.

The main reason cited for this behavior is survey respondents' strong reliance on workflows established for traditional print. This reliance on familiar print processes may also explain operators' tendency to employ CMYK, rather than RGB, when preparing both print and electronic output.

Standards and best practices

The survey indicates that there are no established standards or best practices in this area as yet, as each company uses its own formulae and tools. The variety of tools and content formats, along with this lack of standards and best practices, not only makes it difficult to streamline processes, but also makes it difficult to exchange interactive content between workflows.

"The industry is clearly asking for alignment, best practices and standards to enable exchange between systems," says Bart Van Looy, the ICT DTP Publishing Project Leader at Sanoma Media who also serves as co-Chairman of the GWG Cross Media subcommittee, and is the author of the Survey. "Respondents know that PDF is not the best format to use in the long run, even though it is frequently used as intermediary solution.

"New, emerging technologies such as HTML5 and ePub are being looked at to better serve their needs, but there, too, exists a need for standards and best practices regarding advertisements, color conversion and quality control to exchange content for cross media output between systems."

More about the Cross Media Subcommittee

The GWG Cross Media subcommittee has been established to review the use of technology to determine if new specifications/standards, best practices, and/or use of other formats (XML, PDF, ePub) are needed to guarantee quality and accuracy control of cross media files as they proceed through creation, processing, exchange and output workflows. The Cross Media subcommittee co-chairs are Bart Van Looy, Sanoma Media, Belgium; and Erwin Danis, Roularta Media.

Next seminars: London, UK - January 23, 2013 - open to the public

GWG is offering two free seminars being held at the London College of Communications in London, UK, on January 23, 2013. The first seminar will cover the new GWG2012 specifications for the creation and preflight of PDF/X-4 files to ensure successful production.

The second seminar will provide an overview of the new GWG PDF for Packaging specifications that streamline and ensure packaging design and production workflows.

Additionally, the GWG will hold its next member meeting, which is open to members and approved observers, in London on January 24 and 25, 2013.

Those interested in attending the seminars or observing the member meeting may send an email to info@gwg.org to reserve a seat, or request more information.

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