ContiTech Sheds Light on the Future of Newspaper Printing

Newspapers and digital media will continue to exist side by side in the future. This was the conclusion drawn by the some 50 specialists from the international printing industry that ContiTech Elastomer Coatings invited to the printing blanket symposium in Northeim. One point of focus was the future of newspaper printing in the digital era with devices such as the iPad and other pioneering technologies. In the talks given by high-caliber guests and the lively discussions, everything revolved around the question: What prospects are available to modern newspaper production in light of the growing market shares held by digital media?

"Our conclusion is that newspapers will keep their place in the media world in the years to come. Newspaper printing companies will continue to be successful and to work economically if they embrace innovative ideas and new approaches," said Markus Gnass, head of the Metal Printing Blankets unit at ContiTech Elastomer Coatings, summing up the outcome of the event. In the participants' view, although electronic media are gaining ground worldwide and will displace a certain share of the market currently held by traditional printed products in the Western industrial nations, they will by no means completely supersede printed products in the coming years but rather complement them. "Publishers need to see themselves as service providers for their customers and not purely as information mediums. Only by offering their customers added value and exhausting all opportunities will they be able to maintain their share of the industry in the future. As a strong partner to the printing industry, we are actively supporting our customers," stressed Markus Gnass.

The presentations given by reputable speakers showcased the types of creative ideas that the industry can implement in response to this challenge.

Innovative products as strong brands

Manfred Werfel from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) kicked off the event. His talk focused on innovative products in newspaper printing, and he presented a number of practical examples that have seen success, including the Brazilian daily newspaper Correio de Bahia, which reinvented itself with a complete redesign and employed unusual marketing campaigns to almost triple the paid circulation figures and its share of young readers within just three years. The Allgäuer Zeitung established a foothold as a local brand with campaigns under the name of Griaß di', which had a powerful impact on the market. The German daily newspaper has a well-designed online participatory portal for Griaß di', publishes a free monthly magazine of the same name, hosts events from Oktoberfest to Hüttengaudi under the brand name, and markets brand products ranging from baby socks and Seppelhüte (traditional Bavarian hats) to six-packs of beer with a matching mug under the label. Interesting technical solutions including formats such as half cover or flying page, open up or bottom down, or even super panoramas are another way for printing companies to reposition themselves in the market. Unusual advertising methods such as adhesive advertising posters or booklets with discount coupons are ideas that could respark interest among advertising customers and consumers alike. In his conclusion, Manfred Werfel argued that there is one thing that makes newspapers virtually unbeatable: You can take them with you wherever you go and read them anytime and anywhere in the world.

Economic efficiency and quality go hand in hand

Economic efficiency in modern newspaper printing from the preliminary stage through to printing was the topic handled by Oswald Grütter, Owner of the Swiss consultancy firm quality&more. He explained that the name of the game is perfect quality assurance and process excellence. "The good-quality appearance of a newspaper does not start with printing. In fact, it starts a lot earlier with good photography and suitable editing for the subject. A modern layout must be aligned to the process, the printing ink, and the format. Separation must be tailored to the process used." In order to meet the requirements of their customers, printing companies need to master all of their processes perfectly at each stage of production and produce high-quality and cost-efficient publications. This includes standardizing work processes just as much as standardizing all output systems. Economic efficiency and quality without doubt go hand in hand, summarized Oswald Grütter. And it is his argument that both must be achieved through hard work. "However, it is not the technology itself that determines the quality but rather the employees who operate the technology. And economic efficiency is achieved through excellent communication. He left the forum with the parting words that "this is a task for management".

"Green" production saves energy and resources

The topic of energy savings potential in the newspaper printing industry was addressed by Manfred Janssens, production manager at EPC – one of the most cutting-edge printing companies in Europe with its headquarters in Lokeren, Belgium. The company uses "green" newspaper production techniques. With its waterless printing process and new technology, internal optimization measures, and the further industrialization of its processes, the company has achieved huge savings on its water and energy costs. For example, cooling of the printing machines using compressors, pumps, and towers will be replaced by free cooling in a cooling tower – outside temperatures permitting. The air conditioning systems in the rotation hall were significantly down-regulated after switching to direct cooling, and water from a lake is being used instead of fresh water. Further savings on maintenance costs as well as on the consumption of water, energy, and cleaning substances were achieved through waterless printing. "Waterless printing represents a new standard of printing and offers outstanding benefits and perfect printing quality," summarized Manfred Janssens.

Flexible mailroom technology

Mailroom technology was the topic of focus for Hans Leuenberger from Müller Martini Druckverarbeitungs-Systeme AG with its headquarters in Zofingen, Switzerland. "Newspapers not only offer an unparalleled mix of information and entertainment and constitute an ideal advertising medium, but they are also a masterstroke of logistics – current, punctual, and updated every single day. Ensuring that this runs smoothly requires flexible systems for printing, processing, and logistics," said the speaker. Intelligent newspaper mailroom systems cover process development from rotation to the loading bay, solutions for target-group-specific zoning, systems for finishing and designing semi-commercials, and a comprehensive investment protection and professional life cycle management program. "Long-term economic efficiency, productivity, and quality are vital factors here. Modular systems provide flexibility and offer optimal investment protection," concluded the logistics expert.

Creative advertising formats

Klaus Schmidt from printing machine manufacturer Koenig & Bauer gave a talk on new opportunities for the printed newspaper in a changing media world. He postulated that newspapers have a high acceptance in local and regional environments and that the high credibility and sustainability of printed advertising is proven, but that both must come across as a brand in terms of content and visual appearance. "The newspaper industry needs new, bold advertising formats," commented the marketing specialist. An example would be the advertising supplement "Give me 5" by Main-Post, Würzburg – the first of its kind in the world with five advertising formats in one supplement. By folding, gluing, and perforating, three panorama pages were combined with two zips designed to be ripped open. "Using this level of creativity, printed media can secure additional brand advertising," said Klaus Schmidt with conviction. "Newspaper presses thus increasingly come equipped with special features for stapling, gluing, super panorama, three-folding, half cover, and zip 'n' buy."

High-quality products

Concluding the series of talks, Markus Gnass presented some of the extraordinary services that modern newspaper printing can offer. The head of the Metal Printing Blankets unit at ContiTech Elastomer Coatings unveiled a newspaper that had been produced especially for the event and offers a considerably higher standard of quality than traditional publications. METALBACKNEWS, produced using a waterless coldset printing process, was printed on high-quality paper and coated. It was printed using a KBA Cortina at Freiburger Druck – equipped with metal printing blankets from ContiTech. "We at ContiTech are also making our own contribution to the changing requirements within the newspaper printing industry and our new, high-quality products are providing the ideal transfer media for superior printouts with optimal feeding characteristics," affirmed Markus Gnass.

ContiTech backs environmental project

Innovative ideas and high-quality products were not the only topics of focus at the event. The topic of sustainability and nature preservation was also addressed, with ContiTech launching a new campaign in support of the Northeimer Mittelwald environmental project. In the spring of 2014, the proceeds from a Europe-wide recycling campaign will be used to plant trees in the Northeimer Mittelwald. "As an important local employer, we are facing up to our responsibility to society and the environment and are making a contribution to voluntary and sustained climate protection in Germany," explained Dr. Thomas Perkovic, head of the Printing Blankets segment at ContiTech Elastomer Coatings.

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