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Commercial Opportunities for Newspapers -- Know Your Strengths

March 2005
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

When Bruce Ross took a tour of the construction site that will soon host the Kansas City Star's shiny new production facility, the newspaper's director of marketing services was stunned.

"It looks to me like an aircraft carrier," Ross said of the planned 424,000-square-foot building. "It's a sloping kind of wedge. It's all glass, it's green and it is beautiful."

The futuristic-looking piece of architecture will complement the massive revitalization era that is sweeping through this midwestern city, adding sizzle to a town known for its steaks. Voters have already approved a glass-enclosed sports arena that will take up residence across the street from the Star's USS Print Shop, which incidentally carries a price tag of $199 million.

But perhaps the real beauty lies in what will take place inside the Star's glass structure when the project is slated for completion in March of 2006: four 50˝ KBA Commander presses churning out the 271,000 daily/382,000 Sunday circulation newspaper. And with the added capacity, the Star plans on boldly venturing into the world of commercial printing a year from now.

"Our niche will be the coldset environment, with capability to produce a large quantity very quickly," notes Ross. "That opens the door for both local and regional printing. I think those opportunities will present themselves as we investigate what this world looks like, who our clients are, and do a needs assessment."

Filling Idle Time

Newspapers across the country have taken the attitude that, if the capacity is there and it fills press time nicely around the paper's schedule, then why not go after commercial work? Not everyone has the capacity, but when 25-year-old news press relics are finally put out to pasture, their newer, more efficient successors generally provide the opportunity to take on outside accounts.

Two factors enabled the 27,000 daily/weekend edition Wenatchee (WA) World to embark on the world of commercial jobs. One was the purchase of a new press in 1999. Two, the World is one of the few afternoon papers left in existence. On the latter front, notes Stephen Shroeder, production director, a majority of the paper's press crew works days, and there were openings to accommodate outside jobs.

"At the time we were rationalizing the purchase of the press, we felt it was likely that we could do a little more commercial work, but we didn't want to build the ROI around it," Shroeder says. "We wanted the ROI to be justified by the newspaper. After we had the press a couple of years, we investigated what kind of commercial work would make sense for us."

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