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May 2001

Deadline rule the realm in the publication market segment. Even the legendary power wielded by advertisers at some point must give way to the march of the calendar, if the next edition is to get out. At the same time, gaining an extra day to sell or a little more time to get late ads in can make a world of difference in profitability.

The pressure to make every moment count has provided strong motivation for publication printers to implement computer-to-plate workflows. However, having that weekly or monthly publication date on the cover decreases the margin for error. It's also been suggested that the market segment's early and rapid adoption of CTP had more to do with competitive pressure than ROI.

Since the leading publication printers typically have past the halfway point in converting to CTP production, it seemed like a good time to see how some are standing up to the test.

The Banta Publications Group (BPG) installed its first digital platesetter in 1997. Today, about 60 percent of the work at its Kansas City plant is CTP based, and the usage rate for its Long Prairie, MN, operation is closer to 50 percent, reports Patrick J. Aho, prepress superintendent. He believes the introduction of thermal plate technology and effective copy-dot scanning were key enabling technologies for the use of CTP by publication printers.

Even as the percentage of its titles produced via CTP continues to grow, Aho says Banta has found there are several issues that may hold a publisher back.

  • Cost, particularly for copy-dot scanning of ads supplied as film;

  • Experience level of the publisher's personnel in preparing print-ready files, whether they be native Quark, PostScript or PDF;

  • Comfort level with using a digital proofing solution instead of Matchprints or another film-based solution; and

  • Concerns about handling digital ads.

A big part of the cost issue for publishers is figuring out who pays for what, which also ties into who does what, Aho points out. If the publisher is used to working with a third-party prepress operation that supplied stripped-up flats, what happens to that relationship—and the corresponding charges—when files are being supplied to the printer? Also, publishers typically can't pass along the cost of copy-dot scanning ad films, but they may not have the expertise or infrastructure to handle digital ads—should advertisers be willing and able to provide them.


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