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Digital Digest

January 2012
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Fenske Media Finds Gold with Variable Data Printing on Kodak Digital Presses

RAPID CITY, SD—Known as the Gateway to the Black Hills mountain range, pioneers descended upon what is now South Dakota's second largest city following the discovery of gold in 1874. Even though Fenske Media, based here, isn't in the mining business, it has certainly struck gold as an industry pioneer in the art of highly targeted, data-driven marketing communications.

With its roots dating back to 1957 as a letterpress, then offset, printing operation, Fenske Media foresaw that database mining and digital personalization could boost response rates within consumer-oriented direct marketing well before the necessary computer firepower, database analytics software and variable data digital printing technology became mainstream. Today, it serves as a highly successful, family-owned, multichannel marketing solutions provider that caters to a national clientele of banks, financial institutions and non-profits. The company's smallest customers have lists in the 25,000 to 50,000 range.

Built around a central database management system, Fenske's integrated services include highly personalized direct mail packages; e-mail marketing campaigns, including personalized URLs; phone connectivity (IVR); social media; database appending; multicultural and multiracial customer modeling; and multichannel response reporting.

Now owned and operated by the founder's four sons—Tom, Brian, Dave and John Fenske—the modern, extremely clean, 90,000-square-foot facility is situated high on a vista with numerous windows that offer views of the Black Hills, home of the nearby Mt. Rushmore national memorial. Surprisingly, despite all of its equipment firepower, the SAS 70- certified plant only employs some 40-plus workers, eight of whom are involved in database/list management.

Fenske also serves as a showplace for the latest in variable data color digital printing, finishing and mail room equipment. Kodak color digital press platforms in use around the plant include a NexPress (toner), a Versamark VL 2000 (drop-on- demand inkjet) and, most recently, a Prosper 5000XL four-over-four web perfector incorporating Kodak's Stream continuous inkjet technology.

Kodak hosted a contingent of industry journalists and analysts/consultants last month to tour the Fenske Media facility and speak candidly with the Fenske brothers, as well as to provide a product overview of Kodak's Digital Printing Solutions (DPS) Group.

Greg Gresock, Kodak's DPS director of presses and printers, led off the "Digital Your Way" presentation by noting the value-added opportunities of production digital printing. While it only represents 1 percent of the 64 trillion printed pages produced (retail value in 2009: $683 billion), digitally produced pages represent 9 percent of the retail value, he said.

Gresock also gave an overview of advancements in the Versamark inkjet series, including the introduction of several new models. These machines feature improved drop-on-demand image quality; custom spot, MICR and security UV ink fifth color capabilities; the 700 Print Manager controller; and a wider range of finishing options.

The toner-based NexPress Photo Platform has a longer (26˝) sheet option and a faster maximum speed of 131 ppm, which boost productivity 9 to 10 percent. Applications include photo books, yearbooks, calendars, various cards, posters, invitations and even photo magnets. Reproduction quality is also enhanced due to smaller particle dry inks, new screens, Light Black dry ink (fifth station) and a matte printing option.

According to Bill Schweinfurth, DPS director of market development, Americas, Prosper installations can now be found on every continent except Antarctica. Also, 120 million color impressions every month are being output by customers with Prosper presses, he noted. Applications include 58 percent publishing (growth area: educational books), 25 percent direct mail and 17 percent short-run collateral material.

In the United States, among the Prosper installs that have been made public, Quad/Graphics and Offset Paperback Manufacturers (OPM) are currently running Prosper 1000 monochrome presses. Aside from Fenske, 5000XL customers include AGS (Consolidated Graphics), Mercury Print Productions, Webcrafters, OPM, Quad/Graphics and Tribune Direct.

Schweinfurth added that the total page volume produced on Prosper presses is growing at a two-fold annual rate, and that page volumes at U.S. installs have grown 46 percent in just the past two months.

During the Q&A session, Kodak executives were asked about the legal dispute with Collins Ink, which manufactures certain inkjet inks for Versamark machines. Collins must still supply inks through the end of May as part of its required 180-day notification clause. Kodak executives stressed that it will not result in any ink supply shortages for Versamark users. Collins does not manufacture Prosper inks.

—Mark Michelson


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