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NEWSPAPER PRESSES -- Pressing Issues

June 2001
BY MARK SMITH


It's the nature of the business for newspaper editorial departments to move from one crisis to the next. Unfortunately, market factors in recent years have forced their back offices to regularly function in crisis management mode, as well.

Declining readership, drops in advertising revenues, the Internet threat (or opportunity), industry consolidation, volatility in newsprint prices, and more have made it a challenging business environment. The one bright spot has been the ability to maintain healthy profit margins.

These business pressures have translated into an ever-greater need for flexibility on the production side. Newspaper plants can provide a competitive edge by enabling increased use of color, supporting more versioning of editions, pushing back ad deadlines and reducing newsprint consumption.

The trend in recent years of converting to printing 50" webs is a good example of the responsiveness being demanded of newspaper production operations. A survey done by the Newspaper Association of America in 2000 found that 145 newspapers had already made the conversion, with 144 additional papers committed to making the change and 127 more considering it. On the other side, only 137 news-papers said they were not considering converting to a 50" web.

Not Just Black-and-White
Color, by far, remains the number one production trend. Even though it has been almost two decades since the push to add four-color to news-papers began, press manufacturers report that the demand for more color still is the primary driver of unit sales. Buyers are particularly interested in having greater flexibility when it comes to placing color pages throughout their papers, the manufacturers say. The need to maximize print quality goes hand-in-hand with color printing, of course.

"Today's market trends are a further refinement of what we've seen unfolding over the past five years, which includes the drive for color, color and more color—both for advertising and editorial content," says Barbara Gora, vice president of marketing and communications at Goss Graphic Systems, Westmont, IL.

"Newspapers are looking to improve the quality of their products in order to compete with other media, as well as with competitive papers in their markets," asserts Dave Moreland, vice president of sales and marketing at Dauphin Graphic Machines in Elizabethville, PA. As a result, the typical buyer's "must have" feature is the ability to support high-quality, four-color placement anywhere in the printed product, Moreland says.

"For the past two years or so we've been selling more four-color units than ever, and the demand is continuing," adds Charles Gath, vice president of sales at Web Press Corp. in Kent, WA.

 

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