Digital Finishing for Newspapers?
The inkjet printing revolution is in full swing, with one exception. Newspapers. While many pundits have been predicting the death of the printed paper, I think they're going to be around for some time.
Not only that, but they have been re-designing themselves to better suit the current market. I was on a phone call last week with Richard Laframboise of Puzzleflow. Puzzleflow is a print production software firm that automates the content assembly and production aspects of commercial print and newspapers. In fact, one of their clients is Gannett, which prints USA Today.
Richard was explaining how USA Today was produced in 41 versions. Localized ad content is imposed to create geo-specific versions of the paper, thereby expanding the ad base. Richard also explained how newspapers were making productive use of their press downtime by using them for short-run commercial work. All of this rang a bell, when he confirmed that this type of production is where inkjet presses excel.
TopWeb, a Chicago commercial printer has already gone down this road, purchasing two JetLeader inkjet presses from TKS USA. TopWeb uses these to print a variety of short-run broadsheets and tabloids. Mike Shafer of TKS says that they will eventually print customized insert products as well. So, what about the finishing end of these presses? For vendors like TKS, production of the final product has been engineered into the press. When producing broadsheets sections, the press sheet section exits the jaw folder with a longitudinal spine fold onto which the additional sections are collated. They then process to a section accumulator where they get the final fold by using a chopper folder through a knife folder the final half fold. For other inkjet presses, Hunkeler offers a complete folding-collating module that connects to the press. Manroland offers a similar system.
There are also options for stitched products as well. The big question is who will jump first in making a major commitment. Newspapers are intrigued by the production dynamic, and new business that inkjet could generate. But in a time of profit pressure, they are reluctant to commit the capital required. Still, if one well-known newspaper makes the investment, others will follow and open up new opportunities in creative finishing for this market.