Among the more interesting demonstrations at the recent drupa exhibition was the digital printing of newspapers, says Andrew Tribute
We saw such demonstrations on a regular basis using high-speed inkjet colour presses printing on newsprint substrates from HP, Océ and Screen. Xerox also showed newspaper printing on their xerographic high-speed continuous feed colour press but they did not print on newsprint.
Kodak to my knowledge did not show newspaper printing on their Versamark presses at drupa, but Kodak does regularly demonstrate this application on the Versamark at newspaper events. Kodak also has developments with manroland for adding inkjet heads at newspapers presses for personalised data on offset printing. Agfa is also offering the Dotrix for printing of newspapers.
These demonstrations were impressive as they were printing current newspapers from different publishers around the world. It was a good source for visitors to read their local newspaper. The newspaper edition digital data files were supplied by the publishers as PDFs that had been used to print the offset newspapers. Most of the newspapers were very similar to the normal offset printed newspapers. In certain cases, such as the Océ Jetstream 2200 printing of the Sydney Morning Herald. There was a width reduction of the page as the Australian offset newspaper is printed to a wider width that most of the world’s newspapers.
It is interesting to look at what is the application for digital printing of newspapers. Such digital newspaper printing is not new. Océ has been working in this area since 2001 when the company established its business development programme for the newspaper market, the Océ Digital Newspaper Network (DNN). The programme’s main objective is to open this new market for digital print providers, get additional print volumes onto Océ presses and install new solutions. For this it has developed a number of new business models, and these are the models that all suppliers are now following in endeavouring to sell digital colour presses to newspapers.
Decentralised newspaper production
This is the only real model today that is in operation. Océ’s DNN is currently producing a large number of newspapers every day around the world at six different sites using Océ monochrome continuous feed presses. These sites are located in Sydney, Singapore, Zurich, London, New York and Los Angeles and print titles such as the New York Times, The Guardian, the Nikkei, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Globe and Mail and many others. This current decentralised newspaper printing market may be referred to as ex-pat, tourist or business community newspapers. In Portugal the VASP organisation uses a Xerox monochrome continuous feed press to print similar types of newspapers. The problem with printing in monochrome is these are mono versions of what are predominantly colour newspapers, and advertisers don’t appreciate seeing their colour ads printed in mono. Up to now publishers also appear not to have liked the quality available for printing digitally in colour.
Additional special editions
This is a special market that can also be linked with personalisation. An example is the German Handelsblatt News Abend, a
digital magazine type format publication produced at multiple sites providing publications for first-class passengers on
high-sped trains and Air Berlin national flights.
Newspapers are looking for ways to compete in advertising against new forms of media and see the opportunity of producing highly targeted zoned newspaper sections carrying very focused advertising and editorial features.
Digital printing will allow such very short run sections to be produced and combined with the offset newspaper sections in the mailroom.
This will take the technologies already operating in digital printing using data mining and variable data printing to highly personalise newspaper sections to work with the three business models above. The current situation as I understand it is that at this time no newspaper has ordered a digital continuous feed high-speed press in either monochrome or colour. All the DNN printing is done on Océ presses at print providers. Printing of newspapers digitally is definitely an application for the future and newspapers worldwide are currently looking at this technology to assess if they can work out a profitable business. Offset printing of newspapers is very cost effective for medium and long-run lengths but the economics of short-run newspaper printing for complete newspapers or sections are still to be proven.
The opportunity is to develop new business approaches with targeted advertising and editorials. The opportunity here is to follow the developments in direct marketing in variable data printing of linking print with electronic media to generate high response levels.
Following drupa the different vendors reported great degrees of interest about digital newspaper printing.
Screen indicates that it needs now to convert handshakes and verbal orders into real orders.
They tell me that the interest at this time is mainly for distributed newspaper printing for foreign titles. Océ indicate that while it does not have any orders at this time for the new Jetstream presses they have several serious projects with newspaper publishers and newspaper distributors. HP generated a great degree of interest for newspapers with its Inkjet Web Press and is discussing potential business with a number of newspapers, but is not as yet taking orders.
Kodak has not taken any orders for Versamark presses in newspapers at this time. It is understood that Agfa took
an order in Portugal for a Dotrix press and it is believed that this is for the VASP organization.
Digital printing of newspapers is potentially a major application for the future but the business applications have yet to be proven. It is obviously a market to watch for the future.