Printed Magazines and Newspapers – Will there be a demand tomorrow?

6 03 2012

Someone asked me the other day if I thought newspapers and magazines would be around for much longer. As a printer I hope they will be ……….as a technology and gadget lover, I doubt it.

Large run daily newspapers and weekly magazines look set to come under threat as the next generation of readers matures. The main threat is the “touch revolution”. Readers such as Amazon’s “kindle” and the growing range of tablets that are available are already touting mobile versions of newspapers, magazines and comics. The increased connectivity that these devices offer and the variety of reader personalisation, is seen by some, to herald the end of the newspaper as we know it.

Like many of us, I do enjoy sitting down to read the newspaper. However, if I’m honest, it’s really only on the weekend that I have time to sit back, relax and actually read my way through a whole newspaper. Mostly, I quickly flick through a paper, scanning the headlines and looking for anything of interest. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get a “newspaper”, or magazine, delivered that only had articles and news on the subjects that I was interested in? Without all the extra pages of things that I am not interested in (and would probably never read). There are three quite different ways that this is achievable (and happening as you read this blog).

  1. Digitally Printed  Magazines & Newspapers – with inkjet digital printers and advanced web to print solutions now entering the market, it will become economic to print newspapers and magazines on demand. This means that “subscribers” will be able to choose topics, articles, products and events that they want to make up their magazine (from a list provided by the publisher). These newspapers and magazines can be printed on a digital press and each copy will be printed to the subscriber’s preferences – it is likely that each copy will have the subscriber’s name printed throughout it (for easy postage on the front and personalised advertising). This will probably be good news for many publishers as advertising can be matched to the chosen, products, services and particular interests of the subscriber – and many of the magazines will contain fewer pages (none of the stuff you normally skip).
  2. Mobile Magazines and Papers – Many applications are springing up that allow you to choose format, pages, topics and subjects that your subscription magazine, paper, comic or periodical contains………..and have it delivered directly to your mobile device. You can even choose the frequency you receive the publications. Software enabling publishers to mobilise (and personalise) their products are springing up regularly: (see Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, Livestand).
  3. News, blogs or social aggregators – aggregators are software that search and organise content on the web. You can choose broad concepts such as “latest news” or define it to particular topics. Similar software is likely to be developed and used by publishers to personalise magazines and newspapers for the extra connectivity required today. In effect, you can create your own daily news updates or magazines.

All this new technology could be good news for the environment.The print industry has probably taken up the environmental challenge better than most industries. Most paper production is become sustainable and forestry is being managed by most of the world’s major governments. The dirty manufacturing processes of paper and ink is fast becoming a bad memory and printing may soon even be responsible for a growth in forestry around the globe. Even so, it remains a fact that 40% of printed office material is trashed the day it is printed………..and the use of paper (printed in the office) has double twice since the 1980’s. So the possibility of reducing paper usage in high volume pulp users (such as magazines and newspapers) will prove to be very popular.

Apart from tablets and smart-phones there is some other interesting mobile hardware in development. One of the most interesting of these is the flexible video screen. Sony has put some effort into this and has come up with a working model. Right now it is not mobile – but I guess that will be available within a few years. This provides the potential to give us a reusable newspaper – simply roll the paper out each day and upload the latest copy and pics directly onto it. The idea behind this is that you will be able to get the feel of holding a “newspaper”  but the content will change every day. Something directly out of Harry Potter – but it could be here in a few years!

I guess that one of the clearest, loudest messages for the publishing industry is the news that Time Inc., the largest magazine publisher in the United States, would be run by Laura Lang. Lang was the chief executive of the digital advertising agency Digitas…………obviously some execs have a fairly pointed idea of where things are heading. At the same time big name developers are releasing software that enables fast, easy publication(of existing publications) to the web (see Adobe Digital Publisher and Apple Newstand) –  it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where things are heading.

The bean counters amongst us (and the hardcopy diehards) will point to the news that the Australian print and publication industry reported a 3.5% growth last year. However, the largest growth was reported specifically in the packaging and digital print areas. Other interesting figures show US magazine circulation falling by 15% in the past two years (they stayed fairly static in the 18 years prior to that). In those same 18 years the number of US titles increased by 50% as publishers developed a successful strategy to keep numbers up. US newspaper ad revenues have also dropped 65% since 2002. Interestingly, on-line advertising has only made up for 10% of these lost ad revenues. So where have they all gone? Although reduced marketing budgets have probably been the main reason for reduced ad revenue, it is very interesting to note that mobile advertising has experienced exponential growth for the past three years straight.

So will magazines and newspapers be around tomorrow……….I think so – but – I think they will be a speciality/novelty item by the time my kids are my age.

As usual please let me know if you want any more information relating to anything in my blogs.

I also have some A2 calendars available free to good homes. They depict scenes of CHCH. Just let me know if you would like some and I will drop off for you.

Advertisements




Happy New Year – lets stick our heads in the cloud?

1 02 2012

Janine Dunlop

I hope everyone had a relaxing and rejuvenating break over Xmas. I think many of us needed a good break after what proved to be a dynamic year in the print industry. I can hardly believe that we are into February already.

This year starts off with changes for the Dunedin Sales team. We welcome Janine Dunlop and Phil Thornton to the fold as we bid a sad farewell to Leanne Downie after almost 8 years in sales support.

Phil Thornton

Both Janine and Phil have extensive experience with our logistics division and will bring that knowledge and experience  across to sales in 2012. I will introduce Phil and Janine to many of you over the coming few weeks, but let me know if you would like a priority intro and I will arrange this for you.

We are also hoping to bring you some good news regarding  upgrades in machinery and technology early in the new year……………….watch this space.

So all in all, a very exciting start to 2012.

Cloud Computing

The “cloud” seems to be on lots of “things to find out about” lists this year.

You have to chuckle at some of these IT terms. IT folk just seem to revel in coming up with terms that evoke mystery. Put very simply “the  cloud”  just means that data, software or IT  is located outside you business (or personal computer if you are operating from home) and accessed via the internet.

A good example, of a simple cloud based solution, is google’s Gmail. In fact, google offers a bunch of cloud based software such as google docs, google sites, google reader etc that are all cloud based and free. Microsoft is also getting on board with MS Office Web apps  – which is a free version of the popular Office suite (although all are cut down versions). This blog is written with cloud based software (the wonderful WordPress) and past posts are stored in the cloud.

Of course the idea of off-site software, data storage and IT is nothing new……so why all the recent fuss. Well, again, it’s largely due to our good friends the smart phone and the ipad. These devices have really made data much more accessable over the past two years. People want to access applications and files wherever they are and on a variety of devices. If your data is stored in the cloud – then it  can easily be accessed from any of your devices (laptop, desktop, ipad, smart phone). There is no need to synchronise files every time you get back to your desktop.

This has  also driven a demand for multiple presentation formats of the same data. For instance, a web site may look great on a desktop screen, however, could need to have a completely different design to make it easy to read and navigate on a smart phone or other mobile device. This is driving a whole new field of opportunities for IT developers and web designers.

Many people (and businesses) are opting for cloud based software as it also removes a lot of the hassle around maintaining software and hardware. Just think – no more expensive upgrades to keep up to date, no more hanging around waiting for the back up tape and dropping it off somewhere safe. No need to buy or replace servers to keep a handle on the ever-growing amount of information that businesses store and transfer today. The software is upgraded in the cloud without a technician in sight and there is an unlimited supply of storage available ( you just pay for the amount you use).

Cloud based software also allows for rapid deployment and lower risk when considering major software changes. With much lower capital investment required, the cost of change is reduced and major change can, at least, be considered (where previously it may not even have made the table if a whole infrastructure change was involved).

As more software organisations are offering cloud-based options we will likely see the following trends:

  • The quick reduction in the cost and availability of data storage……..How much does a 500G external hard-drive cost compared to two or three years ago?
  • Subscription based “cloud” versions of software offered as an option to buying a full license CD or download to your desktop or server.
  • Free subscriptions to cloud applications used as teasers for hardware sales (good news if upgrading your hardware).

So is there a downside to this cloud technology? There has been some discussion around compliance of data stored in the cloud. For example, data held on cloud storage servers in Germany by a New Zealand organisation may need to comply with data storage legislation in both countries. However, if the data was held in China it may only need to comply with NZ legislation. Then there is the area of property and piracy legislation to consider (lots in the news around this at the moment). To say this area is “hazy” is probably an understatement. My personal opinion, is that this will sort itself out as a matter of momentum.

I hope this gives at least a broad understanding of “cloud” computing. Just contact me if you want any more information around any of the subject covered in these blogs.

PS: As part of our sustainability programme – we have converted some waste material into memo cubes which are available, free of charge, to our valuable customers (while stocks last).

I also have some reduced size computer desk pads (with calendar) available – also while stocks last. Just let me know if you would like any of these and I’ll drop off.





Merry Christmas – New year Picks

20 12 2011

"Has anyone seen my glasses?"

Well with the Christmas break just around the corner – its time for a few predictions.

I will make like Nostradamus, polish the crystal ball and take a shot at what I think will happen in the print industry locally, nationally and further afield. Some are fairly obvious, some will be contentious – have a read and let me know what you think.

Pick Number One: Digital print will move into the rotary phase

Offset printing press technology cycled from sheet-fed print in the 1950’s to reel-fed (rotary) in the 1960’s and 7o’s ……….and then back to sheet fed in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Now it’s digital print’s turn to move into the reel-fed /or rotary press phase. The big names are making huge strides in rotary press manufacture. HP. Xerox and Kodak have made some amazing leaps over the past few years and now some of these machines are really quick and impressive. Take a look at this press release from Kodak from last year – claiming to get publications printed quicker that offset up to 7000 units/books http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=E4KZ5xa1Hrs

The ushering in of the rotary digital cycle will also see inkjet technology begin to replace laser in sheet fed digital presses over the next few year .

This will probably see magazines, books and other publications revert back to the craft they were in the past. We will likely see huge value add and aesthetic input such as embossing, gilt edging, case binding along with variable print.  A real work of art: leaving the mass consumer publications to be handled by the new touch/digital revolution.

Pick Number Two: The “Touch Revolution” will continue to grow and develop – especially in Video

Smartphones are set to make up over 50% of all phones next year – and almost all of them will be touch phones. The competition for tablets is searing hot,  which will make next year ideal for buying that android or i-pad that you have your eye on. TV’s are already starting to communicate with the internet and your tablet is set to become your new “house” remote.

What has this to do with print ?? Well – magazines, newsletters, novels and periodicals are going to be more likely to be read  on a touch-screen than a hardcopy in the future……………and I reckon we will see the big shift to this accelerate next year.

Pick Number Three: Social Media and mobile will continue to eat into print’s share of the Marketing Spend

As social media channels increase in number and usage – Marketing managers are going to be looking at spending more of their budget on campaigns that involve more SM and other web components and less of their spend on print.

This is not a prediction of the end of print – just a metamorphosis into a different application and use of printed product. I do predict that printers are going to need to re-skill their sales teams to fit with new customer needs.

Pick Number Four: The Print Industry will merge locally and fragment nationally

It is likely that many smaller printers will feel the pinch even more as they struggle to adapt to the new market in 2012. One way of survival will be to team up with competitors to help reshape and adapt to new conditions. At a local level with small businesses – this is a good strategy. Especially for specialists or between printers who have complimentary capabilities.

On a national level though, I think the very large, generalist printers will very likely split. Considering, that our largest printers were created out of the consolidation of a bunch of small to medium printers, this is just coming full circle. 2012 will probably see the larger printers split into “autonomous  business units” or branches before splitting completely in 2013.

Pick Number Five : Print orders will increasingly be placed by a new breed of “broker”

As print continues to take a smaller part of the “marketing pie” people and organisations skilled in cross-channel marketing will  be tasked with placing print orders related to campaigns.

For larger organisations and corporates – this will probably remain the responsibility of in-house, marketing or procurement staff. However, small to medium organisation will very likely outsource the print buying. Unless print shops up-skill, train or recruit knowledge around new channels – we will see a return of the print broker /buyer in the NZ market. Transactional could also default to the print buyer along with the marketing collateral.

Pick Number Six : End to end Process Automation will become an essential part of print

This goes hand in hand with the touch and mobile revolution. The ability to get instant quotes and job placement will become a standard for customers in the near future (automated input process). The production process continues to get more automated year by year and despatch delivery and billing processes are already automated to a high level.

This will serve to reduce lead times down to an ever nearer “next day delivery” as standard.

These are my predictions – and it will be interesting to see how many prove accurate at the end of 2012. As usual, feel free to make a comment or contact me to discuss anything mentioned in any of my posts.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that you all have a wonderful festive season and manage to take some time out to relax with friends and loved ones.

I’ll start blogging again in mid January, until then…………………….MERRY XMAS.





Print On Demand – The Future Standard?

13 12 2011

Print On Demand (POD) is another one of the print industry’s terms that seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. It is also another piece of lingo that means different things to different people. Sometimes, I think the print industry deliberately invents ambiguous terms just to fool people into thinking print is complicated.

This one though, is fairly easy to dissect and explain.

Print on demand has been around for years as a concept. It was spawned out of the “Print Management” concept that was popular around 10-20 years ago and worked as follows.

Your Print manager (Sales Rep) would visit your premises once a month and physically count all your printed items (good ones would actually tidy up and organise your store-room or stationery cupboard for you). Over time, they would  calculate the usage of each piece and recommend when and how much stock to re-order. This made sure that you would never run out of your printed items.

The Print Manager would also store larger runs at his place and “top up” your stationery cupboard, after his monthly stock check or, on request. This was the first print on demand solution. It was driven  by the need of business form manufacturers requiring long lead times, customers requiring larger print runs and the print industry having a very large slice of their customers marketing budget.

POD today could probably be better described as “instant printing”. The advent of the internet and digital print (described in an earlier post) means that lead times can be reduced to a fraction of the time they were in the past. Proofing times are being reduced by file portability and there is no need any longer for lengthy film and plate processes.  We have been using this POD process for years in Dunedin for some large Corporates and Government  departments. Lists of files are sent to our Dunedin plant every night via our on-line solution. We then collate the orders from all the customer’s branches and then group run all the jobs in the morning, ready for despatch the same afternoon.

Why produce in Dunedin if many of these corporates are in other centres? Well it’s still true that good old Dunners enjoys some of the best small pack carrier rates in NZ. It’s due to many factors unique to NZ, such as the population spread and shape of the country. You can still overnight a pack to Wellington from Dunedin, at less cost than it takes to send a package across town in Auckland – go figure.

The latest incarnation of POD has been the placement of a file directly onto the Digital Press by the customer………..true print on demand. The ability to do this has been around for 10 years or more. So why hasn’t it taken off and everyone started submitted files along with the job online?? I guess it has been a mix of a general lack of trust in new processes and that printing is fraught with risk. Almost every single job is a custom-made piece and  if it’s printed incorrectly there probably isn’t a use for it anywhere else. This was the reason that hard copy proofs were standard practice in the past.

Nowadays, proofing is often handled by the customer and a soft copy PDF supplied for print. The print supplier, in this scenario, is only responsible for ensuring the file is not corrupted or changed before printing ………….and that the  printed piece is matched to the file supplied. This has morphed POD into a new term…………..Web to Print.

Web to print solutions attempt to provide the ultimate in POD – Same day or next day delivery by using web-based tools to speed up quoting, input and order processes. I had to chuckle when I read the latest lingo for web to print. Our North American cousins just couldn’t leave it as (the already broad and multi meaning) “web to print”: that was becoming too easy. Now the concept is known as “web enabled marketing supply chain management”…………..I’m sure that there are folk in this industry whose sole job is to make these terms up.

At Kalmazoo we have a variety of POD processes in operation and under development.

Manual POD

An FTP site is set up for customers to deposit files in.

Orders are placed via email and file placed on FTP site by customers. We use this to place a job into the system and complete as normal. This is still favoured by organisations that want to print large volumes and want an initial, small volume, despatched on production (POD) and balance placed into stock for future distributions. A good solution for group running jobs from multiuple branches on weekly or daily basis.

Online POD (Static)

This solution provides a simple POD solution where items are ordered as required through our ECOS ordering solution. We set up a file in our DAM system and a price per finished piece is set up for billing. Your nominated staff are given online access and can order up to a set maximum. Jobs are instantly routed to the press queue. This solution allows organisations with multiple sites to arrange next day delivery to any branch. The need for printing  large volumes and storage is removed.

Online POD (Variable)

Used mainly for business cards, envelopes, letterheads, compliment slips etc – where an online template form  is populated by the user and merged into a PDF to complete an on-line proof.

Once the proof has been completed the user chooses quantities, billing and delivery details, from a predefined list, and the job is then queued to the printing press.

This can be used for completely digital jobs  or overprinting base stock. Again, this solution most beneficial for organisation with multiple sites requiring fast or next day delivery.

Online POD (Upload)

Similar to static online POD – but here the printing file and the database, or customer lists, are uploaded by the customer at time of order. Our Digital Asset Management tool (Digital Peas) can publish direct to ECOS – so any customers using Digital Peas will only need to upload the database for any POD jobs.

Again the value of this solution is a very small order to distribution timeframe.

Where will all this lead to ??

My pick is that as print volumes reduce and printing becomes a smaller part of marketing campaigns, clever printers will branch out into other parts of marketing. Wickliffe invested heavily in the logistics part of our business with the development of on-line tools and the purchase of warehouses. It would make good sense to look at placing our customer services and POD units into the warehouses. This model would allow other (non print) components of a campaign to be carried out in the same building and for teams to share information quickly.

For example a campaign may involve a text messaging promo and distribution of prizes – then be followed up by a direct mail campaign to respondents. These type of integrated marketing campaigns could be best handled by a mix of call centre/POD digital print shop and warehouse facilities. Stocklink (Kalamazoo’s Logistics Arm)  is currently involved in producing on-line loyalty software and providing the purchasing, storage, customer service and other logistics solutions in maintaining loyalty schemes.

I guess time and the market will ultimately tell us what the future printshop will look like .

Let me know what your view of POD is or contact me if you would like any more information regarding any of my blogs………..and don’t forget to stick your email address in the box on the right to receive updates automatically.





3D Printing – Beam me up Scotty

6 12 2011

I had a few comments that my last blog was a wee bit on the heavy side. So I thought I would lighten things up a bit before Christmas.

On hearing that the latest Mars rover “curiosity” had started its 8 month journey to the red planet, I got to thinking that we haven’t really come a long way, in space exploration, since I was a kid. I remember sitting, glued to the TV in total fascination as Neil Armstrong did his famous moon-walk.

Not long before the moon landing, my family bought a colour TV. The salesman proudly told us that it was the 9th colour TV in Aberdeen (my great grand-mother moved in with us – she bought the TV to keep herself occupied). It was such a novelty that we would have the whole neighbourhood crammed into our lounge on a Thursday night to watch High Chapparal and Star Trek. Since then I have often thought how great it would be to have a replicator machine (as seen in the canteen on board Star Trek) to dish up any meal (or drink) on demand. I never really thought that we would see anything like it in my day………but maybe we will.

The visual communications industries, including print, have definitely not slouched in progress. Certainly TV’s have come a long way from the majestic 25″ model that graced my family lounge in the late 1960’s.  That TV was valve driven and housed in a cabinet bigger than the desk I’m sitting at writing this blog. It was installed by piano movers. Today a 50″ LED screen can be moved by one person (if they had arms long enough). I seem to remember the crew on the bridge of Star Trek all staring at a large flat screen………probably around 100″ – no longer science fiction.

Other devices on Star Trek seem to have entered into our daily lives too.

Scotty "I'm not sure what happened last night - but get me out of here"

Jim’s “communicator” is suspiciously similar to a flip top mobile phone. In fact the communicator seems positively clunky and crude compared to the latest phones……………….and no one can deny that all the captains, Jim, Jean Luc, Janeway – all read their favourite novels and reports on i-pads (or was it an android device).

Other things like automatic sliding doors seemed to have crept into daily life very quietly. I wondered in fascination , as a child, at how the doors on the Enterprise seemed to know Spock and the crew were coming………..now, if a glass door doesn’t open on its own accord for me, it takes me a few seconds to figure out how to open the bloody thing…………..either that or I walk into it.

Well the print industry has definitely kept up with the space age. We can now, through digital print, print every copy with unique elements of images and text. We can print one-off books and posters in full colour. The famous Star Trek replicator may, in reality, be a new 3D printing press.

3D printing or “rapid prototyping” came out a few years ago and, at that time, I saw a device that used a type of melted plastic, extruded into rough shapes and cleaned up with lasers. I thought then that it could be the beginning of a “replicator” and my comment was “It will be at least a decade before it can produce  something intricate and another decade before they can do it with some sort of solid material.” In other words I thought it was just a neat tool used for creating plastic prototypes.

Take a look at this article

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQHnMj6dxj4&feature=youtu.be

It depicts 3D printing in action. There are a now a few manufacturers of 3D printing or fabrication machines. Trek bicycles (I want one) use a 3D press to manufacture new parts for research and development. They can “print” all the parts a new bike and put it together for fit and feel in a matter of weeks – where they took months, or even years, to completely revise designs in the past.

The health sector has really taken hold of this technology using it to produce precise orthotics for shoe inserts, dental implant and prosthetics. Mindblowingly, they are starting to explore the possibility of printing human organs, layering cells upon cells to build up (or grow) a completely compatible organ for transplants http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2011/09/3d-printing-blood-vessels/42608/

"McCoy - I want one of those i-Pad 6's for Xmas"

Short term, 3D printing will prove to be very beneficial for designers (of just about everything) and may kick off a mini revolution in small industry. This is because 3D printing uses “additive manufacturing”.

Traditionally we have employed a wasteful method of subtractive manufacturing. Say we want to build a car –  we basically manufacture each part out of a block of steel and shave off bits (or subtract) until we have the correct shape. The 3D method builds up (or adds) each part, layer on layer without wasting the raw material. Obviously as resources grow more scarce in the future – additive manufacture methods will be more favourable.

This could lead to the ultimate in print on demand……….my Star Trek replicator. Heading up to Xmas it would be really handy to print up a turkey, ham and maybe a bottle of Speyside single malt.

Feel free to make comments or contact me if you want to discuss any topic or visit any of our plants.

If you want regular updates – don’t forget to follow my blog by placing your email address in the sidebar on the right.





DAM – What does it mean and do I need it?

29 11 2011

Digital PeasDigital Asset Management (DAM) never really took off in NZ. Part of the problem is that it’s one of those terms that seems to mean different things to different people. It seemed to segment itself before it really got started .

To most, DAM simply means, an on-line website or library to store all of your digital assets (images, document files etc). However, my mates in print production would refer to DAM as a  process (including software) that manages the ” digital asset” from creation to proof to press and then into storage. Our designers and agencies have even more definitions to share with us.

Around 10 years ago many DAM solutions sprang up due to the need for customers to manage their ever-growing digital assets. Many of these software solutions allowed the customers to manage files on their own servers. This started a shift from all assets being stored and owned by agencies to in-house file management and hosted storage. This was a (potentially huge) revenue loss for agencies who responded by developing even more sophisticated DAM systems. Tools that could provide collaborative on-line file editing and proofing, video and audio file storage and file format conversion. At the same time Google, Microsoft, Xerox and other giants have been developing document storage solutions that act as a DAM tool.

There is no doubt that ” digital asset” storage and administration has fast become a must for most businesses. Almost everything seems to a have a visual component now. With the rapid growth of social media through smart-phones and tablets (% of mobile phones in use that are smart-phones hit 20% last year. Australia is now at 37%) it seems that everything points to a website, You Tube video or just an image. This has led to a whole new need and term – re-purposing.

No longer are images required just for A4 printed pages and websites they are needed for smart-phone compatible websites, wide-screen displays, low resolution, high-definition displays, wide format banners and thumbnails. Images may need to be reformatted to suit the device they are being displayed on (or the purpose of the message). Some DAM software systems include conversion tools so that you can sent a provider the image in whatever format they require (Native, PDF, EPS, TIF, Gif etc). The alternative is to store different format versions on file – exponentially increasing the size of your asset list and the time required to admin.

DAM systems have generally proven to be difficult to use (if you don’t use them regularly), they are also fairly expensive. Many have a license fee for users and a monthly storage-space fee per Gig of data storage.

If this all sounds complicated – you can see why many customers still prefer their designers and agencies to manage their assets for them. So whats the point of DAM software if we can just leave it to the designers and agencies as we did in the past?

Well speed for a start – if you can handle the assets yourself you can save a lot of time and effort. From a printers perspective, we often get less time to print the job than it takes to get the finished file signed off (and into our eager hands). A customer may give us a heads-up on Tuesday that they are hoping to get us a file on Thursday and would like to take  delivery, of the finished product, on the following Monday. Most often, final sign off, proofs and delivery of the file to the printer  takes longer than expected and we get the file on Friday afternoon. So any tool that speeds up file delivery to us could, potentially, double our lead time.

Cost is also important in the current economic climate. Most designers and agencies need to charge fees of between $30-200 per file download depending on format, and amount of re-purposing required. This can add up to a lot of money over 12 months.

There is some good news though. There has been some development of open source DAM software recently. It will take a while to become really robust and bug free, but it will come; and will be particularly useful for smaller businesses when it does arrive. These open source software systems will also help drive down the cost of existing DAM solutions. The increasing acceptance of software and storage in the “cloud”  will also mean reduced bulk storage costs are just around the corner.

There is also a global move towards a standard file format. Adobe has always led the way with their PDF and JDF formats and I think it is logical to assume that we all move to complete file standardisation eventually.

Wickliffe has had fun over the past few years  developing a Digital Asset Management tool. Its called Digital Peas. We started off with a vision of developing a modular system that could be sold to customers in modules as best fitted their needs (including on-line proofing, advanced editing and complete agency style file converting )………then we ran out of money.

In a way, that was a good thing. Technology, the market and our customer’s needs have radically changed over the past two years. The Digital Peas that we have recently released is now a PDF based asset library. Best of all, it is free to customers who have awarded Wickliffe Solutions (or any other member of the Kalamazoo Group) preferred supplier status.

The main features of Digital Peas are

  • Simple hosted storage of assets in a library – keeping all your assets at your fingertips
  • Super easy Version Control and archiving administration
  • Category, attributes and tagging controls to easily find, track and group assets
  • Versatile user and asset permission controls to ensure strict control of asset sharing
  • Automatic Publication of images to our ECOS ordering site to link with print on demand ordering
  • A platform designed to easily adapt to the future

Who would benefit from using Digital Peas? Well the answer to that is easy; anyone who is asked to supply files to staff, suppliers or partners on a regular basis. Even small businesses would benefit from using Digital Peas for storing assets. You would be surprised how much time is wasted hunting for mis-filed files or arranging for someone to forward a particular file on.

If you want to have a look at our at our DEMO site (http://www.digitalpeas.co.nz/sign_up) – just send me your email address in the comments box and I will return the demo user id/email address & password.

Give me a call if you would like me to pop in and take you through Digital Peas in more detail. You are more than welcome to come into our office in Kaikorai Valley if you would like to see it on the big screen……….I’ll even make you a coffee and let you in on the secret of how we came up with the name.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow my blog to auto receive new posts.





Digital Printing: Order placed ……..Nek Minute…….Delivered

22 11 2011

Unlike 10 years ago, nowadays,  there is hardly a print shop that doesn’t have a digital printing device and offer “digital printing”. You probably have one or two digital printing devices at home – even the humble inkjet the kids use (that costs next to nothing to buy but a fortune to fill up) is a digital printing device.

I guess, as the digital print industry has now blossomed, the term “digital printing” is so broad that it is difficult for us to define precisely. By simplistic definition – digital print is any device that prints directly from the file without the need of any analogue transfer materials such film or plates. So this covers lasers, inkjets, liquid toner, die sublimation etc.

I thought the best way to handle digital print would be to answer a few common questions I have had recently

“In plain English – What is the real advantages and disadvantages of Digital”

The advantage = Low cost of set up, fast set up, fast turnaround, variable copy = Inexpensive short runs when compared to traditional offset printing.

Disadvantage = Slow machine speeds, higher per-piece rates = Expensive larger runs when compared to traditional offset printing.

In a nutshell if you want a short run, a fast turnaround or a variable copy (different text or images on every copy)  digital is the way to go. If you want pallet loads of same copy pieces – Offset is the way to go.

“Someone told me that digital printing is really just glorified colour copying”

Most light manufacturing digital machines are exactly that – and to be honest, they will do a great job on pieces that don’t need a high quality finish. Such as flyers and other jobs that have a short lifespan.

If you need a high quality finish (for company profiles, annual reports or images with skin tones etc.) you will need a provider with a Digital Press. These are around the same physical size as a traditional offset press and can produce results that are difficult to tell apart from a job produced on a high quality offset press. A good method of checking the quality of your printer’s digital machine is to ask for 4x test sheets. Each test sheet printed on  SRA3, 300gsm paper stock with one of the CMYK colours (as a solid colour) over the entire sheet. This will really test the press to the extreme. Lesser machines will produce distinct banding across the sheet. High quality digital presses will provide perfect solid colours or minimal banding.

“What is the cut off point between digital and offset – I seem to hear different stories from different printers”

That’s not really surprising – this is a moving target totally dependent on which digital and offset presses are being compared. It is also dependent on the specs of each job. However, as a rough guide, I would usually say to customers ask for a digital quote (as well as an offset quote)  for anything up to around 3000 pieces. To give you an idea of the pace of change – the crossover threshold I quoted around 8 years ago was a “few hundred” pieces.

The offset printing press manufacturers are busy making their “economic minimum run” smaller every year. They are focusing on technology innovations aimed at making their machines faster and cheaper to make ready. Meanwhile the digital  press manufacturers are focusing on making faster running machines so that they can compete on the larger print jobs. New models of digital presses are usually released by the major brands  every 12-24 months. Our state of the art fleet of Xerox C1000 presses, purchased only 12 months ago – will probably be superseded with more advanced models within the next 12 months.

“What do you reckon is the next big thing in digital print” 

Without a doubt inkjet.

Inkjet is already making huge advances in black and white. Most of our paperbacks and novels will be black and white printed on reelfed inkjets within a few years. When the colour inkjet speed, quality and running cost can be matched to offset we will see digital taking on the large run market. Already there has been amazing advances in the large format machines (poster, banner printing etc. )

The other big shift will likely be into value added features such as flexible toners and effects (such as Xerox’s “clear dry ink” clear overgloss effect). There has been talk for a while now about he ultimate in “hybrid” presses. These will , theoretically, have digital and offset components and be able to handle, small, variable and large runs. It hasn’t worked perfectly yet, but who knows what technology will bring us in the next few years.

“What should I look for when choosing a digital print provider?”

Flexibility is the key here.

If you can find a supplier that has a variety of machines – you will most likely get the best deal. There is no point printing a small quantity of low complexity flyers on a large digital press or attempting to print an annual report on a smaller , less capable machine. It can also be a good idea if you have  a supplier that can offer an offset option. This way you know that they aren’t pushing a solution as it’s the only capability they have.

Backing up is also important. I love digital print, but I have to admit that digital presses are ( like most electronic, computerized, devices ) more susceptible to service requirements than mechanical offset presses. How many times has your infrequently used photocopier, jammed when you need an urgent copy?? We get around this by preventative servicing and fitting out each of our branches with the same models (we have 4 x C1000 presses around the country). This gives us a high level of redundancy. We can flick files up to Christchurch or Wellington if our machine has a backlog of work or breaks down.

So digital print has brought us affordable colour, economic small runs and  much faster lead times. It is hard to believe that when I started out in print (in the 1980’s) standard commercial print lead times were around 2-3 weeks and forms and publication were around two months or more.

Drop me a line if you would like to visit our digital division in Dunedin or some more info about our digital capabilities.

Why not get your next project quoted to run digitally with variable text?  You could be surprised at how inexpensive your next marketing campaign could turn out to be.

C1000 Digital Press at Wickliffe Dunedin