Publishers are still wary of the digital business models

One of the promises of high-speed continuous-feed inkjet presses is that they will change the way we produce newspapers, enabling personalisation, micro-zoning, targeted advertising and very-short-run publications.

However, so far, this has not happened. To my understanding no newspaper publisher has purchased such an inkjet press for its own newspaper production, although some publishers are assessing the technology.

What we have seen is the use of such presses for printing what are termed international newspapers at overseas locations. Many newspaper publishers sell a large number of copies of their newspapers overseas away from their publishing base.

Previously, there have only been two ways for publishers to cater to this type of trade. Where there is a significant demand for a publication, ie where a publisher can sell more than 5,000, these newspapers can be produced by printers local to the market. For example, large numbers of UK tabloids, printed by Spanish firms, are bought in and around Spanish resorts by British holidaymakers. Where there is a smaller demand, publishers send copies of newspapers by air freight. However, this takes time and so overseas readers wind up with news that is often 24 hours out of date.

The new, digital option means that publishers can have short runs of that day’s paper printed locally to the overseas market at a cost which is viable.

New thinking
A key question, however, is whether newspaper publishers will install their own inkjet presses or use local print service providers to provide services for either printing in remote areas where distribution by air or local printing is uneconomical, or for producing personalised, targeted or micro-zoned newspaper sections. Publishers still see the higher cost of digital printing as a limitation and have not, so far, restructured their business models in the same way as some book publishers and direct mail companies have done.

The potential for using personalisation and linking up with electronic media for targeted advertising or specialised editorial sections to produce micro-zoned sections has yet to be explored. It may start to emerge as more print service providers, looking to utilise spare capacity on their presses overnight, see the opportunity to provide remote printing for newspaper publishers.

I would expect specialised financial newspapers, such as the Los Angeles-based Investors Business Daily, a subscription-only newspaper that is printed remotely on other publishers’ offset presses, to be the sort of newspaper that could really benefit from inkjet technology to develop a new type of newspaper.

Apart from these examples, I think a move by many newspaper publishers to use inkjet technology is still many years away, and this technology will remain predominantly as a means of printing short runs of international newspapers in remote business or holiday locations.

Andrew Tribute is a print technology consultant


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