The number of print editions sold by newspapers has decreased over the years as the digital editions grow in range and scope. But the brand of a newspaper continues to be inextricably linked to the print issue.
Print continues to be an important component in the media mix for the foreseeable future, both for readers and advertisers. Compromising the quality of the print product has therefore never been an option.
With a decline in frequency and circulation, it has become necessary to reduce the cost of producing the print issue. To do that, print editors need access to the latest technology, allowing them to spend less time assembling each print issue, while maintaining high quality standards and design freedom.
More than just making space
The design of a newspaper serves many purposes, one being to serve advertisers with access to readers’ attention. Print ads are considered more credible than online ads and widely distributed news media – such as freesheets – can provide advertisers with reach and direct access through the household mailbox. The design also serves to welcome readers so they feel at home; it acts as a framework for stories, it calls attention to texts that otherwise might have been glanced over and it creates a rhythm so that each page flip brings something new and interesting. It is rightfully considered a craft to create a design that can be immediately recognizable, yet also functional and robust enough to accommodate all your content.
But the design must not be so intricate that it takes forever to complete your pages, or make you resist last-minute changes just because the design is already done. Out of this need came template-based publishing software, but that introduced its own set of pitfalls. It is difficult to capture a dynamic design in templates that can be reused without looking lifeless or repetitive. And stock-piling templates in an ever-growing library adds a long-term burden; when the next redesign comes around one faces the daunting task of revising a giant catalogue.
Template-based solutions go by monikers such as ‘write-to-fit’ or ‘layout-driven editing’. But the advantage of rapidly laying a page puzzle came with a hidden cost – reporters had to write stories while looking at word counters and real-time print previews and adjust accordingly. Web stories had to be rewritten for print, thereby creating more text versions to proofread and approve.
In online-first workflows you do not want to take on additional costs of editing and formatting for print. But without this effort, is the print edition passing the quality bar? And can you maintain this on a declining budget? A seemingly impossible equation, but one that can be solved using new technology for intelligent templating and more automation.
Automated layout streamlining workflow
Norway’s Vårt Land invested in a cloud service for automated print layout, fully integrated with their online system. This change has improved their editorial workflow, facilitated hiring of new staff – with Adobe InDesign skills no longer as essential – and contributed to a reduction in production costs. The focus now lies on journalism.
Previously the day at Vårt Land might have started with an email and an assignment, then writing until 3pm and perhaps completing a web version before leaving the office. “Now we have web publishing as our top priority along with excellent journalism. It has completely changed our work routines,” says managing editor Veslemøy Østrem.
The newsroom now includes a news desk with a news director and a print manager. Three people take turns at the helm.
“We want everyone to agree on the digital-centric approach,” she says. “And everyone needs to be familiar with and understand all our channels.”
Print production is headed by a print manager and a print editor who together put the final touches on page layouts that are created automatically in the system. They are the only users working in the system creating the print edition, – which uses Swedish developer Roxen's editorial portal – while reporters stay in the Arc XP online publishing system.
“Neither print managers nor page designers need to be Adobe InDesign masters,” says Østrem. “They can complete almost all tasks in the system, only occasionally applying minor edits directly in InDesign.
“The days of requiring expert knowledge in the application lie in the past, and that has also simplified our task of finding employees for these roles.”
Founded in Linköping, Sweden in 1994 by a couple of internet pioneers, Roxen has become one of Europe’s most innovative technology ventures, developing editorial and content management platforms with customers in Scandinavia, Europe, Latin America and the US. Its own award-winning and powerful content management software includes tools for multi-channel publishing and audience engagement for media and corporate applications. For more information, visit www.roxen.com