Markzware

Evangelizing Digital Workflow for Newspapers

Community newspapers and their printers transition to the digital workflow with the aid of inexpensive software tools, like FlightCheck, the preflighting solution from Markzware. This pre press software can check documents in many file types for print quality control before printing.

A while back, the print world was shaken a bit. Changes in the digital workflow and stressors, like the Internet, threatened to make print virtually obsolete. Fear faded as digital content proved harmless to the printed word and as the digital workflow became one of the greatest enablers to those distributing print.

About a decade ago, newspaper printing required mechanicals and film used to image plates for the printing press. This is no longer the case, as content now is digital from conception (via desktop publishing and graphic applications). That digital content remains digital through the final imaging of printing press plates. The industry no longer has to accept the added cost and time it took to create film, and all the nasty environmental repercussions of film have been virtually abolished from the publishing process. Print continues to be an effective and popular form of communication. Yet, print publishers may endure hard times. The road may be especially difficult for small-circulation newspapers and other publications that rely on advertising support.

The recent tumultuous economy forced many businesses to make huge cuts in advertising and marketing budgets. Publications suffered along with them. To stay afloat, many newspapers and magazines turned inward. Looking to their own publishing processes, they made attempts to regain some of the revenues they were losing. Now is the time when the actions of publishing and printing must be streamlined, friction free and cost-controlled. With change comes opportunity. The good news is that it’s easy to achieve these goals with preflight solution, FlightCheck.

High-Tech at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The digital revolution and its effect on print has been witnessed by Rick Barr, who built a career in newspaper design and production beyond 24 years, spending the past 18 with The Catholic Telegraph, published by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The community-based, weekly newspaper serves more than 500,000 Roman Catholics throughout the state of Ohio and has upheld a simple and precise mission for over a century: to evangelize, educate, inform and foster dialog among the region’s Catholic community. PM Graphics of Streetsboro, Ohio, prints its 24 to 28 tabloid-sized pages, four of which include color images.

As with most community-based newspapers, the publication relies entirely on the support of advertising dollars. As newspaper professional attests, it’s essential to serve its ad base by providing consistent, top-quality reproduction of their ads. The newspaper will accept any local or national advertisement, with one caveat. All messages must strictly conform to the teachings and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Three or four years ago,” Barr recalls, “we would set up 80 percent of the ads. That is, we would create them and produce them in-house, and 20 percent were supplied to us as final documents. Today, that ratio has shifted, if not reversed, so that approximately 20 percent are now set in house and the balance is supplied to us.”

Market saturation of personal computers and inexpensive desktop publishing (DTP) applications are largely to blame or thank. It depends on how you look at it, Barr suggests. It’s great that advertisers are now able to forego the high costs of graphic design and ad agency services. Yet, it seems anyone with access to a computer now fancies himself a graphic artist.

Creating digital advertisements is not as simple as dragging and dropping images and text into a blank page. Creating good digital files requires guidance and a basic understanding of the print process. These days, the majority of ads arrive at the publisher in PDF (Portable Document Format). Just a few years ago, these often arrived in some form of disrepair. Barr says many now arrive in good shape, properly prepared according to document output requirements. Images are now in the proper image resolution, fonts are embedded in the file, etc.

Although not overnight, the printer provided instructions on how the advertisements should be prepared, based on the workflow they established. Then, it was up to the publication to evangelize these specifications to its ad base. “I gave the requirements to all of our advertising reps, and they’re responsible for asking the advertiser to follow the instructions when preparing their files. Of course, if they have questions or are having any problems, all they have to do is put in a call to me, and I’ll walk them through it,” Barr remarks.

When a digital ad arrives at this publisher, it is immediately checked by a preflighting solution. This pre press software verifies the document is complete and ready for integration into the newspaper page in QuarkXPress. The resulting file is checked again, using the same preflighting solution for print quality control that’s used to verify the ads. That solution is FlightCheck, the patented preflighting software from Markzware.

“We use FlightCheck to check every single document we create, before it is sent to the printer,” Barr explains. FlightCheck has been his preflighting solution of choice for over five years, he reports. Barr uses it at the preflighting stage, to ensure that each page’s content is complete and will print optimally.

A tool for graphic designers and document creators, FlightCheck inspects digital content files during preflighting for potential problems. These issues could flaw the digital workflow, whether a document is destined for print or lower-resolution electronic (e-newspaper or a Web site post) distribution. Once a document has been verified as complete and accurate, according to the output specifications, the FlightCheck application for preflighting collects all of the file’s elements. It collects screen and printer fonts, images, text and extensions and compresses the files.

Finally, this newspaper publisher takes the file and distills it in Adobe Acrobat to create a final exchange PDF file. The PDF is FTPd (sent via File Transfer Protocol) directly to the printer’s secure web site. A black-and-white laser proof is faxed over simultaneously, so that the printer has a guide to follow on press.

Thanks to affordable software tools like FlightCheck and Acrobat, Barr confirms, “We have resolved most font, color and image issues. These tools can certainly save money for a publisher. For example, when we started using FlightCheck, we resolved many font issues and eliminated re-plating costs from our printer. Less downtime at our printer means lower costs for us. Our advertisers are happier with the appearance of their ads, which , of course, means more insertions and more revenue. And our readers get a more consistent product … As a non-profit publisher, any dollar we save helps.”

You can buy printing solutions via the Markzware Products page.

Evangelizing Digital Workflow for Newspapers