Digital Workflow – Is There a Cultural Shift?

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With the advent of digital workflow, new responsibilities emerge for the newspaper publisher and ad creator. FlightCheck is the patented preflighting technology from Markzware. It can check documents in the digital workflow to catch potential printing problems before printing.

Ask most newspaper sales executives, and they’ll tell you just how competitive the market place is these days and how tough a sell is when other media forms are drawing the interest of advertisers like never before. Newspapers must be able to compete with these other vehicles, present compelling circulation numbers, and provide excellent customer service to the advertising client. They must be able to accept, position, produce and print the advertiser’s copy and images, with particular attention paid to reproduction quality. FlightCheck ensures reproduction quality during preflighting.

Regarding designs supplied by larger agencies and experienced design firms, digital content may arrive as “prepress-ready” file formats, with all of the elements present and accounted for and all print specifications met. But not all jobs come in from clients well-equipped to supply these types of files. As a result, plenty of bad files arrive rife with font, resolution or color space problems.  These must then be fixed before they can be placed in the imposition, which, of course, takes time and money. FlightCheck warns of printing problems at the preflighting stage, so that they can be corrected before output.

Fortunately, this inexpensive preflight tool is available to newspaper publishers and their advertising clients that smooth out these production wrinkles, and enables advertisers to supply well-prepared and accurate digital ad materials to the publisher, as well as enabling the publisher to confirm that the documents are “good” upon receipt. FlightCheck is the affordable, standard preflighting tool that thoroughly scans documents for print quality assurance in the digital workflow.

The publisher’s role
Newspaper production departments have long been well-equipped to receive numerous types of digital ad documents. Everything from native application QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign documents to standardized PDF documents may arrive. FlightCheck is the preflighting solution that can check these file formats and many more.

As the publisher that accepts these digital ads, the newspaper production team is often equipped with a preflighting tool, like FlightCheck. This tool will analyze digital layouts and alert the publisher to any inaccuracies in their preparation. A preflight tool will flag possible print errors, such as missing fonts and graphics, improper color space (RGB vs. CMYK) or resolution discrepancies.

Preflight technology has been a staple for newspaper and other print publishers for decades. Yet, the digital workflow between advertiser and publisher remains replete with flaws. Publishers and printers report that as many as 85 percent of digital documents received from their clients are ill-prepared and require some intervention before they can be printed. These can contain anything from digital artwork in InDesign to graphics in a visual studio program. FlightCheck is well known for handling preflighting of many file types.

Most publishers and printers agree that the ideal digital workflow comprises digital fields that are supplied in good form. They meet the ideal printing specifications established by the newspaper publisher and its printer. And there’s really no reason why advertisers – whether large, print-savvy agencies or independent designers – can’t supply documents in this way. The tools to verify their content before submitting it to the newspaper are affordable, easy to use and accessible. But it may fall upon the publisher’s production and sales staff, who have direct contact with the advertising client, to evangelize their use.

Fortunately, it is an easy sell for clients who share the publisher’s goal to produce good print ads. The culture is constantly shifting. Ad creators are inclined to do whatever is necessary to ensure the projects they release to the paper will process seamlessly and look great in print. These days, it’s no longer the publisher and printer who share the responsibility of quality control. It’s everyone’s responsibility – from content creator to production to prepress to press.

The agency’s role
“I examine and check all the files before they’re released from the agency, whether they’re for outdoor media, newspapers or magazines,” suggests Donna Carroll, quality control manager, print production, Crispin Porter and Bogusky (CPB Miami). CPB produces graphics and ad campaigns for some notable clients, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Burger King, Mini Cooper, and NOW HIV/AIDS, just to name a few. Carroll says that no matter the size and prestige of the client, it’s the agency’s primary responsibility to ensure their layouts are visually spectacular when they appear in print.

To ensure quality for the digital ads she offers to newspaper publishers, Carroll uses the low-cost application from MarkzwareFlightCheck. This preflight solution is designed to look inside the digital document and to check all document elements. This includes the native application file (such as QuarkXPress or Adobe Illustrator) or the final-format PDF.

“We have 20 digital artists who work on files before I get them, Carroll explains. “For each of them, their last workflow step is to use FlightCheck to check these elements and then collect them to a single file package. Not only is it a checkpoint for us at the creative stage, it is also a collection tool that gathers all the images and fonts, so that within the package, you know that everything required for the job is in there, and when it gets to the vendor, it’s not missing anything.

“Then, they send the files to me,” Carroll adds. “I use FlightCheck again to double check them before they’re released to a publication or printer. It’s our last line of defense.”

Remember the common goal

Like Donna Carroll, Kenny Berwager is a big proponent of preflighting digital jobs before they leave the agency’s doors. He’s a graphic and production artist for Lois Knott Advertising, a small, more-than-35-year-old advertising firm based in Hanover, PA. While the firm produces a wide range of advertising media from print to radio and TV spots, the majority of Berwager’s jobs are bound for local newspapers.

He describes the typical newspaper advertising process: “Lois is the creative director. She gathers any materials I’ll need to produce the ad, and also provides me with a sample layout, just something simple like a pencil sketch. I take that layout and begin the design in Illustrator or InDesign, usually. We currently use the Adobe Creative Suite applications,” Berwager explains. Once the ad design is complete and approved by the client, Berwager finalizes the digital job by putting it through a complete preflight analysis and then collecting the document or output to a flattened PDF file that’s both “camera-ready” and “prepress-ready.”

Preflight is an absolute necessity to the Berwager’s digital workflow, he insists. Using FlightCheck, Berwager is able to see all the contents of the document.

FlightCheck checks for things that may be corrupt,” he says. “I can see if images are RGB but should be CMYK. I can tell their resolution. I can see all of these details about the images and the fonts, so if something needs to be fixed, I can go back to InDesign or whatever application I’ve created the file in, and make the changes, recheck it with FlightCheck and then save my PDF. That way, I know, when the file leaves my desktop, it’s not going to land at the newspaper and cause all sorts of headaches there, or on press.”

Berwager claims that he’s quite happy to preflight before releasing jobs to a client, a publication or a printer. While it may be an added responsibility on his shoulders, he says that preflight is worth the few minutes it takes to ensure print quality, especially for his clients.

“Preflight ensures there are fewer mistakes in the print job and ultimately, that means that our agency or our clients won’t have any extra, unexpected charges for fixing problems with the files we produce,” Berwager asserts. So, whether you are preflighting Adobe InDesign, Acrobat PDF, Photoshop, QuarkXPress, or any of the numerous file formats that FlightCheck handles, it should be considered for use in the digital workflow and advertising process. Also, check out the printing solutions on the Markzware Products page.

Digital Workflow: Is There a Cultural Shift?

Title: Digital Workflow – Is There a Cultural Shift?
Published on: July 1, 2008
Mary Marchese

Public Relations at Markzware

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