Digital printing: Interview with David Owen
VP EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)
newspaper techniques: What progress has digital printing for newspapers experienced in the last five years?
David Owen: Digital printing as a technique has not actually made substantial progress over the past five years but acceptance of the format by readers has, as has the file transfer technology.
The costs and speed of digital printing have both improved to a certain extent but not enough to substantially change the model.
Readers however now accept reading in different forms, and this has prompted publishers to now accept more readily that their content in digital form is an acceptable channel.
The movement of PDF files is now easier, quicker and cheaper than ever before allowing more and more papers to distribute content to a variety of partners.
nt: What are the current business models where digital printing is the best choice for newspapers?
D. Owen: There are a number of models which work well for papers. NewspaperDirect’s model is the most wide spread and that involves us as a third party taking the content and printing locally at our own expense paying royalties to publishers for every copy sold.
This is a great model for publishers because it involves no cost (and therefore no risk) and it allows them to serve travelling readers in an efficient manner.
The downside is that the publishers do not control either volumes or end user prices and they are dependent on NewspaperDirect to set up in specific markets before they can be served.
Over 420 newspapers supply their content in this way and this title stock has grown by 70 percent in the past 12 months.
Sales are growing too with over 400,000 copies sold globally each month with an average annual growth per title of over 25 percent.
The next model is digital contract printing which is funded by publishers (Océ/Kodak) and this allows publishers to identify key markets where they need reasonable volume (New York, Sydney, etc.) and the publishers pay all production, distribution and waste costs.
Problem is that production costs remain reasonably high (compared to offset) and locating international readers is a tough and wasteful job.
On the upside, inkjet technology allows for a reasonable cost even for colour production, and there is the possibility of these TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) levels to come down further.
nt: Digital printing has always been a niche application for newspapers. Do you think this will ever change fundamentally?
D. Owen: Clearly any mechanism for serving out of market readers is likely to be niche given the relative volumes to domestic markets.
As I said before, the acceptance of new channels is more widespread amongst publishers now driven by web publishing but also because of new printing sizes that many markets have witnessed.
Digital becomes one more route from a choice of several routes to market.
Do I expect digital printing to form a significant portion of a papers sale? No, I don’t, and over time the truly viable channels in terms of driving ad volume will become clear.
This is why NewspaperDirect is also committed to providing a range of e-
nt: What is the biggest handicap / challenge for digital printing to break through? Is it speed, cost per copy, colour/format limitations or something else -
D. Owen: Cost and speed are the key drivers of viable printing models but to gain low cost high speed printing normally requires high capital investment.
This is a business of trade offs and right now the most successful trade off is format for immediacy and readers seem to be willing to take that trade.
nt: Is targeted and/or personalised printing (the individual newspaper) something that will come in the near future?
D. Owen: Digital printing is technically well set up for personalised newspapers given the core nature of the process, but because I personally believe the beauty of reading comes in the power and joy of browsing, I am not a great fan of personalisation.
I also think that getting the current model right in terms of speed and cost is more important than chasing new refinements that perhaps readers neither want nor need.
nt: Could you imagine a scenario where newspapers can take further advantage of the digital process than they do now -
D. Owen: The key to future success in printing ventures will probably be driven by local advertising but this will require higher volumes to make significant strides.
The power of a global newspaper brand advertising a local service is potentially very strong.
One U.K. newspaper has removed all global restrictions on digital printing, and if this trend became the norm then the total print volumes for digital printing would rise massively.
Interview conducted by Dean Roper
Page first published: 30.11.2006