Newspaper Production Process Goals and Quality

Newspaper Production continues to get leaner and leaner.  Formats are getting smaller and smaller with new cut-off’s and reduced web width, thus reducing the usage of raw materials.  New equipment is allowing for significant reductions in waste generation and lower levels of staffing.  Automation is allowing the newspaper to be touched fewer and fewer times before landing on the doorstep, also reducing staff.  Production Directors and Managers are being tasked to find every opportunity to reduce the cost of newspaper production, while maintaining high levels of quality.  Although it is certainly possible to improve the margin through refining the production process, it is fundamentally impossible to “cut” ones way to the goals of profitability.  Once the production process is trimmed to the point where it can reduce no more and production quality is still at its peak, has the newspaper production goal not been met?

The editorial content and advertising sector of the current business model has its own set of goals centered on keeping the public informed or providing a timely account of current affairs, all the while providing a suitable positive return on the investment for the ownership of the Newspaper.  In this model the print production of the newspaper is only one means to then end in disseminating the information generated in a salable manner.

The real question in this discourse is, “Are both elements really best hosted under the same business structure.”

If the production element is decoupled from the advertising and editorial process it is free to concentrate on its ultimate goal of providing an avenue for the dissemination of the content generated by its “client” the newspaper for a negotiated fee.  The production element is free to make equipment and facility design decisions that best meet the needs of its aggregate client base, which includes the newspaper as well as other commercial print endeavors.

If the editorial and advertising element is decoupled from the production component it will be free to explore all current and emerging delivery methodologies, and determine what delivery method or combination of methods provides the best return on investment.

This is certainly the direction being seen in the industry as many announce the consolidation of operations, competitors printing each others products, and commercial printers building facilities to print newspaper products.  The question is how far this will go?  Will the Newspaper Facility Design industry and ArcWest Architects continue to see newspapers consolidate their operations, outsource their printing, or create separate printing entities?  Time will tell.

– Todd Heirls

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