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Small newspapers
investing in big way,

showing confidence in future
In the speaking business, July, August and December tend to be the slowest months of the year. However this year, things seem different. A quick look at my calendar reveals not less than eight conferences between mid-July and mid-August. Combined with the busiest January through June period in my career, the hectic summer is causing me to think that something is up.


Kevin Slimp speaks at a recent training event for a newspaper group. Attendance has been up at most conference and training sessions this year, according to Slimp. He thinks this indicates increased confidence in the future of our industry.
Before venturing a guess at what is causing this flurry of activity, let me share a few things Iíve noticed in my travels over the past few months.

  • Several newspapers Iíve visited either just purchased or were preparing to purchase new CtP (computer to plate) systems. It seems like only yesterday newspapers and magazines were taking the plunge into imagesetters, those huge boxes that created the film from which plates were burned. Most of the papers I visit these days seem to fit into one of two categories: they are using CtP systems to create plates, bypassing the imagesetter altogether; or they are creating PDF files, which are sent to nearby presses. And itís not just the big papers and printers that are buying CtPs. Iíve worked with several non-daily and small daily papers that have purchased CtPs to improve the quality of their printed products.
  • Most of the papers Iíve visited had either just made a major upgrade in hardware and software or were getting ready to make a major upgrade. Itís more common to see Creative Suite CS4 or CS5 products than older versions running on newspaper systems. Although I still see QuarkXpress - usually version 7 or 8 (Iíve only run into version 9 at one paper so far), it seems the vast majority of newspapers are running Adobeís Creative Suite, which includes InDesign.
  • Most of the newspapers Iíve visited are making major revisions to their websites. Iím not talking minor updates here. It seems like just about every weekly and small daily I visit is making a significant investment in their online products. The question is no longer, ďDo we need to have a website?Ē Itís, ďHereís a list of things we want to do with our online presence. Can you help us find the right vendors and products to help make that happen?Ē
  • Most of the papers Iíve visited this summer are taking steps to create or improve their presence on mobile devices. The number of readers accessing the products through smart phones, iPads and other devices will increase with each passing day. Nobody wants to be left behind.
  • Also, most of the newspapers Iíve visited this spring and summer tell me that business is up. In many cases, Iím told advertising revenue is up significantly over the past two years. That probably has something to do with the increased interest in training and consulting.
At the advertising conferences Iíve addressed this year, I hear the same story. Business is up. Itís not where it was five years ago, but itís significantly better than it has been. It might be a bit premature, but, hey, somebodyís got to say it. It looks like weíve turned a corner. Could we turn another corner and see advertising revenue drop like we did two years ago? Sure we could. Our business is closely tied to the economy and where the economy goes, the advertising dollar goes.

However, itís wise for newspapers to invest in the future. These papers that have taken steps to upgrade their operations will benefit greatly if the current cycle of increased revenue continues. A major benefit that I hear mentioned time and time again is how much more productive newspaper operations become after these upgrades. On the downside - at least for me personally - is that increased productivity allows operations to create better products with smaller staffs. But like other industries, we have to become as efficient as possible to compete. And by improving workflows, the hours needed to create a product are decreased significantly. What would I advise if I were to visit your newspaper? Probably a combination of upgraded hardware and software, improved workflow methods and continued training for your staff.

(Kevin Slimp is director of the Institute of Newspaper Technology and technology guru. Read past columns at www.kevinslimp.com. Newspapers can sign up to spend an hour with Kevin during live webinars at www.braincast.biz)

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