New technologies will make newspaper houses more efficient and leaner than what they are today

Currently, 10 leading Indian media companiesincluding Jagran Prakashan, The Times Group, HT Media and ABP are using ppi Media’s software solutions. In an exclusive talk with All About Newspapers, Dr Hauke Berndt, Managing Director/CEO, ppi Media GmbH, Hamburg, Germany, says the newspaper market in India is still very much on the upswing, even though publishers are now naturally suffering from the Corona situation. Excerpts.

What are the commonalities and differences amongst the newspaper houses using ppi Media products in different regions around the world?

In the USA, for example, we work with large publishing groups that want to simplify, automate and standardise their production workflows. This is exactly what we are achieving with our ‘Digital Assembly Line’. In Germany, many large publishing houses have already taken this step. On the German market we are focusing on our Editorial Solutions. With our editorial system Content-X, editors can finally work truly online first and use the WebCMS editor for print and online articles. Indian publishers are interested both in simplifying production workflows and in our EditorialSolutions.

What do you say about your impression of the Indian newspaper houses and your experiences with them so far?

We are always happy to work with our Indian customers. We have a strong bond with the country and have been operating in India for 20 years. The Indian newspaper market is still very much on the upswing, even though publishers are now naturally suffering greatly from the Corona situation. Basically, our experience is that Indian publishers attach great importance to modern workflows and structures and are also investing in the digital sector. And Indian publishers are tough negotiating partners (laugh).

Tell us in brief about the ppi Media’s customised solutionsdesigned specifically for the Indian news publishers?

Especially for the first installations in India, the available bandwidths were a limiting factor. Since many of our Indian customers produce at different locations, the optimal use of the existing infrastructure is of great importance. We have developed solutions specifically for the Indian market that prioritise and distribute data while taking network utilisation into account.

Due to the strong growth of vernacular language titles, we have also been supporting different languages such as Hindi or Bengali for many years. In general, we adapt all solutions to the needs of our customers. If a customer has certain requirements that we cannot meet today, we will try to make them possible.

Currently how many Indian newspaper houses are in your client list?

We currently work with 10 Indian publishing houses, including media companies such as Jagran Prakashan, The Times Group, HT Media and ABP.

Do they have good understanding of the cost and advantage of the products and solutions of ppi Media?

Basically, this is the question of the ROI (return on investment) in our projects. I am very sure that our customers have analysed this in detail before deciding on our solutions. There is such a huge potential for lower costs, higher transparency and production reliability that the investment in our solutions often pays off for our customers within the first year.

Especially with our new online first strategy for editorial offices we can achieve cost savings of up to 90 percent in certain areas. It is therefore important to consider not only the one-off project costs but also the long-term savings potential. We help our customers and interested publishers in this respect by conducting process analyses in which we highlight the savings potential.

Which ppi Media solution(s) is/are widely used amongst the Indian media houses?

Most of our customers use modules from our Digital Assembly Line, such as the planning solution PlanPag. With the introduction of PlanPag, our ad solutions AdPag and AdMan, and DistEL for automatic page assembly, Jagran Prakashan, for example, has succeeded in establishing significantly more efficient planning and production workflows. Dainik Jagran is now planned centrally in Kanpur for over 30 printing sites.

In our latest projects at The Printers Mysore and ABP, our editorial solution Content-X is also part of the overall package. Due to the local language support and our intelligent integration of online and print, this solution is gaining increasing importance in the Indian market.

Tell us about your software installation process in India—is it done onsite or remotely?

We can work very well remotely, and our support will assist our customers around the clock from Germany if desired. However, especially when customers put new software modules into operation, our employees are very often on site in India to accompany a go-live. We also train the publishing house employees there in the use of our solutions.

How do you manage business and customer-connection during the COVID-19 situation, all over the world in general and in India in particular?

It is very important for us to talk to our customers – especially now. Our consultants and key account managers actively approach our clients to find out how we can support them in this special situation. And we always find solutions for special problems: In recent months, for example, we have actively supported customers in working from home or ensured that newspapers could be printed even if a printing plant was down due to Corona. Our services and support have been 100 percent available every day in the last few months. We are currently discussing with an Indian publisher the possibilities of carrying out a complete project largely remotely.

Share with us the way how ppi Media is taking part in fighting against the global pandemic?

First, we made sure very early on that our employees could work safely from home and working in our offices is still only possible under strict conditions. In this way, we can ensure that the risk of infection and spreading the virus is kept to a minimum, thus protecting the health of everyone. But of course, we also contribute to the fight against the virus by helping our customers to maintain independent quality journalism and produce newspapers safely even in times of crisis. High-quality journalistic content is especially important right now to provide people with the right information.

What do you say about the newspaper industry, which has already undergone a disruptive phase and now facing a tough time in the COVID-19 crisis?

Publishers are suffering greatly now, but the crisis also offers opportunities. People’s demand for information is not only unbroken but has increased. Digital journalistic offerings have been used even more since the crisis, and publishers must continue to try to set up working revenue models. The advertising market has, of course, slumped sharply, but seems to be recovering already, at least in Germany.

Where do you see the future of the news media industry in the next one decade or so?

There will still be newspapers in ten years’ time, and they will still be of great importance to publishers then. However, publishing houses will be even more efficient and leaner than they are now, partly due to the use of new technologies such as artificial intelligence. Paid content will become more important as the willingness to pay for high-quality,exclusive content also increases.

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