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Expectations for 2007

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Automation, cross-platform integration and repurposing of content are some of the chief areas that production and manufacturing executives plan to focus on this year.

On the automation front, one key is the creation of a central digital point to which advertisers can send materials.

Marie Myers, senior VP-manufacturing at CMP Technology, hopes to install such a system this year and have at least 50% of the company's advertisers using it.

"It's to their advantage," she said. "They save money, and we get a better organized way of delivering electronic material."

CMP has tested the system with two publications and found most advertisers jumped right on board. "Our advertisers are particularly tech savvy due to the types of publications we have, so it wasn't a huge surprise," Myers said.

Dave Kamis, VP-production & manufacturing at Crain Communications Inc., which publishes Media Business, is also focusing on creating such a site in order to save time and money on such things as preflighting costs. "Automatic preflighting software is getting better and better," he said.

The software enables advertising files to move through the production process much more quickly, Kamis said. "Automation is a key thing we're looking to do here," he said.

Kamis is also working on eliminating problems that occur due to work being created and worked on in numerous platforms.

"There can be a glitch when something is made in InDesign, then worked on in Quark, and then sent over to another platform at the printer," he said. "The hope is that creating this one spot for advertisers will cut the number of these already rare errors down to nothing."

Cross-platform integration will continue to be important, Kamis said. While Crain publications work in Quark, he said the industrywide battle between InDesign and Quark will weigh heavily on production executives' minds throughout 2007. "Now that there is really a viable competitor, it definitely makes things interesting," he said.

The marriage of print and digital content is also a concern for production executives.

Keith Hammerbeck, director-manufacturing services at Advanstar Communications and chairman of American Business Media's Production and Manufacturing Committee, said Advanstar is trying to streamline its editorial process to allow content to easily flow to print or digital.

Kamis said Crain is trying to optimize the repurposing of information amid rapid changes in digital technology. "We're going to see more and more requirements to repurpose information through multiple channels," he said. "The channels will just keep expanding, so we have to constantly adapt."

Paper, a frequent source of concern, is unlikely to be so this year, production executives say. "It looks like the paper market will be very easy to tolerate," said Ron Brockman, production director at Vance Publishing. "We don't anticipate any big increases at all. We actually expect it to remain pretty flat."

Myers said paper prices may even decline this year. "I'm kind of counting on that to offset some of the postal increases coming our way," she said.

Myers is also trying to use more SCA paper, which she said represents anywhere from 9% to 12% in savings. She's running tests and aims to get at least one of CMP's publications onto SCA paper by the end of this year.

"It's the printer that holds us back on initiatives like this," she said. "A lot of it depends on how it runs on their printing presses."

One thing that concerns Brockman is the continued consolidation of the printing industry. He said he is pleased with Vance's current printer, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., "but we certainly expect to bid the job widely when it comes up in two years. And the fewer competitors out there, the worse it is for publishers in those situations."

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