Ad portals changing production process

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For publishing companies big and small, ad portals are key to saving time and dollars over the long haul.

Portals are Web sites that allow advertisers and media buyers to send advertisements to publishers. All pertinent information—size, placement and issue date, as well as many other things—can be entered on the site.

CMP Media has been working on its ad portal for the past year and a half, and is getting close to opening it up to all its advertisers. Peter Tomski, senior director of premedia and manufacturing at CMP, said the site should be in full working order by the middle of next year.

And while it only saves the workload of a quarter of a person, CMP's ad portal should be as much of a process changer as similar portals have been for Advanstar Communications and Reed Business Information.

Advanstar has had a portal since early this year. Advertisers drop their ads into it, where they are automatically preflighted (checked to make sure they're usable) and filed into the system.

"The real value to us is improved customer service, through ad prep instructions, listing the geometry of ad sizes specific to each publication, print specs, proofing specs and functionality to upload and submit the files in the same portal all in one stop," said Jeremy Carlson, digital prepress and digital imaging manager at Advanstar. Carlson said the site also streamlines the ad material- handling process through Advanstar's production and prepress departments.

Reed Business has had a portal for more than two years and receives 85% of its advertising through it. "One of the things we focused on was making [customers'] work as minimal as possible, so that they could get it in there without it being a big hassle," said Paula Gordon, director of manufacturing at Reed Business.

The 15% of customers that don't use the portal are mostly smaller organizations that haven't quite figured out the technology, she said. "You can only provide as much information as you can to the customer," she said. "That doesn't mean they're all going to do it."

Because a portal is a window into the company from the advertiser's perspective, it is important to make it clear and concise.

CMP's system allows advertisers to simply drop the file onto an icon on their desktop; then a screen pops open to get information on the ad—proper sizing, what magazine it should appear in, etc. The system then checks the ad's PDF-X/1a compliance and goes to a metadata screen asking for contact information and issue dates.

"We wanted to give some of that responsibility and liability back to the advertiser," Tomski said, "without making it very difficult at the same time."

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