Every week, the huge print site at Knowsley churns out 10 million copies of newspapers such as The Sun, Metro, The Times, The Sunday Times, FT, Telegraph and a host of regional press titles.
A little known fact is that, since 2012, they have also been printing a magazine! The Sun’s weekly TV listings magazine, to be precise, 2.5 million copies of which are printed there each week.
The reason for my trip up to Merseyside to meet with Steve Whitehead, managing director of Newsprinters, and Tracey Hart, commercial director of Newssolutions, was to hear first-hand a simple message: Newsprinters, the printing arm of Newssolutions, now has the capacity and capability to become a serious player in the magazine market and is looking to open conversations with magazine publishers looking for more cost effective print solutions.
The quality issue
“Historically”, explains Steve, “the coldset printing process used for newspapers was seen as the poor relation in terms of print quality and something of a ‘dirty’ operation. As a result, generally speaking, magazine publishers have opted for heatset and gravure print technologies.”
“That viewpoint now needs to be challenged and we are encouraging magazine publishers to actively consider coldset printing because of the big advances we’ve made over the past ten years” continued Steve.
Since 2007, Newsprinters has invested heavily in its coldset processes to improve the consistency and quality of its colour reproduction and to drive down costs. The drivers of this change were demands from its newspaper clients for more pages, more colour, better quality and lower costs!
“We have worked hand in glove with the press manufacturer, manroland, and our ink and paper suppliers, to improve print quality – looking at everything from the ink recipe, reproduction, press speeds, and the way colour quality was monitored and managed.”
One enhancement of which Steve was particularly proud was their development of the Closed Loop system which automated the whole ink management process, while simultaneously reducing costs and improving quality.
The result of all this work, said Steve, helped put Knowsley, and its sister print sites at Broxbourne and Eurocentral, right at the cutting edge of coldset printing. In April, Broxbourne won the Newspaper Printer of the Year award at the 2016 News Awards, an award which Steve says reflects well on the group as a whole.
Another important side-benefit of all this work was a significant closing of the quality gap between coldset and heatset printing, which meant that, for the first time, magazine printing on the Knowsley presses was now a realistic option. As a result, in 2012, The Sun started printing its weekly TV listing magazine. And it looks good.
Looking at a copy of the magazine side by side with a similar magazine printed on a heatset press, they are certainly comparable.
Potential for cost savings
The real significance of this for magazine publishers (and, of course, the many newspaper publishers that produce magazines / supplements) is that coldset processes, long regarded as the most cost effective of all printing methods, is now a viable alternative and this opens up the potential for considerable cost savings.
“The commercial pressures facing the publishing industry”, says Tracey, “are such that every publisher has to be constantly on the lookout for new ways of taking costs out of their business. Does the, what is now marginal, quality difference justify the increased cost of heatset? For some titles, it undoubtedly will, but it’s a trade-off and there will be many magazine publishers for whom coldset printing is now a better option.”
“With the improvements we’ve made in coldset printing, it’s a good time for magazine publishers to review their print requirements. Cheaper paper (made cheaper still by virtue of News UK’s buying power), cheaper ink, and the economies of scale that come from being part of such a large group, we believe, make the offering a compelling one for magazine publishers.”
Who should consider it?
Which magazine sectors, I ask Tracey, would stand to benefit most from opening up discussions with Newsprinters?
“Certainly any newspaper publisher that currently uses heatset printing for their magazine supplements should at the very least make themselves aware of the alternatives we offer.”
“Supplements are inserted inside the newspaper and are rarely the reason for purchase. Printing your supplement using coldset probably wouldn’t even be noticed by your readers, but would greatly reduce your costs.”
“There is also a whole host of magazines that currently print on non-gloss paper for whom our coldset offering is suitable – particularly in sectors like News & Current Affairs, Real Life, TV listings, Puzzles, Comics, to name just a few.”
“And let’s not forget the free magazine market, thriving at a tube station near you, where the cost efficiencies we can offer could be highly attractive within their ad-funded business model. This market might want to retain a gloss cover, in which case that could be printed elsewhere and wrapped and stitched by us post-production.”
“We’re not pretending our approach is right for every magazine. We expect that women’s fashion monthlies, for example, which are printed on heavyweight gloss paper throughout, will continue to use heatset.”
“One thing which might deter some publishers from speaking to us, is the perception that we only deal in large runs,” adds Steve. “That is certainly not the case and we already print a number of relatively small run regional titles.”
Not just about cost
Cost is undoubtedly one of the main drivers in deciding where to get your magazine printed, but Tracey and Steve are keen to emphasise other aspects of their offering.
“The print industry is extremely volatile at the moment and there is shrinking capacity. In these uncertain times, we can offer publishers the reassurance and peace of mind that comes from being part of the UK’s largest newspaper publisher – a company that has demonstrated its commitment to print through its £650 million plus investment in its three print sites.
Newsprinters prints 42% of all newspapers printed in the UK, says Steve, and a large proportion of those are for non-News UK titles, so servicing third party clients is deeply embedded in the company’s culture.
“By being part of our customer base”, continues Steve, “publishers benefit from the huge and ongoing investment that News UK makes in its print operations. We have a culture of innovation and a passion for printing. Our technology is great, but our people are better!”
In terms of industry recognition, in addition to the aforementioned ‘Printer of the Year’ award picked up by Broxbourne, Steve was equally pleased with the ‘Commercial Advertising Initiative of the Year’ award won by The Times for its ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ cover wrap. This follows on from similar awards won by other clients, the Telegraph and The Sun, in previous years.
“All of these campaigns involved the stunning execution of new and challenging print concepts and required our staff to work closely with the commercial teams of the different publishers, which all demonstrates the point”, says Steve, “that we bring a deep-seated passion for all things print, and prospective magazine clients stand to benefit from that expertise.”
“Also”, says Tracey, “not forgetting our range of ancillary services that means that we can offer a complete end-to-end solution to magazine publishers. A huge new hall at the Knowsley site houses the magazine finishing plant, which can trim, fold, stitch, bag, wrap, insert, glue… as required. It’s a high capacity site which is already used by a number of magazine printers for their finishing work!”
And, last but not least, the other string to the Newssolutions bow – Newslogistics, which offers publishers a comprehensive range of distribution and logistics services to move their copies fast to wherever they need to be.
“When placing a print contract, the actual printing is only part of the equation, and it’s important to check on the availability, efficiency and cost of these other services,” says Tracey.
Give us a call
Newssolutions, the division of News UK that runs Newslogistics and Newsprinters, was set up in 2014 to increase collaboration between publishers, even fiercely competitive ones, in the area of print and logistics – on the understanding that it was in everyone’s long term interests to pool resources.
As Tracey says, “we may compete at the news stand, but we can be friends on the way there!”
“Given the cost pressures facing the magazine industry, our ethos of collaboration and our new capability to offer magazine publishers a highly cost effective alternative to the way they’re currently printing their magazines, we think the time is right to talk to us”, says Tracey Hart. “We’re looking to open conversations with forward looking magazine publishers to explore ways in which we can help. So, please do get in touch - I look forward to hearing from you.”
1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF
Tracey Hart, commercial director
Tel: 020 7782 6175