Like most regional publications, Philadelphia Magazine aims to capture the unique spirit of its hometown. Covering the city's dining, shopping, politics, real estate and nightlife for a sophisticated readership, the monthly magazine is widely considered the authority on the City of Brotherly Love.
"There are a lot of wonderful things going on in Philadelphia," says Philadelphia Magazine's editor-in-chief, Loren Feldman. "We try our best to cover all those things." And while the magazine's editorial staff keeps pace with the beat of the city, production is busy keeping up with technology; they've recently converted to CTP production.
The decision to go digital was hardly spontaneous. For years, in fact, the magazine's printer, Fry Communications urged the magazine to abandon analog workflow. "We were trying to keep up, and we wanted to discontinue that method," says Terri Hartlaub, account administrator for Fry. "We really wanted to help our clients see the advantages to be gained from going digital."
Philadelphia Magazine, however, took the scenic route to its digital destination. "We were aware CTP was the industry trend," says Deborah Cassell, production director. "And we knew there were still a lot of improvements to be made, so we eased into it. For us, it was a slow transition."
After a few years of preparation and conversion, the magazine is, at last, completely digitally produced. And while the digital conversion has proven cost-effective, some have yet to hail its time-saving capabilities. "Overall, we may find we are saving time," says Chris Veneziale, the magazine's production coordinator. "But, on the other hand, we are currently taking a lot of time looking through files to make sure nothing is wrong. It takes more time than before, when we were simply looking at film."
Cassell reports the CTP print results have been fantastic. "There's absolutely a difference," she says, "The magazine looks cleaner, and has much better resolution now."
Not one, but two
Philadelphia Magazine currently utilizes two premedia centers: CRW Graphics receives all ad files, while Techna Graphics receives all art and editorial files. Why two? Cassell says, "It was really a matter of both quality and scheduling.
Having both at work allows us to handle and examine proofs on a better schedule." The magazine receives Iris proofs from both CRW and Techna, who in turn send TIFF/IT-P1 and DCS files to the printer. Fry imposes the files and generates Kodak Poly-chrome Graphics thermal plates on a CreoScitex PlateMaster 3244. The magazine is printed on Harris M1000B presses and assembled on a Heidelberg UB perfect binder.
Currently, the publisher sends CRW native application ad files, though the undeniable industry trend is heading toward publishers' acceptance of TIFF/IT-P1 and PDF/X-1. "That's not a reality for us now," explains Cassell. "We're not a huge magazine with billion-dollar advertisers. Since we are a regional magazine, many of our advertisers are local businesses. And many of those businesses are very small mom-and-pop stores that simply don't have the means or that kind of sophistication right now."
Making the best of things
When Philadelphia Magazine produced its annual "Best of Philly" edition last August, the production team was admittedly more anxious than usual. "The "Best of" edition is the one people save," says Cassell. "If there was one edition that had to be flawless, this was the one."
Crammed with graphic-heavy articles and advertisements, the annual "Best of Philly" edition weighs in at about 80 pages more than an average Philadelphia Magazine issue, and traditionally achieves a 25 percent increase in circulation. Last year marked the first time the coveted edition was completely digitally produced, and, according to Cassell, "It looked fantastic. We were really pleased."
Communication is key
For publishers who have yet to hop on the digital train, Cassell has literally one word of advice: communication. "It's so important to [maintain] ongoing communication between everyone involved—the publisher, prepress and printer. The whole digital process is fairly new and it's important that everyone know what to expect."
CTP Evangelist Linda Manes Good-win offers some additional advice for publications, like Philadelphia Magazine, who are taking, or are considering taking, the digital plunge.
"You really need to be prepared for CTP," says Manes Goodwin, executive director of Manes Goodwin Associates. "It's not something to just jump into. Companies need to do all their research first. They need to understand how the entire workflow will be affected. They need to hire and train a staff that will know how to handle the new workflow. They also need to prepare with their printer and with their advertisers.
"Only when the initial steps are taken," Manes Goodwin adds, "should they say, 'I'm ready now'."