Learning for the digitization of a large-scale magazine publishing enterprise is no walk in the park, even for the most capable and committed companies. Nevertheless, industry trailblazers such as media monolith ZD Inc. (Ziff-Davis Inc.) have demonstrated that—by mapping out a course of action and following it step by step, avoiding shortcuts, choosing supportive traveling companions, and simply keeping the faith—a sojourner can find light at the end of the tunnel.
ZD Inc. publishes a range of computer-technology-related magazines, such as PC Magazine, PC Week, Yahoo! Internet Life, Computer Shopper, Sm@rt Reseller and Family PC, among others. Magazine production is centralized in and administered from ZD's headquarters in New York City, home to about a third of its U.S. titles. The rest are based in San Francisco; Lombard, IL; Medford, MA; and Garden City, NY.
Prepress Director Lloyd Schultz oversees prepress and editorial production for ZD from New York City. He has coordinated the development of the company's digital workflow, internally and in conjunction with its suppliers, helping to orchestrate a title-by-title conversion to CTP and facilitating a transition to digital ads.
For ZD, digitization began at home, culminating in state-of-the-art editorial operations and three in-house digital prepress centers (in New York City, San Francisco and Lombard), each capable of services from color separations to preflighting, OPI, proofing and digital file transfer via WAM!NET.
"We did everything in our power for 10 straight years to go digital in house," Schultz declares. "We did what we could early, but not unwisely early. In time, we were able to (convert to digital) everywhere and make the new workflow stable."
That internal digital evolution has been paced by the availability of applications and hardware. "We buy when we can get practical quality for a practical price," Schultz stresses.
"For example, we used to create pages in Quark or PageMaker, and create graphics in Illustrator or FreeHand, but had to have an outside service bureau grab the high-res computer screen images we publish—that is, until it became cost-effective for us to do our own grabs. When doing color separations on less than a high-end drum scanner became practical, we brought color seps in house. We've been using WAM!NET since mid-1996, and presently use it for sending files internally and to suppliers. And, now, we can finally buy RIP equipment for a reasonable price."