Solutions Showcase: Better, Faster Magazine Production
For magazine production managers, getting accurate pages to the printer by the deadline is the name of the game. With increasing production costs and decreasing workforces at many magazines, anything that makes it easier for a production manager to do his or her job is a must-have.
With production workflow and scheduling tools, increased automation, transparency and seamless integration with ad-booking systems means an end to the days of old, handmade flat plans, storing advertiser information in binders and communicating with the printer via fax.
"If people don't have an issue-planning/ad-layout tool, they're typically creating their flat plan by hand. Not only is [that] time-consuming - and costly - but it's also a more error-prone process ... which increases the risks of make-goods," says Mark Walter, director of business development for Managing Editor Inc., developers of ALS for Magazines.
Vince Potochar, production director for Penton Media, says that, prior to utilizing Media Services Group's Production Workflow tool, material tracking was chaotic. If a production coordinator was out of the office, trying to locate information was like a scavenger hunt. Also, the company relied on Excel worksheets and log files, which resulted in duplication and errors.
Production Workflow allows Penton to store client information such as position reports, invoicing, billing and insertion orders in a central database that integrates with a production tool that incorporates all of that information into layouts. At any time, anyone at any desk can view an advertiser's history and the materials Penton has on hand for them, Potochar says.
Niche Media, which produces more than 200 magazine pages a week and processes 15,000 ads a year for titles such as Vegas and Trump, experienced a similar transformation when it adopted Mistral, Dalim Software's electronic-submission interface and print-production management system.
Shawn Lowe, Niche's director of manufacturing, says the company gained the following from this tool: the ability to see the entire book laid out and to enlarge a page on screen to determine whether or not it will print well; and a user-friendly interface that is adaptable to workflow changes and can integrate with other ad-delivery systems.
Jane Hazel, production manager for Mansueto Ventures, agrees, adding that, for her, the most important benefit is the ability to make layout changes on the fly. The answer for Hazel and her company has been QuadSystems' Impoze and Adsync. Mansueto plans to move to Publisher's Studio, Quad's new suite of services that combines the features of Impoze and Adsync on a shared database.
Tips for Selecting a Solution
Before adding a workflow/scheduling tool, production managers and company management should review the production department's current processes and determine what production managers need in order to do their jobs better.
A main consideration is return on investment (ROI), Walter says, noting that typically the ROI for ALS for Magazines can be achieved with the elimination of the first make-good.
"It's a small capital investment that will pay dividends very quickly through the money savings, the time savings and the efficiency in the workflow that's gained," he says.
Match technology to your needs, Walter advises. "Your ad-planning system should be able to easily interpret ad information from your booking system without requiring expensive changes to your ad-booking system," Walter says. "Other often-critical requirements include the ability to manage conflicts to prevent erroneous placements; support for both automated and manual ad placement; electronic transfer of ads to your current editorial page layout; the selection of management reports; and the ability to deliver a run-of-publication export for automating the reconciliation with the booking system."
Linda Garfinkel, senior alliance partner for publishing consultants The Lexicon Group, recommends shopping around to determine what kind of software will streamline the process.
"Not all off-the-shelf solutions fit the needs equally, and price alone is often not a good criteria," she says. "... Try to separate salesmanship from actual software features. Pay special attention to support beyond installation."
Solutions on the Market
Bard Business Solutions
Product: Magazine Manager
Features: A software tool that includes multiple databases that hold information on advertisers, contracts, print jobs, articles, subscribers, invoices and production scheduling. It also offers tables for information on ad types and rate cards as well as volumes and issues. Developed in FileMaker Pro, the tool runs on both Mac OS X and Windows XP platforms.
Publishers who have used the solution: Not available.
Pricing: Not provided.
Contact: 416-410-2273, www.BardSolutions.com
Features: Electronic-submission interface and print-production management system for tracking, administration, assembly, correction and approval of publishable material. Project status is viewed as color-coded page icons, as well as JPG thumbnails and PDF full views of completed pages, all available in real-time from a Web browser. Features complete production-automation workflow, software flat-plan development and imposition, and proofing.
Publishers who have used the solution: Parade Magazine, Niche Media, Hachette Filipacchi
Pricing: $90,000-$150,000, depending upon size of installation.
Contact: 407-574-7486, www.Dalim.com
Features: An IT hub for multidepartment publishing operations designed to provide editors, art directors, sales managers, production managers and printers the ability to independently produce an issue, while working within a common software environment on a centralized file. Notable features include advanced sharing capabilities that enable information and images to be shared between Proteus and programs such as Excel, InDesign and QuarkXpress; and the ability to track costs such as ink and paper to ensure that projects stay within budget. Comes in four different versions.
Publishers who have used the solution: DuPont Publishing, Bonnier, Metropolis Group UK, Reader's Digest Canada, Great Lakes Publishing
Pricing: Starts at $3,000.
Contact: 800-875-7117, www.EFI.com
Managing Editor Inc.
Product: ALS for Magazines
Features: Complete ad-layout system allows production staff to create ads in the runsheet or import ads from a front-end business system, plan issues with tools for ad-to-editorial ratio and cost calculations, and autoflow and/or drag and drop ads from directly onto issue pages. An integrated search feature makes it easy to find specific ads and prior issue plans, and manage ads for different zones and editions. ALS is designed to automatically keep track of conflicts, manage forms and inserts, and support user-definable conflict rules to manage competitive adjacencies. Transfers flat plans electronically to QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign editorial pages.
Publishers who have used the solution: Gannett Pacific Group, PC World, LA Magazine, New York Times Magazine, Washingtonian, TimeOut Chicago, Science, Travel Weekly
Contact: 800-638-1214; www.ManEd.com
The Media Services Group
Product: Production Workflow
Features: A fully integrated extension of the MSGL's ÉLAN Ad software suite, it includes material management and process flow capabilities. Users can track critical production information such as size, shape, color, special positioning and disposition of ad materials in real time. User-defined fields are designed to give flexibility in managing the unique trafficking information required by each publication. Data entry screens allow interaction by different departments. Users can define the unique steps needed to produce each publication, including setting up mileposts and status indicators to identify work performed as well as work yet to be done to close an issue. At any time, you can see how each issue is coming along and "drill down" to the specific details of each ad.
Publishers who have used the solution: Source Interlink, Penton Media, Time Out, Canon, Morris Communications, Transcontinental Media, Rogers Publications, and The Economist
Pricing: Not provided.
Contact: 800-234-4674, www.MSGL.com
Product: Workgroups 2007
Features: Workflow, scheduling, production specification, digital asset management, and ad-approval management. A process automation and management solution comprised of four modules that include JDF-compliant project and workflow management that offers customizable electronic job tickets, job trafficking and scheduling, document file management, process automations and event notifications. Also offers approval management with a dashboard work list, proof trafficking and scheduling, workflow management, automated e-mail notification and a branded Web site. The company is slated to release Workgroups 2008 soon.
Publishers who have used the solution: Canon Communications, Reed Business, McMurry and Publication Services of America
Pricing: Starts at $3,999.
Contact: 800-771-6382, www.Meta-Comm.com
Publishing Software Co.
Products: Advertising Manager (Adman)
Features: Automated and templated acknowledgement and confirmations system is designed to help users keep control of clients and copy. An integrated system allows users to enter sales orders, confirm the booking, and e-mail or fax confirmations instantly. The accounts team can issue invoices and statements by e-mail or fax at the push of a button. Other features include: management reports, links to most recognized accounts software and ability for credit control department to send personalized and templated debtor-chasing letters. Integrates with other PSC tools such as Contact Manager and Subscriptions Manager.
Publishers who have used the solution: Ink, Crossborder, Plenham
Pricing: Not provided; dependant on the program and the number of users.
Contact: +44 844 543 0583, www.p-s-c.co.uk
QuadSystems, a division of Quad Graphics
Product: Publisher's Studio
Features: Connects departments with real-time advertising information. The program is designed to enable users to manage ad information, positioning instructions, material tracking, issue mapping, graphics, as well as manufacturing, print order and postal information.
Publishers who have used the solution: Rodale, McGraw-Hill, Condé Nast, Hearst, Mansueto Ventures, Meredith, Newsweek and National Geographic.
Pricing: Not provided. Two pricing structures - installed or a Web-based hosted subscription; both are based on the number of users.
Contact: Sales@quadsystems.com or 866-246-7693, www.Quadsystems.com
Van Gennep - M.A.C. BV
Features: Workflow management, flat planning for editorial with connection to production and ad systems. Offers real-time and graphical overview of users' pages in thumbnails, production, commercial and report mode, as well as real-time page-flipping feature. Also features schedule, assignment and resource management, and production control with advanced deadline management.
Supports InDesign/InCopy, QuarkXPress/QuarkCopyDesk, among others.
Publishers who have used the solution: Reader's Digest, IPI Global Journalist, Bauer Verlagsgruppe, Programmabladen AKN, Hachette Filipacchi Media, 417 Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine
Pricing: Not provided. Depends on site size and modules used.
Contact: +31-20-697-6029, www.VanGennep.com
Abny Santicola is managing editor of Publishing Executive sister publications FundRaising Success and eMarketing and Commerce magazines. Contact her at ASanticola@NAPCO.com.