ZOONOOZ is Good News
It's one thing to keep up with the lions and tigers and bears housed at San Diego's famous zoo, but for the city's Zoological Society, ZOONOOZ magazine is similarly stretching its legs by converting to computer-to-plate (CTP) production. Thomas Scharf, editor of the 75-year-old membership-based magazine, says that while ZOONOOZ still works with film, the conversion to a complete digital workflow is on the horizon. Scharf estimates that if CTP continually maintains good color control, as it has during preliminary press tests, full digitization may come as early as summer.
"The future with [CTP] is going to be good," Scharf confidently quips. "When I came to ZOONOOZ back in 1990, they were still using typewriters and art boards!" He says traditionalism didn't suit the magazine's mission to compete with a broad spectrum of multimedia communications. In a swift step to take ZOONOOZ into the 21st century, Scharf invested in PC hardware on which the small in-house staff trained. He explains that the magazine once had a resident art director, but when the designing was computerized, Scharf decided to outsource layout to Warner Design, the San Diego-based creative agency. The difference, says Scharf, is having one individual's perspective rather than that of 10. "Now," he explains, "we have input coming from several directions." He confesses that while he sometimes receives criticism for overly lengthy articles written by the Zoo's well-versed keepers, rave reviews are common about the aesthetics and color reproductions, a selling point for animal enthusiasts.
The digital discussion began taking shape in January 2000, when printing pressures to convert from film to digital production got serious. Finally, after two four-hour focus groups targeting quality control, Scharf rallied CTP. "We're still having trouble with high-end color," says Scharf, adding that he's so concerned about reproduction, he once took a bird's feather to a press check to compare the match in print. In fact, to be sure of color consistency, at least one publication representative attends every press check, studying registration and fine color detail. As a result, the staff and printer report having the approval process down to a science. Scharf says they have each issue evaluated on press in about an hour.
Given that the publisher and printer pay attention to quality, the adventurous editor swears the conversion hasn't ruffled his own feathers—so far. With the LTC Group/ Pacific Color handling all of the magazine's prepress work, including delivery of composite analog proofs—soon to be digital Iris proofs—and Graphic Arts Center (GAC) printing and distributing the magazine, ZOONOOZ has its bases covered. Scharf attributes modernizing motivations to a new membership drive. Because the majority of ZOONOOZers are avid zoo-goers, Scharf concedes that for the zoo to be well represented, ZOONOOZ must be a publication driven by conscience. Scharf starts assurance at the most basic level by using recycled paper, a 70 lb. Focus Gloss by Mead Paper.
Tim Simon, GAC prepress manager, explains, "Digital technology has shortened the prepress cycle time, blurred the responsibility between the designer and the printer and has greatly improved accuracy and repeatability."
Currently, the printer receives TIFF-IT/P1 files from Pacific Color, where film-based images are scanned. Once received at GAC, the files are sent directly to either a Heidelberg 38˝ six-color or a MANRoland M600 press. David Olson, account executive at GAC, notes, "The quality is better. There's one less variable within the platemaking stage. The files now go directly to plate."
Olson should know. GAC has operated CTP for more than two years. He says, "The decision [to print CTP] was mostly market-driven; however the improved accuracy of the process and the ability to compensate for dot gain were also considerations." Olson explains that 79 percent of the plates that go to press at GAC are digital. "There are no bugs in CTP printing; however, there is a danger of a last-minute change being made on press and not always making it to the customer's original file."
Flying the coop
Working closely with Pacific Color has also allowed the ZOONOOZ staff to stay focused on what they know best: content. Scharf says his few full-timers and menagerie of freelancer photographers and feature writers excel at their beats—everything from panda preservation to baboon dietetics to the culture of Kiwi birds—all of which is distributed by second class mail. "We truck the majority of the mail to the San Diego Sectional Center Facility," notes Olson. "We ink-jet addresses in-line on our saddle stitchers."
The end product, brags Scharf, is a highly informative periodical that educates and entertains 600,000 readers monthly. To better serve the subscription base, Scharf says ZOONOOZ has begun accepting advertising, but outlines no formal guidelines for submission, explaining that the editorial/ad ratio is so enormously gapped, that the staff has yet to consider formal standards. For the most part, Scharf's satisfied if CTP saves enough expense to cover at least some of the non-profit publication's operational costs—for this year, anyway.
-Natalie Hope McDonald