A strange dichotomy exists in newspapers today: For every publisher that ramps up new equipment, several more shutter production plants or are forced make the choice to outsource their printing. We all know the mantra well by now: “Print or be printed.”
That dichotomy was keenly illustrated at Block Communications’ daily newspapers on Sept. 8: While the first issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette rolled off the publisher’s new Goss Uniliner press at its new 245,000-square-foot facility in Clinton Commercial Park, the first issue of The Toledo Blade rolled off a press owned by the Detroit Media Partnership in Sterling Heights, Mich.
For Block Communications, the silencing of flexo presses at The Blade’s Superior Street production facility meant huge savings vs. the alternative of a printing infrastructure upgrade (see our Page 1 story). It also meant the elimination of 131 jobs.
And the contract is a coup for Detroit Media Partnership, which because of its advanced press and mailroom infrastructure was able to land a commercial printing gig from a newspaper some 80 miles away.
In Block’s case, the publisher will benefit from both printing and being printed. The much-anticipated ramp up of its new Post-Gazette facility will not only net the publisher savings in terms of insourcing jobs it previously farmed out, but will also position it to take on commercial work (although it hasn’t outlined specific plans to do so). And while Block Communications shelled out severance packages to hundreds of employees when it farmed out its printing to DMP, the move also spared the 179-year-old daily billions of dollars in new equipment expenses — to the tune of $30 million, according to Blade President and General Manager Joe Zerbey.
If you’d have picked up an issue of News & Tech 10 years ago and seen a story on The Toledo Blade being printed in Michigan, you probably would have thought you were looking at an April Fool’s edition. Today though, nothing is out of the question when it comes to adjusting in order to survive. Newspaper production certainly looks very different than it did 10 years ago, but the industry’s greatest strength going forward will continue to be its ability to adapt; to recognize where there are opportunities to right-size its way to survival, and ultimately (fingers crossed) profitability.
With this issue, we welcome back former N&T columnist Ray Marcano. Ray has more than 30 years of traditional and digital newsroom experience, mostly with Cox Media Group. He is now president and CEO of Canis Digital, a firm that helps publishers implement digital newsroom strategies. Our readers will no doubt benefit from his expertise.