Aurelio Maruggi

Aurelio Maruggi, vice president and general manager of inkjet high-speed production solutions for Hewlett-Packard, spoke to Newspapers & Technology about HP's digital print offerings for the newspaper industry and whether the technology is really ready to deliver.

How is HP approaching newspapers and how do you see HP fitting into this industry?

It is a key focus for HP to engage with the industry to understand pain points and trends. The conversations we have participated in with newspaper experts to date have helped us shape the product strategy in a way that can effectively address what the industry requires.

The newspaper industry is seeing some trends and pressure in common with other graphic arts industries, such as rising input costs, demand for more personalized and targeted information and growing digital sophistication. The newspaper industry is in a unique position by virtue of the fact that it embraced the Web at an early stage, but there has been to date very limited connectivity between traditional print and the digital world. We believe our solutions reflect a significant step forward to enable a connection for the newspaper industry.

According to HP, what are the benefits of drop-on-demand vs. continuous inkjet technology for newspapers?

The approach that we have taken to address the analog-to-digital transformation for the newspaper industry has been to a certain extent technology-agnostic. We have focused on meeting the newspaper publisher's specific requirements, and have learned that there is a need for a digital printing platform that provides the best combination of format size, productivity, print quality and economics. We have identified the HP Scalable Printing Technology (SPT) as a great fit for these needs. This inkjet technology has been specifically developed to remove the limitations in width and speed of other technologies, and it is used on a broad portfolio of HP products spanning from high-end office products to photo kiosks. It delivers high quality at a level of economics that benefit of the large scale of HP manufacturing.

In addition to these benefits, HP SPT offers a unique "bonding agent" technology that allows newspaper publishers to continue to use their own paper, removing one the major limiting factors of other digital printing technologies.

What trends do you see in digital printing for newspapers as far as news products, niche products, etc? What new technologies and features do you see emerging in digital presses that could potentially benefit newspapers?

The newspaper industry has - at the same time - an opportunity and a threat coming from the Web. Readers' demand for more up-to-date and relevant content is growing at a fast pace and it is causing a shift in behaviors, making online more relevant. Advertisers are seeing this trend and adjusting their spending shares accordingly. For example, we've seen research noting that, for the 2005-2009 time period, online advertising is growing at a rate close to 30 percent, while newspapers' advertising growth is in the low single digits.

The availability of a production infrastructure based on a distributed network of digital presses will allow the newspaper industry to shorten the time to deliver news and even customize the kind of news delivered to each individual reader. This may eventually result in an inversion of the readership trends and make newspapers a preferred advertising medium.

The newspaper industry has been talking for many years about the potential benefits of digital printing. Is the technology really ready to deliver these benefits?

Digital printing technology has been used so far by the newspaper industry in very niche applications because of the limitations in format size, productivity, print quality and economics. The HP Inkjet Web Press represents a breakthrough that we believe has the potential to start a "virtuous cycle" in this industry. Assuming that the price and performance benefits of digital continue on their current trajectory, digital holds the potential to transform the newspaper industry much as digital cameras did for photography.