Agderposten, headquartered in Arendal, Norway, is among the first publishers to use Naviga’s Smart Layouts, following the application’s October release. The daily went live with the software in June.

Smart Layouts pairs Naviga’s Publisher and Templates applications to automate print production workflows. Publisher uses The Globe and Mail’s Sophi AI system and Naviga’s unified CMS to automate the assembly of the publication, while Templates uses an Adobe InDesign plug-in to automate layout of individual newspaper articles.

“We are now automating production on approximately 45 percent of the editorial pages and more are to come with features pages and weekend sections,” Agderposten’s Director of Technology Bjorn Robert Knudsen told News & Tech.

Agderposten is continuing to navigate the learning curve and finding a balance between editorial oversight and maximizing the benefits of automation.

“We have to make compromises,” said Bjorn Atle Eide, Agderposten’s head of digital journalism. “Every day we see the system easily making pages, and the editors are very satisfied with it.”

Knudsen said that as the machine learning features of the system ramp up, editors are gaining more confidence in the app and learning to be more hands off.

Automation, control

Still, because Smart Layouts allows control over individual pages and articles, the publisher has been able to step in to make adjustments where necessary.

“As we were rolling this out, Naviga worked with us to develop customizations to allow us to back off some of the automations where editors needed more control,” Eide said.

The front page of the paper is always created manually, for example. And editors can make small changes on pages as needed without having to recreate the entire page.

“Our editors create a list of content in the Smart Layouts dashboard to determine what can be automated,” Knudsen said. “So ultimately, they still have full control over the editorial process.”

Digital first

All of Agderposten’s copy is created for digital channels first and then for the printed newspaper, Eide said.

“The CMS accounts for our online, epaper and print versions, and then most of the changes we make are to the print headlines,” Eide said.

The app automatically removes digital elements for the print addition, including video and tweets.

Ultimately, Agderposten is finding that balance it wanted in adopting a digital-first mindset. Smart Layouts has enabled the paper to do things more efficiently, while still producing the quality advertisers expect.

“This has the potential to revolutionize newspaper production,” Knudsen said.

“This is a brand-new way to do it. It’s been a journey to get where we are today and make things more efficient while still maintaining the quality of a handcrafted paper.”

Eide said Smart Layouts has allowed editors to get back to basics.

“Instead of being InDesign operators, we can focus on curating and spending more time creating and editing to produce high-quality content,” he said.

Agderposten plans to roll out Smart Layouts to other papers in its group as well. The next paper to roll it out will be Varden in Skien, Norway. The paper is a similar size to Agderposten, with a daily circulation of approximately 20,000. Additionally, Agderposten has forged partnerships with some private papers outside of its group.