The Villages (Florida) Daily Sun is on the list of publishers winning the good fight when it comes to community newspapering. The paper’s circulation is just over 60,000, and — thanks to rapid growth in the community — that number is steadily climbing. Some 120,000 people already call The Villages home, and approximately 300 new houses are being built there every month.
To keep pace with the growth, The Daily Sun purchased a brand-new 100,000-square-foot production facility and new printing equipment.The publisher is confident the investment will help further entrench The Daily Sun as the definitive newspaper publisher and printer in the region.
“Our community is growing,” Associate Publisher Jim Sprung told News & Tech. “It’s a lifestyle community — and with all the wonderful things we offer, more and more people are purchasing homes here. Luckily for us, they’re also continuing to purchase newspapers.”
This summer, The Daily Sun tapped Koenig & Bauer AG to outfit the new facility with a 6-by-2 Commander press.The triple-wide installation will feature three reelstands, three printing towers and one folder.
Situated in the up-and-coming Governor Rick Scott Industrial Park, the publisher’s new location might seem far from The Daily Sun’s current home, which is nearer to Orlando. But with development trending as it is, Sprung saidThe Daily Sun will soon be at the center of the expanded community.
Choosing vendors to supply various parts of the workflow at the new facility has been about forming partnerships, according to Sprung. Cost is obviously a consideration, but success ultimately depends on relationships, he said — both with the community The Daily Sun serves and the technology providers who help to produce the printed product.
“We felt KBA offered us the best partnership, not only because of specs but because, like us, they are family owned and they matched our values,” Sprung said. “Price was important, but the opportunity for a long-term partnership was why we ultimately chose them.”
Furthermore, Sprung said KBA is helping The Daily Sun to fast-track the project. The press will be delivered in the third quarter of 2020, with a goal of going live in November.
“Our hope is that we will be completely up and running in time to cover election night, with papers coming off our new press,” he added.
Postpress will be a big part of the equation too, and Sprung told News & Tech The Daily Sun finalized a deal for that equipment in early September. The publisher plans to purchase two Ferag MTD MultiDisc buffering and MSD inserting systems from Hearst Newspapers’ production operation in Fremont, California. Ferag engineers will lead the relocation of the high-speed postpress equipment, which will keep pace with the new press’s output capacity of up to 90,000 copies per hour.
“The MultiDisc system will provide print product storage capabilities for advance sections and will also buffer live press product prior to insertion,” Sprung explained.
The project will include installation of a UTR conveyor system from the press folder to the MultiDisc system. Ferag stackers and strappers will complete the postpress processing of product prior to distribution.
Automation and flexibility
The Daily Sun’s new press equipment will feature comprehensive automation, rounded out by RollerTronic roller locks, a CleanTronic cylinder wash-up device, color and cutting register control systems, color measuring and control systems, and fully automated plate-changing systems.
An ErgoTronic console with EasyTronic for optimized startup will control the Commander CT. The publisher is also investing in software to streamline maintenance and repairs, and provide transparency into technical operating processes.
“Our goal was to automate as much of the process as we could and continue to employ the same number of employees,” Sprung said. “We didn’t go into this with the idea of eliminating positions, and we will be training and upgrading positions.”
All of this automation will help to set the stage for The Daily Sun to take on more commercial work.
“We already produce other dailies, weeklies, and some small monthlies, and we’ll be ready to add more,” Sprung said.
The new facility and equipment reinforce the publisher’s high quality standards, which have netted it a number of awards over the years.
“Our newspaper tells the right stories and we pride ourselves on quality journalism, so we needed the right facility to print and distribute our product, “ Sprung said. “Our readers have high expectations — from content to color, to delivery.”
The publisher worked with Birmingham, Alabama-based Yates Engineering to handle the architectural logistics of the new facility. That work included ensuring that foundations are correct and can withstand hurricanes, and managing the traffic flow for newspaper pickup and distribution.
Once the new facility opens, Sprung said The Daily Sun will continue to produce products at its existing operation for the foreseeable future. That facility runs single-wide DGM 430 and 440 presses.
“There is a need for both operations for awhile, so we will maintain that location as a small commercial print facility,” Sprung said. “We have done very well with our current presses and that has a lot to do with our employees, who are dedicated to quality and timeliness.”
Ultimately, Sprung said there will continue to be demand for the printed newspaper. He is confident that The Daily Sun will see its circulation rise as high as 100,000 copies daily over the next decade
“We feel blessed to have local family ownership that continues to believe — as we do — that this will be viable in the future and trusts us to operate accordingly.”