Commentary & Analysis
The Newspaper as Print Competitor
By Frank J.
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: September 13, 2005
By Frank J. Romano September 13, 2005 -- The New York Times is expanding its offerings to advertisers by introducing commercial printing and production services. The newspaper began printing free-standing inserts, magazine inserts, pamphlets and brochures, including handling all prepress and production management. Newspapers realized that the money is in color advertising and they have upgraded their presses accordingly. The paper has the capacity to print up to an 80-page broadsheet or 160-page newsprint tabloid. These advertising pieces can then be inserted into the New York Times Magazine or newspaper, or into other publications, as well as shipped to multiple locations as in-store circulars or brochures. "A key benefit to advertisers will be the wide range of options available," said Jyll Holzman, senior vice-president of advertising for The New York Times. "Whether they wish to place a DVD or scent strip in The New York Times Magazine, produce an 80-page brochure or just a postcard, The Times is offering creative solutions to meet the individual needs of clients." Distribution can range from major markets across the country to targeted ZIP codes in the New York area. For years I have crusaded to count newspaper plants as a part of printing industry statistics. Some suppliers and some trade association focus on what they call "commercial" printing, which is a narrow definition of a certain kind of printing service, mostly sheetfed. Quick printers are not counted as commercial printers, even though all printers are quick. Publication printers are sometimes considered "commercial" printers, but not always. The Times' announcement is a wake-up call to the printing industry. Those billions of ad inserts, circulars, and ad pieces can be printed on the newer color presses that daily newspapers have been installing over the last few years. As their circulation has dropped, they are filling the capacity with commercial work. Newspapers are competitors to commercial printers. And do not give me the argument about quality. Many of those inserts have been printed on coldset presses by commercial services. The new presses that newspapers installed are capable of excellent quality. Newspapers realized that the money is in color advertising and they upgraded accordingly. By not counting newspapers properly or not considering them as potential competitors, the printing industry missed a trend that will impact its business. An ad insert is a full-color piece that is folded into a publication format but not bound. It is then inserted into a newspaper. A circular is the same piece but either delivered to your home and left on the steps or hung from a doorknob or mail box. A mailer is the same piece delivered to every address in a ZIP code or ZIP codes. Call it what you will, it is the same printed product and it is a very large part of the printing market. By not counting newspapers properly or not considering them as potential competitors, the printing industry missed a trend that will impact its business. "But," you say, "this is not my business so why should I care?" To paraphrase John Donne, "No business is an island." Today, newspapers print ad inserts, then they figure out how to add heaters, and then they start competing for other printed products. This is not "chicken little" hysteria; it is realistic analysis of the trends--newspapers are and will be commercial printing competitors.