Bucks County Courier Times launches its first Saturday edition with a new GEOMAN
Press release from the issuing company
September 27, 2004 -- It was a busy summer for the Bucks County Courier Times. The Levittown, Pennsylvania-based daily inaugurated an all-new production facility, redesigned its layout and format, and launched a new Saturday edition — all the result of installing a new MAN Roland GEOMAN press.
Courier Times executives selected the 29 couple, 5 reel, double-out folder GEOMAN for its ability to add more color to its news and advertising positions, to improve print quality and to provide sectioning flexibility. The company had been producing the paper on a ’60s-vintage Goss letterpress, reaching a 67,545 weekday and 72,579 Sunday circulation.
A Calkins Media property, the suburban-Philadelphia publication also had a more unique objective for its new press: The launch of a new Saturday edition to provide seven-day-week coverage for the paper’s subscribers.
“From the customer service and readership point of view, not having a Saturday edition created a void for our readers,” says General Manager Thomas Spurgeon. “For instance, high school football is big in the communities we serve, and they’re played on Friday night. Without a Saturday paper, folks had to wait for Sunday for the scores and stories about the games.”
The production efficiencies the new GEOMAN provides were the impetus behind closing that gap. “The new press requires less manning,” Spurgeon says. “We were able to reschedule existing pressmen and not have to add staff to print the Saturday edition. We don’t layoff when we automate; we find new opportunities for our people and this is certainly one of them.”
The Courier Times took a phased approach toward initiating the improvements. It inaugurated its new 64,000 sq ft facility in May. Built on a 12-acre site in Falls Township, the new plant consolidates all plate making, printing, packaging, mailroom, inserting and distribution functions. The paper’s editorial, advertising, circulation and business departments remain in Levittown.
The plant went live on May 31 to produce the June 1 edition, but the paper’s redesign was held in abeyance to decrease the number of variables involved in inaugurating the new GEOMAN. “It was a conscious move not to complicate the start-up period,” says Spurgeon.
The next key date was August 28th — the target for implementing the paper’s new look as well as publication of its new Saturday edition. “We decided to take the Big Bang approach and launch both the new product and the redesign at the same time,” Spurgeon notes. “It was a marketing decision to piggyback the two so we could maximize our promotional efforts.”
So far, the plan has worked out well. The Saturday edition has been very well received, and the redesigned paper is being perceived as a more attractive new product by Courier Times readers, according to Spurgeon.
Not surprisingly, the addition of more color and improved print quality to editorial and advertising positions are the key factors turning heads. The press can produce up to 40 pages running straight, with full color available on 20 of the pages.
“GEOMAN has given us a tremendous increase in product quality,” Spurgeon says. “We’re going from 1960’s to 2004 technology, so we’re seeing improvements in registration, in color and in the line screens we can run.”
The Courier Times has already increased its level of resolution from 85- to 100-line screen. The next step on the production agenda is to go to FM screening and eliminate dots altogether to make photos and ads even shaper.
The paper’s advertisers have reacted to the capabilities of the new press by running more color advertising. “We haven’t fully quantified it yet,” says Spurgeon. “But we’re offering more full-color positions to our advertisers and they’re taking advantage of it.”
Similarly, the Courier Times newsroom is running more color photography than ever before. The paper’s editors are also exploiting GEOMAN’s ability to print more sections, which provides them with more front pages to work with. Advertisers, meanwhile, are migrating toward the back pages of the new sections to take advantage of those more visible positions.
The new GEOMAN also has been well received by the paper’s press crews. “There was a huge transition that had to be made between 1960 letterpress technology and 2004 offset technology,” Spurgeon says. “MAN Roland trainers were careful not to intimidate our crews with too much information or make them leery of the huge change. Our supervisors and our pressmen were very pleased with both the installation and the training.”
To maximize the product versatility of the new press, the Courier Times has equipped its GEOMAN with a fifth former board and a two-conveyor system from GMA. That enables the press to produce two separate products at the same time.
“For instance, in November, we might print a 16-page tabloid voters’ guide, while we’re producing the main section of the paper,” according to Spurgeon. “We’ve also configured our folder so we can add quarter-fold capabilities in the future. We’re looking forward to the commercial opportunities this press will provide.”
The Courier Times conducted three inaugural events to christen its new facility and new equipment — one for VIPs, a second for the public and a third for employees. Spurgeon points out that his staff has reacted favorably to the new GEOMAN: “Even though this 40-year leap in technology has resulted in a steep learning curve for many of them, they realize that this press gives them the ability to produce a better product and represents our commitment to their future.”
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