North America’s first Berliner format newspaper success at Gannett’s Journal & Courier
Press release from the issuing company
April 20, 2007 -- "I have heard the words ‘love and your paper’ together more in the last nine months than I have heard in the previous 29 years in the business.”
That’s how Gary Suisman, President and Publisher of the Journal & Courier, describes reader and advertiser reaction to his paper becoming the first in North America to move to the more compact Berliner format.
It has been almost nine months since the Gannett newspaper, based in Lafayette, Indiana, activated its new MAN Roland GEOMAN and hit the streets with its more agile layout. The new format is designed to combine the best benefits of broadsheet and tabloid. Berliner also sectionalizes content so readers can access their favorites quickly, while providing an easy-to-handle 12” by 18” size.
Love at First Sight
“Overall they love the new format,” Suisman says of his paper’s 36,000+ readers. “We hear the paper is easier to get through; that they read more of it; it is more portable; and that it does not rub off on their hands.”
The new format comes courtesy of a MAN Roland GEOMAN that was installed in 2006. It’s at the heart of a new 47,000 sq ft production plant, which began producing the paper last July 31st. Configured with three eight-couple towers and four reel stands, the GEOMAN is floor mounted and equipped with a 2:3:3 double jaw folder from MAN Roland.
Thanks to GEOMAN, the reformatting of the Journal & Courier was accompanied by a significant increase in color content. The paper can now provide advertisers and readers full color on all 48 of its pages.
That is resulting in an advertising windfall for the Journal & Courier. “Ad reps no longer need to worry about color positions,” says Suisman says. “The color and the Berliner have helped us get in doors we could not get in before.”
Retail advertising revenue at the paper was trending down about 10% prior to last summer’s launch of the Berliner format. Now it is leading a charge that has long-term momentum. “Retail has done very well,” Suisman remarks. “After a great start during launch month in which the category was up 46%, retail has been up double digits four of six months since launch, including a 23% gain in January.”
Generating addition revenue from commercial work is next on the Journal & Courier’s agenda. An integrated cylinder stitcher and quarter folder equip its GEOMAN to produce a variety of commercial products. But the newspaper isn’t about to jump into the commercial marketplace without a plan; it’s taking measured steps.
“Going into the project we made the decision not to pursue commercial printing in 2006,” says Travis Komidar, the paper’s Operations Director. “We wanted to make sure that we focused on our core product and were fully trained on the new equipment prior to launching a commercial operation.”
MAN Roland training and project management during GEOMAN’s ramp up helped make the transition from a 1960s letterpress to leading-edge web offset technology a smooth one. “The crew has adapted well to the new equipment,” Komidar observes. “The press now has the ability to produce the quality that we require, so in a sense their job has become easier.”
The technology-charged atmosphere in the new production center has also helped things progress. “The working environment has improved dramatically,” says Komidar. “The crew still has much to learn, but they have done an admirable job learning the process and the press.”
And the timing is in synch with the Journal & Courier’s commercial gameplan, according to Komidar. “This spring, we will begin production of 28 weekly newspapers for the metro Cincinnati market. This publication work will require a three-shift press operation for several consecutive days early in the week. We have also provided pricing to several other organizations interested in the newsprint savings that the 18.5” cut-off offers.”
The Journal & Courier has cut its newsprint costs by 13-14% as a result of the more compact format, and GEOMAN has accelerated production. “We now have the ability to run faster, which has reduced the time required to produce pre-runs, as well as the mains,” Komidar notes. “The press’ automation requires less operators on any given run.”
Sharing the Love
Meanwhile, the Journal & Courier is working to ensure it keeps attracting more readers and advertisers on any given run. To promote the launch of the new format last summer, it conducted a contest that gave away $37,000 in prizes including a new car and a $5,000 diamond pendant.
“We had over 80,000 entries in our reader contest,” says Suisman. “Daily single copy was up about 10% during launch month. And after seeing the success of the contest, advertisers are coming to us asking us to develop contests for them.”
Ron Sams, Vice President of Newspaper Sales at MAN Roland Inc., sees the strengthening of an industry-wide trend with the success the Journal & Courier is enjoying with its new format and more colorful press. “MAN Roland is proud to help Gannett and the Journal & Courier make history with the first Berliner format in North America,” he says. “Their success bodes well for the future of newspapers.”
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