News-Leader celebrates the fifth anniversary of its GEOMAN
Press release from the issuing company
April 18, 2007 -- It was almost five years ago, in June 2002, when Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader inaugurated its new GEOMAN press, replacing an early Sixties vintage system. But the newspaper will hardly have time to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its upgrade to advanced offset production. The reason: the GEOMAN is keeping everyone busy with its ability to increase advertising revenues, and spark a growing onslaught of commercial printing opportunities.
Increased color was the initial impetus driving the purchase of the GEOMAN, which runs 40 couples, configured in five eight-couple towers, fed by seven reel tension pasters. The arrangement gives the Gannett-owned newspaper the ability to produce 80 consecutive full-color broadsheet pages.
Right from the start, that colorful benefit turned into a huge business-building advantage for the Springfield News-Leader. “The first year alone, we increased incremental advertising revenue by over one million dollars,” says Tom Tate, the newspaper’s Production Director. “That’s just from the ability to sell more color. It’s the exceptional color quality we achieve with our GEOMAN that made the difference.”
In addition to increased ad sales, Tate offers another way to measure the high level of enthusiasm the improved newspaper is generating among advertisers. “Gannett uses a program called Ad Q that gauges our performance with our customers,” he says. “It’s based on customer complaints, mistakes you might have made, billing errors, and so on. One of the classifications is “Ad quality not per customer expectations”. We have written off exactly zero dollars in that category due to print quality since we went into production with the GEOMAN almost five years ago.”
According to Tate, The Springfield News-Leader prints among the highest content of full color pages of any Gannett daily, and it consistently ranks among the top five production operations in Gannett for production quality, as assessed by Gannett’s Optimum Quality Program. “We’re in good company with Rochester, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Detroit, Honolulu —all of which have MAN Roland presses. And we have the lowest percentage of printed waste in Gannett,” he adds. “Those two things — high quality and low waste — usually are diametrically opposed. Normally if you’re producing a lot of color and exceptional quality, you generate a lot of waste.”
GEOMAN has helped Tate and his crew turn that equation on its head: “Last year our start-up paper waste was around 1.32 percent. In the first period of this year, it’s 1.04 percent. That’s significant number when you consider our average press run is 60,000 copies per night. And I’m confident that the last 300 papers we typically send to recycling, most newspapers would distribute to sell.”
The color quality Tate’s team has been able to achieve with GEOMAN has also gained them recognition outside the Gannett orbit. “We won the inaugural North American award of NAA’s International Newspaper Color Quality Club for our circulation category,” Tate declares. “And we’re one of two Gannett newspapers to achieve two consecutive membership terms in the worldwide INCQC — including the latest edition which runs from 2006-2008.”
Rewards have also arrived in the form of significant commercial printing revenue since GEOMAN made the scene in Springfield. “In the first year alone, commercial print sales went from zero to over $600,000,” Tate proclaims. “Today, I am printing commercial work for 37 regularly scheduled customers. They range from college newspapers to niche publications.”
And more commercial applications are on the way. A severe ice storm hit the Springfield region in January, knocking out power to many surrounding communities for over two weeks. Tate and his team helped out by doing what they do best: “In addition to meeting all of our commercial obligations and our daily publication obligations, we were able to provide emergency print support for six community newspapers around Springfield.”
That neighborly gesture is about to pay dividends, “Now they’re spoiled, because they wish they could get our full color capabilities and print quality all of the time,” Tate says. “And I fully expect to earn their business when the contracts come due with their existing printer. I’m going to be able to get those weekly publications produced here.”
The Power of Color
The availability of color on every page is big selling point on the News-Leader’s side when it goes after any new commercial printing prospect. It gives prospective customers the ability to sell more valuable color advertising, which widens their profit margins.
“One of our customers publishes a 72-page tabloid — an agricultural weekly for which we print 15,000 copies,” Tate reports. “They started off wanting limited full color positions. Then they found out how affordable color is on our press because of the great efficiencies built into GEOMAN. Now they print full color every page and they market that improvement, which produces new revenue streams for them.”
Word of those kinds of results is spreading to the point that geographical boundaries are not an issue for GEOMAN or for Tate’s team. “We have commercial accounts as far away as Atlanta. We also print commercial work and provide direct mail services for customers in Denver, Colorado, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
The Service Strategy
The Springfield News-Leader has counted on MAN Roland printservices to spearhead press upgrades in the past. “The service we receive from the MAN Roland team has been exceptional,” Tate declares. “They have done a very effective job of integrating systems onto the press, such as our automatic blanket washer system. They work well with other vendors, as our needs have changed, and we have developed a strong partnership.”
Last year, the Springfield News-Leader contracted with MAN Roland for 48-inch web reduction. That mission was accomplished within 45 days.
“On a double wide press, a web reduction it’s pretty big undertaking,” Tate explains. “We were comfortable integrating a new editorial system and a new classified advertising system at the same time, because we knew the MAN Roland team was so professional and so accomplished at the web reduction, cutting down the press was the least of our concerns. That speaks volumes about the talent that they have on staff. They are very responsive to our customer service needs.”
Training was another non-issue for the News-Leader, thanks to the capabilities of printservices. “MAN Roland did such a good job of training when we launched the press, we really haven’t needed any training since,“ Tate observes. “We also purchased MAN Roland’s training simulator as part of our start-up package. With it we trained our lead operators very effectively to the point that they were able to train others here. Plus, our retention rate has been so strong that we have not had to replace any press operators.”
Instead, the emphasis is on bringing in new commercial customers, so much so, that time off to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the GEOMAN’s start-up has not been scheduled.
“We are so focused on growing business that all of our resources are going to that,” Tate says. “For instance, we we’re awarded a Civilian Enterprise Licensing Agreement with the U.S. Government, which we would not have gotten without our MAN Roland press. The project involves printing the post newspaper for an Army installation near here. It’s a 32-page full color broadsheet that’s published every week.”
Tate adds that such revenue-generating business is there for the taking for any newspaper that is sufficiently motivated and properly equipped. “There are tremendous opportunities out there,” he declares. “If other operations were to follow our model, they will surely duplicate our success. Our GEOMAN has been a real money maker ever since we commissioned it five years ago.”
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