In 2012 Koenig & Bauer (KBA) won almost 40% of all contracts for new newspaper web presses awarded by the international newspaper industry and this year it is over 40%. Despite this high market share, the volume of new investments in newspaper printing technology which has shrunk by over 70% since 2006 to under €300m is not enough to fill the global market leader’s already significantly reduced capacity.
In the KBA press conference at the World Publishing Expo (WPE) in Berlin KBA CEO and president Claus Bolza-Schünemann pointed out that the market revival for new newspaper technology expected in 2010 did not occur due to structural and economic reasons (media shift, Euro crisis). He also said that given media developments, trends towards concentration and realignment in the newspaper industry, suppliers should be prepared for a continued moderate decline in investments in new offset presses, prepress and mailroom technology, rather than a significant recovery.
According to the latest market analyses, sales of new commercial and newspaper presses (not including used presses, service and consumables) in the supply industry fell to €630m in 2012 after a short-lived rise in 2010 to €800m. This is following sales of €1.7bn in 2007 and a low of €600m in the crisis year 2009. KBA is expecting a further decline to approx. €500m for 2013. It is assumed that yearly investments in new web offset technology will bottom out to approx. €400m by 2015. Against this background, Bolza-Schünemann views previous reductions in capacity on the suppliers’ side as not yet satisfactory and in line with market developments.
Additional business with inkjet digital printing
Along with further capacity adjustments, KBA aims to compensate as much as possible for the lower sales of new web offset presses with more service activities, a broader portfolio for the growing packaging printing and the new business field digital printing. With this in mind, KBA has expanded its proven and innovative offset product range for the newspaper industry with the KBA RotaJET digital press, which has shaped KBA’s stand in Berlin and was present in the Digital Pavilion set up in the “Power of Print” media port. According to Bolza-Schünemann two RotaJETs have already been sold in other market segments and KBA is receiving increasing interest from the newspaper industry, as well as from the book, direct mail and commercial printing sectors which the press initially addressed. Bolza-Schünemann: “The KBA RotaJET is the only inkjet web press from a traditional offset press manufacturer. We have been an innovative partner of the newspaper industry for nearly 200 years and know its demands better than any other digital printing suppliers who have predominantly grown up in the office area. We want to use the trust placed in us to show the industry new business possibilities in connection with the KBA RotaJET. As we offer both offset and digital printing, we can be particularly objective. The respective production structure and the cost-efficiency of a possible implementation of digital printing form the basis of our investment advice.”
Oliver Baar, KBA project manager for business development digital web presses expanded on the words of the KBA CEO about digital newspaper printing. In a slightly provocative manner, he compared the newspaper industry with a tree on which the sweet, but not yet overripe fruit, hang from branches in the middle or at the very top. While today’s newspaper and supplement business only offer limited market potential, Baar sees sustainable and profitable additional business options in digital printing. These include even more consistent target group orientated newspapers (hyper-localization or special interest small runs), expanding product portfolios to strengthen reader and customer loyalty, and addressing new customer bases as well as the very flexible linking of print and online media. In this context, Oliver Baar quoted the American financial investor Warren Buffett who bucked the trend by purchasing over 30 regional and local titles. Buffett criticises the one-sided, cost-saving strategy of the American newspaper industry at the expense of contents or the frequency of publications. Baar named the Canadian Glacier Media Commercial newspaper group as a further example. The group has successfully implemented AR codes in all of its editions linking print with the digital world (online videos as an addition). In the meantime Die Welt and Focus in Germany have also started to work in similar ways.
Interesting option: Offset and digital printing in tandem
Oliver Baar sees further ‘fruit’ hanging in the middle of the tree from retrofitting inkjet imprinting systems (currently Kodak Prosper S30) in offset web presses for the production of coupons, games and addresses. KBA has already carried out such inkjet retrofits. One step further is the combined use of older offset presses, for example a KBA Colora and an inkjet web press, like the KBA RotaJET. Digital printing could be used for highly localized production scenarios (microzoning) in newspapers as well as the format-variable production of additional print products on diverse substrates for readers and ad customers. Traditional business models in the newspaper industry can be expanded in this way and the process costs of small runs are significantly reduced. While in the offset sector predominantly newspaper, commercial web and sheetfed offset presses are used to produce newspapers, semi-commercials, books, magazines and commercial products, the KBA RotaJET addresses small print runs in all these market segments and opens up new business opportunities.
- Cutting-edge offset technology currently popular in Europe
Even though KBA has expanded its portfolio with the RotaJET for digital newspaper printing, according to experts high-performance offset presses will continue to dominate newspaper production in the next years. As Christoph Müller executive vice president for the web press product house reported, KBA has notably booked orders for the new modular automatable Commander CL following the market-orientated streamlining of its product range two years ago. Since its launch at IfraExpo 2011 in Vienna, ten of these press lines have been sold to Europe, the USA and China. In 2013 Ouest-France in Rennes, Pressedruck in Potsdam and Main-Echo in Aschaffenburg have all opted for this latest KBA newspaper press. In the high-end class the compact Commander CT continues to be by far the most successful press on the global market. 27 presses with a total of 124 printing towers and almost 1,000 printing couples are on its reference list. A few weeks ago Badisches Druckhaus in Baden-Baden and Mittelland Zeitungsdruck in Aarau, Switzerland became the most recent customers to opt for this press.
The waterless KBA Cortina, which also introduced automated plate changing to the newspaper industry, was the subject of great interest at Drupa thirteen years ago. It has experienced a renaissance in 2013. The Volksfreund-Druckerei Nikolaus Koch in Trier (Saarbrücker Zeitungsgruppe) brought the total of sold Cortina press lines to 20 and it is the first press to be equipped from the beginning with two coaters, following the positive experience made by Freiburger Druck (Badische Zeitung). This type of inline finishing in coldset is currently only possible in waterless offset with the Cortina. It delivers print products in an outstanding print quality, as could be seen from the samples shown in Berlin.
Service and retrofits gaining importance
Christoph Müller emphasised that newspapers should use their acknowledged role as a strong brand even more intensively for complementary print activities. This includes creative ad forms in print. KBA offers manifold, partly retrofittable optional equipment and has expanded its service portfolio accordingly. Along with maintenance tasks and repairs, experienced professionals from KBA and its subsidiary PrintHouseService (PHS) carry out increasingly more retrofits on older own or third-party presses. In addition, KBA and PHS have taken over comprehensive on-site technical support at various newspaper and commercial printing houses.