17 July 2011 Digital Print

Stroma wins Scandinavian titles thanks to colour capability

An Océ inkjet press has brought colour to the London digital newspaper printer and set it up for expansion with newspapers and books

Stroma managing director Steve Brown shows off a selection of papers

Stroma managing director Steve Brown shows off a selection of papers

DIGITAL NEWSPAPER PRINTER STROMA has picked up 46 additional titles just weeks after moving to full colour production on an Océ 1000 inkjet press.

The titles come from Newspapers Abroad, a business which represents Scandinavian publishers and seeks to find subscribers outside Sweden, Finland, and Norway. These are now being printed alongside other international titles for a UK based audience along with books and commercial print that represents an increasing part of Stroma’s revenue.

“WE HAVE BEEN PUBLISHING IN ICELAND, Greenland, southern Spain, Brussels, Paris and now London,” says Andreas Qvist, chief executive of Newspapers Abroad. “We certainly believe in the power of the printed word. There are quite a few publishers that don’t have enough volume for their newspapers to be printed offset, so they need digital printing. And we are making a market for these publishers, marketing and driving sales within the Scandinavian community in that country. Our challenge is how to bring this to market and how to make production affordable – and one way is through local advertising.

“In some markets we are printing in black and white, but publishers and advertisers want colour.”

The London area is home to 200,000 of the 250,000 Scandinavians reckoned to be living in the UK. These will take subscriptions to their preferred paper, while those expats in Spain are more inclined to buy from the newsstand reckons Qvist.

THIS IS JUST ONE MODEL FOR DIGITALLYprinting newspapers reckons Océ. Josef Simmerl, segment director for digital print providers, points to four areas where digital production can play a role for newspapers: decentralised production, for remote locations; short runs for national production; special editions and microzoned sections. The most commonly used is the first, and is the segment where Stroma is most active. The partnership with Manroland will help Océ expand in the short run and microzone edition space he reckons as the litho press company already has strong contacts with newspaper printers and publishers.

Trinity Mirror for example is deriving around 15% of its overseas sales from digitally printed newspapers. In many markets runs are large enough to warrant printing on offset presses, but costs of transport are rising and what Mark White calls “pirate charges”, the unexpected costs of moving pallets from place to place, are increasingly handicapping the idea of air freighting from the UK or from another hub. “In the last four years the costs of flying papers from the UK have risen 75%,” he says. This is one reason why UK national newspapers are willing to support a digital print centre on the Channel Islands. Digital printing is already established in Malta, Cyprus and the Canaries.

THE BIG HURDLE REMAINS THE COST. A longer guaranteed contract would bring costs down, but that means the newspaper taking the risk. A solution where the risk is shared by a local distributor or printer under some kind of licensed publishing agreement may be a way to harness local knowledge in marketing and sales rather than have these dictated from London. But this underlines the unsettled nature of the market: there is no proven business model. However, publishers of tabloid papers in particular where the sale is to a more transient population, remain fixed to print on paper. Heavyweight newspaper publishers where the overseas readers are more likely to be in business or academia, are like the Guardian more inclined to focus on website readership.

For the moment, newspaper business is picking up for Stroma. Managing director Steve Brown explains that when starting in digital newspaper printing a decade ago, the company had to quickly build revenue from book publishers and others because newspapers could not sustain the business. “With 9/11 and the crash in advertising, we suddenly had a machine that was only running three or four hours a night. At that point 80% of our turnover came from newspapers, today it’s 25%.” But it’s a growing business from one off publications produced via the Newspaper Club to the provision of Australian titles for Qantas flights, around 50 titles a night international papers and special orders such as one for a sheik wanting to read about the recent Royal Wedding on his private jet. The deal with Newspapers Abroad will provide a further boost - at least until volumes take titles into the offset arena.

WITH THE INSTALLATION OF THE OCE Jetstream inkjet press to replace the mono laser machine, Stroma takes a step up in speed and versatility. It has been increasing volumes of print for The Newspaper Club, a venture promoting newspapers to the public and designers as a worthwhile medium. Next year comes the influx of overseas visitors to the Olympics and there is potential in titles for the expanding Chinese community, though Brown wants to concentrate on small runs and is not looking for bulk contracts. Brown also sees opportunities in colour books, hoping to persuade printers that these can be returned from Italy.

The company has added a new Hunkeler line with a folder capable to either Berliner or tabloid formats, printing in standard newsprint grades.

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Stroma managing director Steve Brown shows off a selection of papers

Stroma managing director Steve Brown shows off a selection of papers