USA Weekend shuts as costs spike and ads tumble

USA Weekend, the second-largest Sunday newspaper magazine in the United States, will print its final edition on Dec. 28, succumbing to soaring distribution costs and plunging advertising.The circulation of the Sunday supplement, which was stuffed into newspapers delivered to as many as 70 million homes a few years back, has fallen today to about 18 million, according to a knowledgeable source at Gannett Inc., the parent of the publication.

With advertising sales collapsing by nearly half in the last few years, USA Weekend was expected to produce about $40 million in revenue in 2014, yielding losses in excess of $10 million in each of the last two years, according to the source, who declined to be identified because s/he is not authorized to speak with the press.

Some 30 advertising and editorial staffers will lose their jobs in the shutdown.

The demise of USA Weekend will leave the contracting Sunday supplement market to Parade Magazine, whose distribution is about 32 million copies.  A few years back, its circulation was double that size, according to industry sources.

Financial information is not available for Parade because it is privately held.  However, industry sources say revenues today are in the neighborhood of $60 million, as compared with $100 million in the last two or three years.

Parade was sold in the fall to Athlon Media by Advance Publications, which had owned the title since 1976.

The once-robust Sunday supplement business unraveled as the result of the declining economics of newspaper publishing and the changing demands of advertisers.

In the heyday of newspapers – when industry-wide revenues and profits were approximately twice as large as they are today – the publishers of USA Weekend and Parade were able to charge local publishers for the right to distribute the magazines in their Sunday papers.

When newspaper advertising began the slide that has taken it today to less than half of the record $49 billion achieved in 2005, the Sunday supplement publishers found themselves first absorbing the costs of shipping the product to local newspapers and eventually paying local publishers to distribute their magazines.

The flip in the distribution model not only eliminated tens of millions of dollars of annual revenues for the Sunday supplements but also burdened them with tens of millions in new costs.

“The cost structure got crazy,” said an executive who tried to turn around the decline at USA Weekend. “You could afford to pay people to take the magazine if you had enough advertising but this doesn’t work if you don’t.”

The demand for advertising in Sunday supplements collapsed because most national advertisers are not willing to purchase space in publications that require copy to be submitted weeks in advance. “Advertising in print is soft, anyway,” said the executive.  “When you can sell it, you get the copy days before the paper is printed. It is almost impossible to get people to commit a month ahead.”

The demise of USA Weekend will punch a hole in the budgets of publishers who were being paid to distribute the supplement.  Because the payments are based on the circulation of the participating publisher, metro papers that formerly carried USA Weekend instantly will lose as much as hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual revenues.

With the losses at USA Weekend soon to be stanched, Gannett plans to step up the distribution of content and advertising in the USA Today-branded sections it has been supplying to its network of more than 80 daily papers.

The modular sections, which are edited by a small team of editors at USA Today near the nation’s capital, are being credited internally at Gannett with producing $20 million in additional circulation revenues for the company’s dailies.

This has been made possible, said a corporate source, because the daily USA Today supplements have cut churn and enabled local publishers to increase circulation fees. Building on the momentum the daily sections have achieved, Gannett plans a major ad-sales push in 2015.

While the USA Today supplements to date have been available only to Gannett-owned papers, the company has begun a pilot program to offer USA Today pages to non-affiliated papers.

The executive said s/he believes the real-time delivery of daily USA Today supplements will please both cost-conscious publishers and modern readers.

The delivery of fresh daily content “can produce a more relevant product that can succeed without even selling more advertising,” said the executive. “The months-old articles we used to put in the Sunday supplement don’t have same value for readers any more.”

Gannett ‘restructure’ hits Journal-News

Eleven journalists are out of jobs this week at The Journal News, which covers Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties, as a result of a reorganization of roles in the newsroom emanating from a larger initiative at parent company Gannett.

The broader strategic initiative that Gannett began implementing over the summer at its 81 local newspapers around the country, dubbed “Newsroom of the Future,” has trimmed mid-level editing manpower while making journalists at these papers faster, nimbler and actively engaged with readers—particularly younger ones—from the communities they cover.

Job descriptions published by Jim Romenesko in August advertised jargony titles like “content coach” and “engagement editor.” Reporters at Gannett papers are now required to be digitally savvy and adept at growing their personal brands and audiences through social media, as is the case at most news outlets managing the transition from print to laptops and, increasingly, mobile devices.

“All of our news team interviewed for newly defined positions and all but 11 employees were offered a position,” Journal News publisher Janet Hasson confirmed to Capital, adding that they are currently recruiting for 12 newsroom positions that will bring the total headcount back up to 86. “We are redistributing resources into newly defined areas, while continuing to keep investigative and watchdog journalism a top priority.”

The “Newsroom of the Future” rollout is happening as Gannett prepares to spin off its publishing assets into a separate company from its broadcast properties, which aren’t saddled with the same advertising and circulation woes hampering the print industry.

Publishing revenues were down 3.6 percent to $826.8 million in the third quarter, which also saw a 4.9-percent decline in publishing-based advertising revenues, which clocked in $494.9 million. Gannett newspapers have been repeatedly hit with layoffs in recent years, including between 60 and 70 in September at the company’s flagship title, USA Today, anestimated 230 companywide in 2013 androughly 700 in 2011.

At the same time, Gannett’s newsroom pivot has been met with some skepticism, as it can be interpreted as valuing high-volume digital content over institutional editing chops.

“Sure, we can add in coaching. … Coaching and editing, though, don’t equate, especially in newsrooms increasingly populated by underpaid, relatively inexperienced younger journalists,” wrote media analyst Ken Doctor in August. “Even as we recognize the value of the more amorphous community intelligence, and attempt to add it to the news report, greatly diminishing editorial intelligence is a recipe for disaster — and business failure.”


Shining a light on rewritable paper

The plastic ‘paper’ can be printed on with UV light and then wiped clean again by heating it © NPG

Rewritable paper that does not use ink but instead uses dyes that respond to ultraviolet light has been developed by US scientists. The dyed paper may be a solution to growing environmental problems associated with the use of regular paper.Scientists at the University of California, Riverside, US, created the rewritable ‘paper’ by covering a plastic film with the redox dye methylene blue and adding a titanium dioxide catalyst. They then created photomasks that only allowed ultraviolet light through in specific patterns such as images or blocks of text. Shining UV light through these masks led to the reduction of the dye, bleaching it wherever light shone through. The team found that the exposed films retained their image for up to three days. The addition of hydroxyethyl cellulose to the dye allowed the team to repeat the process 20 times with little effect on resolution or contrast. They could also simply erase the image within 10 minutes by accelerating the oxidation of the film by heating it to 115°C. Laser printers already use temperatures in excess of this during printing, so it may be possible to adapt conventional printing technology to work with the rewriteable paper.

Solimar Releases Rubika v3.8 Software for High-Volume Transactional and Variable Data Printing

Solimar Systems, a leading global provider of production printing and secure document delivery solutions, recently announced the release of an enhanced version of Rubika, Solimar’s solution for high-volume transactional and variable data printing and online viewing environments. Rubika functionality streamlines production workflows and enables users to automate manual processes, increase postal savings, add content to documents, leverage finishing equipment, and dynamically modify data streams prior to printing.Rubika v3.8 includes support for JavaScript as criteria for conditional actions. This functionality provides users with greater flexibility in defining and developing more complex automated workflow logic.

A new Rubika v3.8 Module, Segment by List, is available and supports segmenting records (typically mail pieces) based on ranges of values. The module sorts content from multiple input PDF files into multiple PDF output files based on a list of value ranges. For example, users could segment data to achieve better postal discounts by sorting mail pieces based on zip code ranges that are associated with Post Office Mail Distribution Centers.

The Rubika v3.8 2-Up Module has been expanded to support up to 200-Up for sequential and stacked N-Up operations. The enhanced 2-Up Module is especially beneficial for users that have complex print requirements typically associated with continuous feed environments.

Rubika v3.8 also adds support for Unicode Font Encoding which allows double-byte strings to be extracted through indexing and then leveraged to perform a variety of document reengineering functions. The new Font Subsetting options are designed to keep output file sizes small and efficient, especially important for Unicode fonts.

“Rubika v3.8 allows our clients to gain additional workflow efficiencies and become more automated,” said Mary Ann Rowan, Solimar CMO and vice president of sales. “Rubika’s expanded functionality for supporting Unicode greatly benefits our worldwide client base in creating optimal data and documents for multi-channel distribution to high-speed color inkjets, eDelivery and archival systems.”

Hunkeler Innovationdays 2015 in Lucerne, Switzerland to Showcase Digital Printing/Finishing

Hunkeler Innovationdays is recognized internationally as the number one industry event for digital printing, paper processing, and mailing technologies. Hunkeler will once again present the newest feeding and finishing solutions this February as production print professionals gather for the eleventh Innovationdays to be held at the Messe Lucerne exhibition facility. This year’s show theme, “Reaching the Summit Together,” aptly signifies the convergence of important customers, cutting-edge technology, and worldwide experts in the heart of Switzerland, who will influence and set the pace for the next stage of industry innovation.Growing interest among suppliers and visitors alike has prompted some 80 exhibitors, including leading digital printing system manufacturers and well-known suppliers from the finishing, consumables, and IT sectors, to present their latest products in two new exhibition halls. Over 40 innovative production solutions will be brought to life with real-world applications, and will be rounded off and enhanced by prestigious forums presented by DOXNET (The Document X-perts Network), Interquest, and EBDA (European Business Document Association) where you can participate in an exciting series of seminars and discussions on a range of specialized topics.

Drawing over 5,000 visitors in 2013, Hunkeler Innovationdays is hailed as the most focused trade fair in the industry. Leading edge technologies in digital print and finishing will be represented, as well as practical solutions that integrate with every print production workflow. Attendees will witness it all—from data input to final end-product, inline, nearline, and offline.

2013 was an overwhelming success. Confidence and enthusiasm were high among all attendees and nearly every international market was represented. According to Stefan Hunkeler, president, Hunkeler AG, “Innovationdays provides a unique opportunity every two years for company owners and managers, worldwide, to gather together, discuss, and see firsthand the entire picture when it comes to the state of development in modern digital finishing.” He added “At Hunkeler, we’re confident that the 2015 event will prove to be yet another essential information and communication platform.”

The upcoming event will feature many exciting premieres to demonstrate greater automation and substrate flexibility, including a new generation of unwinding and rewinding modules with faster roll changes and production speeds up to 1,000 feet/minute. Hunkeler will also showcase a book production line with automated format length changeover, as well as a dynamic finishing solution for perforating, punching, gathering, chip-out, cutting and stacking. Plans are well underway to present the finest automated pre- and post-press paper handling solutions available under one roof for what will surely be another impressive event.



Johnson Litho Graphics Purchases Six-Color Mitsubishi 3000S Sheetfed Press for High-End Applications

Johnson Litho Graphics has purchased a six-color Mitsubishi 3000S sheetfed press to help make the Midwestern commercial printer an even more formidable competitor in today’s print market.

The 28×40″ press with tower coater and delivery extension will join the press lineup at Johnson Litho’s manufacturing plant in Eau Claire, WI, where it will take its place along with a heatset web and a variety of sheetfed presses.

The Diamond 3000S features high-performance preset systems, sophisticated remote-controlled adjustments and closed-loop color control. SimulChanger, Mitsubishi’s advanced, automated plate changing system, accurately changes all six printing plates on the press in a little more than one minute.

“The 3000S enables high-end, high-quality commercial printing applications,” said Lance Papke, president. “The ability to increase the level of service we can give while simultaneously reducing the cost of production will afford our clients greater opportunities for achieving their communication objectives.”