Cost reduction by workflow automation

Headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, ppi Media is an international workflow specialist for automated newspaper production and cross-media publishing. In Germany, 80% of all daily newspapers are produced with ppi products. In Asia, Europe and North America, there are a number of installations. Rahul Kumar talks to Gerhard Raab, vice-president, sales, ppi Media

01 Sep 2015 | By Rahul Kumar

Rahul Kumar (RK): First, let me ask you about the various challenges that a workflow solution provider may face in the context of the Indian newspaper industry. Let’s start with the issue of Indian languages.
Gerhard Raab (GR): ppi Media supports multiple languages in the same system. For example, our Indian customers publish newspapers in English as well as in Marathi, Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam, using the same system.
RK: What about page sizes (tabloid, Berliner and broadsheet)?
GR: Our solutions allow planning and production in different page sizes and special formats like half-cover, super panorama, tabloid-in-broadsheet, among others. More importantly, we support multiple production possibilities for the same publication, depending on the press configuration available at various remote sites. For example, if a newspaper has all pages in colour in a major city, but only eight pages in colour in the remote sites, the system will ensure that the production takes place accordingly.
RK: Digital platforms such as web, mobile and tablets?
GR: We have a cross-media solution that can handle all channels – print, web, mobile and tablet. Our clients can choose between integrating their existing solutions with our system, or using our digital solutions.
RK: Multi-editions?
GR: Our solutions were originally designed for the German market, one of the most local-oriented markets in the world. Even small regional newspapers have local editions with less than 5000 copies to serve local and hyper-local content to their readers. So, our solutions are built for multi-edition newspapers to speed up the planning process, avoid unnecessary work by process automation and monitor complex production situations. Even the largest regional newspapers, like the Funke Media Group in Germany, with over 100 editions every day, rely on ppi Media’s solutions.
RK: What kind of initiatives have you taken to provide training to the relevant staff?
GR: Implementing a new software is much more than installing software on a server. We follow a holistic approach. As a first step, we interact with our customers to understand their present environments – what drives their current businesses and what goals they would like to achieve with the new solution. Based on this information and our experience from similar projects, we can then offer the best possible solutions. During this process, it is important to include all the stakeholders.
Staff training is only one piece of the jigsaw. Our training department offers different training approaches - classic on-site end-user training, a train-the-trainer concept allowing a client to educate his own staff, and webinars, which save costs and can be used in a very flexible way.
RK: What are the advantages of your software? What are the key challenges you see in editorial, image management and ad management workflows?
GR: ppi Media is the only vendor providing an end-to-end workflow from ad reservation to the integration of press control systems. We cover all aspects of a modern news media production. ppi Media stands for German quality, reliable, modern and future-proof technology for the publishing industry. Dominant media brands, such as the Axel Springer Group, The Times of India, The New York Times or Schibsted Media Group, rely on our solutions.
Our help desk supports our customers in all time zones, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. We have extended our portfolio to include digital channels. Our modern cross-channel editorial system Content-X has got off to a tremendous start. Many newspapers, magazines and corporate publishers decided in favour of Content-X, using our media-neutral content creation possibilities to publish in different channels. With AdX, we integrate ad bookings, ad reservations and ad servers in one solution, allowing media companies to have a unified campaign team to address cross-media opportunities while achieving huge cost savings.
RK: What is the technology used behind your software solutions?
GR: The decision for a specific technology depends on how an application is used. Not every technology works well in every environment. While the sales representatives in discussion with his client might prefer a native iOS application, the newspaper planner in the back office might insist on a Windows application with rich functionality. We, therefore, use a range of different technologies like HTML5, JavaScript, Bootstrap or NFC depending on the application environment. ppi Media provides REST-based web services for integrating third-party software modules and participates in working groups for different API specifications.
Over the years, many other vendors have supported our interfaces, so we have become a de-facto industry standard. ppi Media provides an interface to most of the commonly used ad booking, editorial, output management and press control systems used in India. Today, we are happy to say that we can integrate every solution with this state-of-the-art interface technology.
RK: What is your company’s business model?
GR: Most of our customers are on a classic licence-based model, which includes a service and maintenance agreement, and a few on subscription-based ‘software as a service’ model.
RK: How many Indian languages are supported by your system?
GR: Since, we have UTF-8 support, there is no limitation to the number of languages, as long as UTF-8 fonts are available.
RK: Right now, what is your base (number of installations) in India and worldwide?
GR: In India, we serve eight big publishing houses. We have more than 100 media companies worldwide, which produce newspapers and digital products. These cover more than 5000 editions every day. We are consolidating our position in India and growing in other parts of Asia as well.
RK: From your perspective, what is the most critical aspect of the workflow – fonts, layout design, collaboration workflow (advertisement, content and images), or something else?
GR: Every department has its own requirements. Pre-flight checks for uploaded ads, a customer review workflow for in-house ads and so on. What is most critical? Not a single function, but the integration and collaboration of all these departments. Additional synergies can only be achieved by integrating all the workflow steps. Wouldn’t it be good for the layout department to know whether the ad material can still be changed or if the plate has already been sent to the press? What if the invoice is only sent when the ad has been produced at the right place in the newspaper? All these and more are standards in ppi Media’s solutions.
RK: According to you, what must be the ideal setup for a newspaper publication house to install your systems?
GR: Any newspaper or publishing house, big or small in terms of circulation figures, is a prime candidate for ppi Media solutions. While many well-known and large media brands use our solutions, we also have small publishing houses as our customers. Our latest products include small browser-based solutions, which provide a strong, smart publishing workflow, including the integration of ad booking systems, at a competitive price.
RK: What are the parameters of user-friendly interface? Do you provide a customised interface for each publication?
GR: A user-friendly interface is the result of a design and usability engineering process that starts with requirements analysis and a storyboard of used cases, based on customer feedback. The latter are beta-tested at customer sites, feedback is obtained, changes are incorporated and approved by our usability engineering team to finally create a visual design including all the operating steps. Every user has unique interface requirements, and since our team has access to all the user feedback, it is able to incorporate the best ideas into a common user-friendly interface.
RK: Why should a publication house invest in your systems? And what kind of opportunities do you see in the Indian market?
GR: With ppi Media solutions, you invest in the future. We offer a unique suite of cross-channel solutions, no matter whether you are a small local newspaper or one of the biggest media brands. We focus on cost reduction by workflow automation and prevention of complaints and critical production downtimes.
As a full service provider, ppi Media not only offers media-neutral solutions for the classic areas of publishing, like ad, editorial, digital pre-press, planning and output management, and a round-the-clock support hotline, but also new services such cloud products and paid content. Newspapers in India are continuing to grow and we can now see a lot of action in the digital and mobile space as well. ppi Media would like to help them increase their profits faster.
RK: The newspaper industry is growing in India. What are your strategies to tap the expanding market?
GR: The fact that the newspaper industry is growing in India and the rest of Asia is no secret. It is also a fact that the large media houses in this region already have an online and digital strategy with an eye at the future. It may be a while before print circulations drop and revenues from print shrink, but when they do, the customers with foresight will be in the best position to take advantage of the situation. ppi Media has helped newspapers in Europe and America cope with the challenges in print by providing solutions that augmented their revenues from the online space and making them profitable again. We will be ready in India and Asia, if and when it happens.