India has lot of opportunities in digital convergence

In the recent times while most big-ticket English language newspapers have moved to international providers of workflow management solutions, the local language newspapers still depend on local expertise. Rahul Kumar of PrintWeek India talks to two of them – Summit Information Technologies and 4Cplus

13 Feb 2015 | By Rahul Kumar

What are the challenges do the workflow solution providers face in the context of Indian language newspapers? There are the obvious issues, paper size (tabloid, berliner and broadsheet), digital platforms such as web, mobile and tablets and issues of multi-editions. Yaspal Bindra, director-sales of Gurgaon, Haryana-based Summit Information Technologies is confident that his company is equipped to handle the challenges.
“Our web-based multi-lingual editorial workflow solution, Liberty, handles all forms for content delivery, be it for print, web or mobile, with equal ease. Liberty also handles all page sizes and other needs of newspapers, such as editions, releases, etc. Our ad workflow management solution, Adpro also handles all such diverse requirements of newspapers efficiently,” he says.
The biggest challenge lies in the reality that most Indian language publishers are not yet on Unicode. So, there is no standard for taking in content from various sources, says Sanjaya Gupta, managing director of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh-based 4Cplus. “For digital platforms, the content is required to be Unicode. If publishers are not on Unicode-based systems for pagination, the content needs to be converted to Unicode using font converters,” he says.
The biggest challenge for multi-edition newspapers is how to minimise duplication of effort by sharing content, management of advertisement schedules, page planning and distribution, he adds.
Gupta says ad management is a tricky issue in the workflow system. “It is a challenge to ensure that all adverts are booked, printed and invoiced correctly. This can be a daunting task if the media group has hundreds of editions that carry thousands of display and classified ads,” he adds.
Inside the technology
Summit solutions use the latest development platforms and industry standard formats such as XML, NiTF, Unicode, etc. “Our solutions are planned with APIs, using which they integrate with other systems with ease and efficiency,” Bindra says. The front end of all 4Cplus applications is on the Microsoft .net platform. “Our editorial system works on MySQL, MS SQL and Oracle while our business applications are available on MS SQL and Oracle. The solutions are all web-based, so at the user-end level, any internet browser will work,” Gupta says.
What are the advantages of the software? Bindra says, “They can be deployed on both centralised as well as distribution mode. The solutions are cloud ready and offer high quality analytics tools,” he adds. 4Cplus offers seamlessly integrated solution, which is an end-to-end platform. “This reduces a lot of manual efforts as well as errors,” says Gupta.
The key challenges are getting news into the newsroom in a speedy manner, taking it through an efficient workflow and publishing it on multiple platforms in real time. “Our solutions allow users to choose relevant images and then get them optimised so that they print well,” he adds.
Summit follows multiple pricing models based on customer needs. According to Gupta, 4Cplus is flexible on licensing terms and have different licensing norms. “We provide solutions for a one-time price as well on a ‘software as a service’ model,” he says.
Issues of languages
Summit solutions support all Indian languages. In addition, Bindra says, they support other Asian languages, such as Sinhala, Thai and Arabic. “We are also capable of handling many more world languages,” he adds. On the other hand, 4Cplus solutions support nine Indian languages.
Currently, more than 25-newspapers based in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the UAE use the Summit solutions. 4Cplus has more than 200 enterprise customers in 18-countries. “Our foreign installations are mostly in Africa, Middle East and Asia. We are growing at the rate of 15%,” Gupta confides.
What kinds of initiatives the service providers offer to train the relevant staff? “We follow ‘train the trainer’ approach, where we train the core team of a newspaper, who further trains others. We employ highly experience newspaper industry experts to analyse and suggest the best workflow and business practices to our clients,” says Bindra. 4Cplus has various partnerships, which give them access to knowledge basis, forums and training programmes. “We also send our staff to conferences and seminars so that they are aware of the global trends in media,” says Gupta.
What are the parameters of a user-friendly interface? The parameters can vary from one client to another. “However, browser-based workflow follows certain standards and benchmarks which are mostly prevalent in usage across different applications. Users, who are already familiar with such applications, find it easy to learn and grasp if the new applications follows these standards and benchmarks. Our solutions are based on these standards and also carry a facility where the interface can be customised as per client needs,” says Bindra.
Gupta also says that 4Cplus software solutions have a user-friendly interface. These days, users are exposed to great user experiences in everyday life, whether it is using a tablet, personal computer (PC) or mobile phone. So, expectations are high and the company keeps refreshing the user interface. “Our user interfaces are customisable as well, allowing users to choose templates and formats as per their personal preferences,” says Gupta.
Advantages and adaptability
Any daily newspaper with more than eight pages can opt for Summit workflow solutions. “Smaller newspapers can use our high-quality fonts,” Bindra suggests. 4Cplus customers range from start-ups to publications with 40-centres, with many newspapers and hundreds of editions every day. “In large set-ups, it is impossible to work without a collaborative enterprise backbone, while a start-up is able to stretch finances by investing more in technology, as this allows them to achieve more with fewer resources,” Gupta reasons.
Bindra says Summit solutions provide highest return on investment (ROI) in its class of solutions. “Our solutions give the opportunity of right-sizing of resources, time management and set-up quality delivery framework for our newspaper customers,” he adds. 4Cplus has solutions for newsroom automation, fonts, news portals, Apps, ePaper, advertisement management, circulation management, finance, payroll, page planning, materials management, newsprint inventory and MIS.
“We can offer a single seamlessly integrated enterprise solution. We have tried to become a single window solution provider to our customers by adding solutions to meet their expectations,” Gupta says. The company invests a lot in R&D and keep abreast with the best in the industry worldwide. “India is a great market for media and we see a lot of opportunities in digital convergence,” he adds.
Earlier, in the workflow system, there were some problems due to different files in page layout software – Quark, PageMaker and Adobe InDesign. How the developers have overcome the challenges? “Our workflow solutions are compatible with both QuarkXpress and InDesign. PageMaker is already an end of life product,” says Bindra. 4Cplus, on the other hand, are members of Quark Alliance and Adobe partner programmes. “Both our editorial and advertisement solutions are seamlessly integrated with QuarkXpress and
Adobe products,” Gupta says. He also agrees that PageMaker has been obsolete for many years now.
From the prospective of a workflow developer, which areas are the most critical – fonts, layout design, collaboration workflow (advertisement, content and images), or something else in the workflow? All of the above, says Bindra. “On top of these, handling of all kind of content (print, digital and mobile) with ease of use and providing a robust working environment carries high weightage,” he adds. According to Gupta, layout design and fonts are most important because that is what the readers see. “The end consumer just wants a great product. How the publisher went about achieving the final result (manual or using a great system) does not bother the reader,” he argues. 
Looking ahead
Unlike what many distracters may be saying, newspapers in India are doing rather well, or expanding, especially the regional language newspapers. How do the workflow solution providers plan to exploit the situation? While Bindra agrees that the newspaper industry in not going down in India, and the whole of Asia, he says, at the same time, the industry is no longer growing at the same pace it used to earlier. “The digital and mobile realities (low growth on print revenues and low revenues on digital) are impacting profitability,” he says. Gupta counters the argument by saying that in India at least, it is still a rising trend.
“Established newspapers are growing. New publications are also being launched. In the recent times, we have seen many new newspapers starting operations, not only in India, but also in other Asian countries,” Gupta says. “In the future, we will focus on making the total cost of ownership low, and offer seamlessly integrated solutions for newspaper, TV, radio and digital.”