Agfa graphics is a major player in newspaper industry. No doubt about that. On the other hand it is no secret that newspaper industry is declining and many even predict its eventual demise. But Bobby Grauf segment manager for Agfa’s Global Newspaper business begs to differ. Grauf was recently on a visit to Dubai attending Wan Ifra Middle East Conference. We sat down with him to find out why he thinks there is a new found optimism in newspaper industry and what role Agfa is playing in the regional and global newspaper industry.
“During past 20 to 25 years Agfa established itself as a market leader in newspaper prepress market. In the course of last 2 years however we ventured into mobile publishing service. Our new solution is called Eversify and offers the same level of automation that our software for print provides for the publishers. Publisher create the content. We create the branded App. There is a link between the onsite editorial system or the layout application and the service that sits in the cloud. Eversify then automatically layouts the publication using predefined templates and content will be pushed out to the mobile devices,” explains Grauf.
Does this new solution from Agfa means newspaper is moving away from print while embracing digital technology? According to Grauf the answer is yes and no.” Two years ago there was a certain sense of inevitability about newspaper decline but now there is a certain optimism in the air. The big newspapers around the globe are achieving a synergy between printed newspaper and 24 hours immediate online news. They are using a blend of innovative ways including paywall, new subscription and advertising models to generate new revenue systems.
Today a newspaper is just another source of providing information, albeit a reliable one. Today people receive their dose of news from different sources and newspaper publishers are offering their readers print and online versions of the news and information.”
Grauf also sees healthy growth for the newspaper industry in the region. He says,” Middle East was a pioneer in combining heatset and coldest. So there is a strong demand for high quality newspapers in the region. From print production point of view there is more demand for automation and quality control practices as well as cost reduction. In GCC countries with the advancement of the infrastructure standards such as 4G and the availability of cheaper tablets and mobile phones the newspaper adaptation to digital technology will gain momentum. But for the rest of the counties in the Middle East and Africa the process takes more time.”
Plate is still the king
Despite Agfa’s latest foray in mobile publishing service and cloud infrastructure, CTP technology is still the bread and butter of the company. According to Grauf at the moment almost half of newspaper plates manufactured by Agfa are chemistry free. The latest newspaper in the region that made the conversion to chem free plates is Al Ahram in Egypt.
“Agfa is by far the market leader in chem free plates for the newspaper industry. These plates are part of our strategy to encourage environmentally friendly practices. But that’s not all; there are other aspects such as waste management, how quickly to get to the first copy out, ink saving, chemistry saving and other considerations. So being environmentally friendly requires close attention to many details. On the other hand we have to be realistic too. Being eco- friendly should not cost more. It even has to reduce costs.”
For Agfa, the newspaper industry is still a very lucrative market and it seems that the company has been able to adapt to new realities. However for many people the Agfa brand is still synonymous with plate and chemistry.
The question is how Agfa can change this perception. ” We want to be a one stop shop prepress supplier. A CTP device is only as intelligent as the software that drives it. What we are trying to convey is that Agfa offers the total package including hardware, software and supplies. We are adding service to the whole package as well. Fact is that our Arkitex software is very well known and newspaper publishers are embracing it. Our new generation newspaper CTP is also able to image high quality plates for production of high quality inserts along with the newspaper. Our chem free plates and violet CTP systems are a winning combination. Although for the commercial printing we offer thermal technology, for newspaper environment violet is still the best choice. Today two thirds of all newspaper CTP engines sold are violet and one third is thermal. We strongly believe that there will be a future for offset printing on a global level. It is very possible that you see print volume dramatically dropping in one country while at the global level print is growing,” concludes Grauf.