If you’re at a loose end in London and want some ideas for what to see or do, the chances are you’ll look at Time Out for inspiration. And if you’re in New York, Paris, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Hong Kong or a large and rapidly-growing number of other cities around the world, you may well look at local editions of the magazine, website or app there too. Since its inception in 1968, London’s insider guide to what’s going on has become an internationally renowned brand.
Now an international multi-channel media company, Time Out covers 89 cities in 38 countries. While its digital platforms have expanded significantly in recent years, print still remains an essential part of the publishing mix, as Group IT Director Simon Chappell explains:
“We are a digital first company, but our magazines continue to be highly successful and are integrated into the full mix of our digital channels, so that you can get inspiration from Time Out whenever, wherever and however you want it,” he says.
Part of the reason for the ongoing success of the London magazine was the 2012 switch from paid-for newsstand title to free distribution. “This really reinvigorated the brand,” confirms Chappell.
While the company has always prided itself on being at the forefront of prepress and print developments, by late 2013 its in-house developed production systems still required a high degree of manual intervention and supervision which was becoming increasingly unwieldy as the publication portfolio boasts around 30 guide publications in addition to the weekly magazine.
Chappell’s team experimented with commercial automation software but experienced problems with reliability, scripting requirements and visibility of production status information, until long-standing partner systems integrator LGS showed them DALIM TWIST. “We’re not a newspaper, but once a week it becomes like one,” says Chappell. He explains that what was needed was a production tool that in addition to reliable performance, would provide timely information on production status, including detailed pre-flight error reporting so that problem could be identified and resolved speedily.
Time Out’s IT and production staff drew up a list of requirements that TWIST would need to meet, including the ability to automate a wide range of highly specialised bespoke production rules. LGS confirmed that TWIST could meet these requirements and the software was installed at the central London Time Out headquarters shortly before Christmas 2014. Two or three weeks were spent fine-tuning the system, better defining the requirements and testing the error reporting capabilities, before live production commenced in late January.
“The decision to go with TWIST felt like a no-brainer, it was very clear what it could do. We should have done it years ago,” says Chappell.
TWIST automates file naming according to Time Out’s rules, which is an essential productivity aid for both in-house production staff and the printer as it avoids potential confusion between the many magazine issues and guides. It also performs pre-flighting of PostScript output from InDesign pages generated in-house, which Chappell says “fixes or avoids transparency and clipping path issues so that the PDFs which are subsequently made via Acrobat Distiller aren’t passing on problems for the printer”.
TWIST handles colour management too, checking for and applying the correct Fogra profiles for printing the magazine and guides, which are produced on very different stocks. Ads which arrive as PDF files are also pre-flighted by TWIST and can be corrected automatically or returned to the submitting agencies if more intractable problems are found.
In-house printing for content and positional proofing on toner-based printers is supported via TWIST, and there is also the option to integrate existing ORIS software for contract proofing if required in the future. Lower-resolution PDFs of magazine pages for use with online publishing platforms such as those from Yudu and Google is also automated via TWIST.
Chappell is so impressed with the capabilities of TWIST that he says he didn’t have to work out the ROI. “I knew it would deliver. We could see that right away because of the speed of roll-out and the new automation, which is probably saving at least six hours a week. That’s significant. It frees up production staff to do better housekeeping by taking out the menial and repetitive tasks and we’re hitting deadlines sooner. It’s proved itself on everything we needed it to do.”