A BBC Worldwide journey on the making of magazine pages
As the only UK publisher in the top 5 to have seen a 6.7% year on year sales increase, BBC Magazines is a significant force. BBC Worldwide’s mission is “to entertain the world and bring value to the BBC”. As the commercial arm of the BBC, we “entertain” audiences in the broadest sense via a wide portfolio of media businesses operating in markets across the globe. We bring value in a number of ways by providing a growing stream of commercial revenue to supplement the UK license fee, and also in developing content and brands across many media and formats, from Dalek toys to Planet Earth DVDs.
The total UK magazine industry is valued at approximately £ 3 billion made up of about 6,500 titles – 4,377 business and professional and 2,164 consumer magazines. Despite this historically good performance, the industry is under some considerable pressures right now. The increase in online activity has led sales away from the newsstand for some publishers and added pressure to magazines’ bottom line performance. There are publishers who are worried about the future. There has been consolidation within the industry which has helped make publishers more nervous. Most publishers are seeking to develop their online presence as-well-as continuing to launch new print based magazines.
There is constant pressure to produce the highest quality and these pressures lead to a constant aim to be a more efficient business. One recent scheme we undertook was our Smart Repro project where we decided to bring all of our pre-press requirements in-house. We knew there were savings to be made through no longer out sourcing our pre-press work but we also saw that we could benefit from improved quality, greater control and greater ownership of our magazine pages. As the UK’ s third largest magazine publisher, with over 30 consumer magazine titles, we were not oblivious to the fact that we would be making an impact on the pre-press industry.
For the project to be a success, we had to change the culture, change our processes, choosing the correct staff and kit and work to a tight budget. Our UK integrator supplied and integrated the full Smart Repro hardware and software components including:
TWIST; automated workflow and remote proofing software DIALOGUE; and four Epson Stylus Pro digital inkjet printers for proofing, all driven by GMG ColorProof software. The fact that the DALIM SOFTWARE UK partner could not only provide the right technology but also a huge amount of technical know how, a high level of service and training support, was important to us to ensure the transition went through successfully.
The Smart Repro internal workflow is based around quality PDF production.
If required, the editorial department sends images to the studio for any highend work including re-touching and these are supplied back to the team on a local server. The designer then finishes the InDesign page, dropping in the high res image and passing to TWIST for the production of a validated PDFX/1a file. Interim proofs can be viewed on screen using DIALOGUE, while hard copy proofs are output on the Epson/GMG system for final sign off before the files are transmitted directly to the print site. Furthermore the system is integrated (via XML and XMP) to BBC Magazine’s picture library enabling archive images to be searched and selected.
We chose to address the culture issue by treating each magazine as a valued customer. Although we were also very careful not to create a “them and us” relationship, we wanted to know the idiosyncrasies of each title. We treated the editorial team as if we had just won their business and strove to show them that the repro technicians and kit we had invested in, could produce the results they would be more than happy with. They were delighted. The quality, turnaround and ease with which they could communicate with the repro team gave them immediate benefits leading to editorial and repro being seen as part of one team.
And what are we doing now? Transition to in-house prepress is now complete. Not only is this system used on magazines but also to produce other BBC material for example our bags and posters. However we are yet to bring classified advertising production in-house. As a publisher, we are also aware that our advertisers are really rather important to us! So as well as our sales team continuing to build relationships and sales, it is important for Production to look again at what we can do to be a more efficient business.
We are also excited about the soft proofing side of the business and are driving this forward as much as we can. We have been soft proofing for about 18 months now, as well as sending hard copy proofs to press. We are aware there are many publishers who have chosen to rule out proofs altogether and trust printing to numbers. This is less common in the quality-lifestyle titles, where we are only too aware of the limitations of tracking pages on press in web offset printing. We are now working closely with our printers to look at soft proofing kit that meets their needs as well as the needs of all publishers and not just ours.
And what impact will all this have on us as an industry? In the same way that BBC Worldwide is not an island and we are aware and affected by other publishers, we are also part of one environment. There will be a reduction in hard copy proofs and their consumables, fewer CDs and this will also result in a reduction in couriers and their impact.
Future plans? Next – we have to find ways of automating advertising delivery. We are looking at providing a free service to give the advertisers a route to submit advertising.
This will be ready by the end of the year. We are always looking at the business and predicting its needs in 2-3 years time – it’s an on going process.