2024-05-15 Scott Roessler

Automated Workflows in Publishing: Enhancing Print Production for Optimal Efficiency

In this week’s installment of our blog series on Data and Publishing, we are focusing on the topic of automating print production. This might not be an obvious example of analyzing stats and crunching numbers. But it does rely on ingesting a body of data in the form of electronic copies of past publications. This results in the end goal of being able to create new, automated print pages that maintain the style and brand of the publication. 

Publishers are looking for this type of automation even as they are aggressively moving toward expanded digital channels, because print publications remain an important part of the product strategy for many media companies. Print is still a source of significant reader revenue and advertising revenue. And a significant segment of the news audience still prefers the familiar print format. 

However, the print production process is labor-intensive. It also is challenging to find the balance between setting rules a machine can follow while providing the day-to-day and page-by-page variety required to continue engaging readers. 

Naviga has invested considerable time having conversations with publishers around the world. The message is consistent: Publishers want to automate the print production process. However, we are also hearing that automation is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. 

Automating print production is a balancing act. How much of the print production process can be broken down into rules and steps that a machine can accomplish; and how much is creative talent that still requires the human touch?   

To succeed with print automation, each publisher should be able to control that balance to meet the needs of its audience. For example, the front page of a major metro newspaper may require much more manual fine tuning than template-driven sections inside the publication that have the same general look and feel.  


Benefits of Print Automation

Automation brings several obvious benefits. The three most impactful are: 

  • Reducing the time and cost required for print publications 
  • Extending the brand reach by creating ePaper replicas 
  • Allowing resources to focus on more strategic work 


Reducing the Time and Cost Required for Print Publications

A couple of years back, Naviga surveyed our global customer base to find out exactly how much time and effort went into producing printed newspapers. The results showed that 22% of the total effort to deliver a newspaper is involved with manual page layout and copy fitting, and organizations with annual revenue over $10m have an average of five subeditors (layout and copy) for print. So, it was no wonder that these same publishers indicated that over 60% of them were actively considering ways to incorporate automation into that process to reduce the expense and time required.  


Extending the Brand Reach by Creating ePaper Replicas

A growing trend we are hearing about from our customers is a new emphasis on ePapers or electronic replicas of the printed publications. Electronic replicas provide the familiar print format in a digital form. Automation allows publishers to enhance their electronic replica products without adding significant production overhead. Imagine providing readers with additional content only available in the e-edition, without having to lay out those additional pages.   

The strategic creation of ePaper replicas using automated workflows allows publishers to maintain consistent engagement with their audience, irrespective of the shifts in print demand. As some media companies contemplate reducing the frequency of their print editions to cut costs or address environmental concerns, ePaper replicas serve as a vital tool to sustain daily interaction with readers. These digital versions replicate the print layout and design, providing a familiar experience to the readership while extending the publication’s reach to a global audience. 


Allowing Resources to Focus on More Strategic Work

One of the most significant benefits of adopting automated workflows in print production is the liberation of valuable human resources. By automating the labor-intensive tasks associated with layout and production, skilled professionals are freed to focus on more strategic and impactful projects. This shift not only enhances the quality of the content but also allows media companies to innovate and adapt to changing market dynamics more effectively. 


Preserving Brand Identity with Advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Automated workflows equipped with AI technologies could be uniquely capable of preserving the style and brand identity of traditional print products. The ultimate aspiration for using automation and AI is to allow these systems to analyze existing layouts and designs to ensure that automated processes replicate these elements accurately in both print and digital formats. This fidelity is crucial for maintaining brand consistency across different media and for meeting the expectations of a loyal readership. 


The Role of AI in Enhancing Print Automation

The incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) into automated workflows brings a new layer of sophistication to print production. AI technologies can predict and adjust for potential layout issues before they occur, optimizing production in real time. Moreover, as these systems gather data on production trends and outcomes, they continuously learn and improve, ensuring that each cycle of production is more efficient than the last. 


Conclusion: A Strategic Imperative for Future-Ready Publishers

The integration of automated workflows is not merely a technological upgrade but a strategic imperative for publishers aiming to thrive in a digitized world. This approach not only ensures operational efficiency but also enhances the scalability and adaptability of publishing operations. As the industry continues to evolve, the ability to quickly adapt and respond to market demands with innovative solutions will distinguish leading publishers from the rest.  

Naviga’s commitment to leveraging the power of data and automation exemplifies our proactive approach to not just participating in the industry’s evolution but leading it. By harnessing sophisticated automation technologies, we are setting new standards in publishing, ensuring that our clients are always at the forefront of innovation and efficiency.