2021-07-01 Naviga

The Future of Print Production is Here

Author: Gordon Edall, VP of Sophi.io

The first time you see it actually produce a page, it’s hard not to be wowed by the magic. It creates printed pages that both look and feel like the work of someone who knows what a newspaper and a story should look like – but no hands have ever touched a page. It is the biggest transformation we’re likely to see in print media in the next decade. It is Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io.

Publisher is an artificial intelligence-powered machine that can emulate human decisions in order to produce newspaper pages that look like they’re built with a real understanding of the news, stories, and topics of the day. Being able to hand this labor intensive task over to a tested and proven machine enables the newsroom to focus on its real objective of finding the stories that make up the lifeblood of the news business.

The evolution of page laydown

When it comes to automated page layout, the previous generations of solutions took one of two approaches:

  1. They looked at the available content and had to fit it into templates that had to be used
  2. They looked at the templates and had to find content that fit within them

Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io has changed that paradigm. It frees you from the constraints of how you build pages. This Artificial Intelligence (AI) engine doesn’t use templates. Publisher designs each page from scratch following a design vocabulary and a set of rules that are encoded in the AI – something high volume, high production operations will see as a dramatic change. These guidelines are subtle and more flexible, but still look and feel like human decisions because they aren’t tied to a rigid template.

In the past, newsroom efficiency has typically been driven by a heavily templated approach, but now you can achieve new levels of efficiency. You can do the same type of work at a greater scale, quicker, more efficiently, and produce pages that take advantage of all the assets you have available on any given day, and are more dynamic, more interesting, and more engaging.

Next generation tools within a familiar workflow

One of the greatest benefits of working in Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io is that your workflows don’t change. You can take advantage of all of Naviga’s content management tooling and continue working exactly how you’re accustomed to in a way that is platform agnostic.

Through Sophi’s partnership with Naviga, we introduce the next generation of tools to your workflows today. We paired Naviga’s ability to manage and prioritize content with Sophi.io’s AI to power the blueprint engine at the heart of Publisher. Publisher allows you to continue authoring content and preparing your stories with no re-training required. It simply adds an extremely user friendly “Print my paper” button, which produces an edition of your newspaper autonomously at any point during the day. The final output is camera ready InDesign pages that can go direct to print. Publisher lets you manage your content in a way that makes sense with your daily workflow as it simplifies newsroom tasks, streamlines operations, and makes it easy to put out a high-quality paper with less editorial effort and hours sunk into the mechanics of production.

How does it work?

Sophi’s AI has the ability to focus on the most important things first, supported by a system that understands your effort, the value of the news, and both audience and newsroom expectations, in order to produce a high quality version of your paper in minutes. This is compared to a team of people spending hours on print laydown conversations and roughing in the flow of the paper. It reminds me of the transition from the typewriter to the computer – it’s just that different.

There are countless ways to take advantage of the capabilities of Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io:

  • Change a single page as the news evolves, or lock the pages you don’t want to rerun
  • Easily and instantly rerun an entire publication – it used to take hours to rip up a paper starting from A1 and reflow everything, this can now be done in a matter of minutes by a machine that can understand priorities have changed
  • Inject some serendipity; change pace and introduce a different topical area the same way a page designer or the newsroom would when laying out the paper by hand

AI that understands content and newspapers

Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io understands content in some remarkable ways. It models topics and understands changes in stories over time – the sequence of a story and the relationships between stories – which allows it to build pages in a way that makes sense to readers and provides a familiar hierarchy within the newspaper. It presents news in the way readers expect and understand, and you don’t have to tell it what to do. Given a list of stories and pages, it dynamically and autonomously determines which stories should go on which pages.

It isn’t just about laying out a paper, it’s about structuring the news. The AI system understands all content you have and what the right combinations of stories is across all your pages to produce a newspaper that gives people a solid understanding of what’s going on in the world based on all of the work your reporters have done. Being able to do this with minimal human input – outside of the stories themselves – is a major advantage in the publishing world. The system always respects newsroom prioritization as well as section and ad distribution. Within the constraints you set up, it takes advantage of your best content to build the best possible pages. And you can generate different versions of those pages throughout the day – whereas before, the sunk costs of all the effort that went into every page made it difficult to make large scale changes late in the day.

Building a relationship with your readers

Building a newspaper is hard. There is a lot of problem solving involved in each laydown and each day’s design. You need to understand the nature of stories you have to work with. You need to understand the sizes of the pages you have to fill. You need to understand what needs to run where to ensure you meet all of the commitments your revenue-side stakeholder have made as well the promises you’ve made to readers in the past.

Your ability to design a page today is typically constrained by the number of people you have to design any given number of pages. And the quality of those pages is often a function of how much time they have to treat each page with careful care and consideration. The result, when done well, is a newspaper that looks and feels like it was produced by someone who cares about news and understands the editorial traditions and sensibilities that allow newspapers to build a relationship with their audience over time. Newspapers are a part of the fabric of the society we exist in. People have a favouritefavorite newspaper for very specific reasons. There’s a human element to understanding:  

  1. what a newspaper is, 
  2. how it functions in the world, and 
  3. why it’s so important.

All of these are things that Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io understands.  

It can step into the print production process as an ally that’s been trained to understand what’s important to you as a publisher. During the training process, newsrooms work with Naviga and Sophi to make adjustments that are a key part of making sure that your legacy, tradition and the history of how and why your newspaper does things a certain way is something the AI understands well. With that understanding in place, you get a high performance, efficient system for producing all the versions of a newspaper you could produce on any day, and the ability to produce the best one in a way that leverages what’s possible today with truly state-of-the-art AI technologies. 

Technology is evolving rapidly  

Those who’ve seen the process live – who have seen the output and been close to the development of this tool from day one – still say that when the paper is on the press it’s pretty unbelievable. And Tthat’s because it’s difficult to imagine how quickly the world we live in is changing until you see an example of what the future looks like.  

AI-powered technology is evolving rapidly and is, in my opinion, showing us now the way the world will work in the future. Our ability to build systems on top of AI is allowing a cadence of iterative change that’s never been seen before. Some publishers will find their way into this future very quickly.  

An organization’s ability to navigate its own way into a future that leverages state-of-the-art artificial intelligence will likely be critical to survival for many news organizations. Publisher already produces pages that any newsroom wouldn’t be able to tell apart from the work of its editors – and it will only get better and faster from here. I firmly believe that there are not a lot of technology solutions available to help get you to this future quickly and efficiently without losing a sense of who you are. The good news is that Naviga Publisher powered by Sophi.io can get you there, today.