Printers Take to the Cloud: As the Magazine Industry Changes, One of Its Core Supplier Categories, Printing, Morphs from Old-School Owner of Big Iron to Multi-Faceted Technology Provider. One of the Hottest Areas of Growth Is in the Application-Service Provider Space
Langford, Bert N., Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management
FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW, publication printers have been aggressively branching out to offer a full array of services to magazine companies.
They've always offered various prepress and postpress services, but in the last decade, these services have significantly expanded and now it's common for printers to offer not just digital editions but also Web development, content management systems, XML repositories and workflow-management tools.
Now some printers taking the next steps in a transformation from old-industry giants into nimble technology companies by offering these and other services as applications, accessible to publishers through the Internet. In this report, we'll look at some of the emerging technology solutions offered by printers, all clustered around a single concept: ASP hosting. This phrase--application service provider hosting--means that a printer hosts one or more software applications for its customers over the Web.
The ASP approach is common in many industries and for many functions. Basically, it means all data and applications are hosted, maintained and upgraded at a service-provider's facility, rather than the customer's site. Data is accessed via a secure online connection customized for the customer.
There is no discernible difference for the user between an ASP system or an in-house technology approach. The advantage to the customer of the ASP is that they no longer need to buy their own servers, hosting room, security systems, back-up equipment and associated gear. Also, an ASP generally offers the customer the option of subscription, as opposed to making major investments in software and hardware.
Before I start, the strongest recommendation I can offer is that no matter what the circumstances, there needs to be a proven ROI for the publisher if it's going to go down the road to an ASP solution. Otherwise, don't bother.
Also important: The printer has to be able to provide the service in a format that can be maintained and certainly used--even in the event that the publisher switches printers. In other words, maintain your flexibility and make sure your data and systems can be transferred.
Here are a few examples of cloud-computing, from printer to publisher, magazine-industry style.
Virtually every magazine and magazine-related Web business is searching for additional intelligence for its sales efforts, and America's Horse, published by American Quarter Horse Association, is one of them. But unlike many others, America's Horse has an additional weapon. The magazine uses the services of MagazineRadar, an advertising-research and intelligence firm, to track where ads are being placed in its market and in related markets with similar demographics.
MagazineRadar has a partnership with Brown Printing to provide the service, which is available to members of the America's Horse sales team via the Web. "We can perform very specific searches and create reports to see what competitors a potential new advertiser utilizes, says Gary Conway, business development account executive at the magazine. "Magazine Radar also uses our user profile to find advertisers who have historically placed ads targeting similar demographics and ultimately suggests great new leads."
Job Planning and Tracking
Software providers that serve the magazine industry have long been challenged to find a technology solution that can manage--and integrate--the print-manufacturing process, encompassing a whole host of departments and processes. They've also been thwarted at every turn.
The vision is to have one system that tracks advertising, starting with sales efforts through to confirmed insertions, through the production department and materials processing, through invoicing, billing and accounts receivable. …