Publishing Star Wars at Vanity Fair; Satellite Equipment Allows a Monthly to Compete with Weeklies

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Publishing star wars at Vanity Fair

How do you make a monthly competitive with a weekly? Go satellite. Conde Nast's Vanity Fair has shaved weeks off its lead time by switching from traditional productiom methods to satellite transmission of editorial pages to its printer.

The change permits editors to close 32 editorial pages on a schedule similar to that of newsweeklies. The magazine can now cover profiles or news as recently as the week before Vanity Fair's on-sale date.

"This is radical for us," says Kevin Hickey, director of manufacturing and distribution, Conde NAst. "It's expensive, but then these are very competitive times for all magazines."

Vanity Fair may be the first monthly to take advantage of satellite technology. Until now, monthlies have had only a distant interest: The technology is expensive (Hickey declined to say how costly) and difficult to justify for editorial that doesn't demand immediacy. Newsweeklies, on the other hand, now regularly use satellite installations to transmit simultaneously color pages to as many as a dozen printing plants around the country. Aviation Week & Space Technology also has used a satellite link to get late-breaking coverage of foreign air shows.

Vanity Fair transmitted 32 pages of its March issue by satellite to World Color Press at its Effingham, Illinois, printing plant. The system was assembled by Publishers Phototype International (PPI), a New Jersey pre-press service bureau involved with satellite transmission of newsweeklies.

The facsimile system works much like office telephone-line facsimile machines, but at much higher quality. PPI generates the page films at its New Jersey plant and feeds them into a Crosfield Pagefax 2 facsimile transmission system. The system scans the film and transmits the data by satellite link to a receiving station at the Effingham plant, installed by PPI specifically for this project. The printing plant then duplicates the film.

World Color Press also allows Vanity Fair to break those 32 lat epages into variable signatures. If divided into eight-page signatures, late editorial can be bound into four different locations in the perfect-bound magazine.

As digital transmission technology advances, the process will become both quicker and less expensive. …