Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Focus on Computers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Focus on Computers

Article excerpt

FIRST, NEWSPAPERS BOUGHT computer systems to perform functions such as setting type and creating ads.

Now they need systems just to keep track of the other systems.

Such is the proliferation of computers, and the complexity of their work.

The increased focus on computers to track and manage component systems, with the intent of raising productivity, was evident in exhibitors' booths at the newspaper trade show Nexpo in New Orleans.

Computerized management systems were on display to monitor everything from ad and page assembly to output devices.

"Everybody's shooting for the electronic page, but how do you manage it?" said Martin Dann, sales director for the U.K. firm QED Technology Ltd., whose Q View page production management system is going into testing.

"It has become a focus of the industry," said Information International Inc. marketing vice president Harry M. Dahl, whose company demonstrated a system to monitor output devices.

Output Manager is designed "so the production manager can sit in his office

and know what is going on," Dahl said.

Triple-I also offers systems to trace and control advertising production.

In other trends, virtually all the vendors of advertising and editorial systems were renouncing their pasts as sellers of proprietary computers and preaching the new gospel of open systems, standard hardware and integration.

"We are an open systems company," Dahl said in remarks echoed around the show floor. "We are going to try to solve newspapers' problems, not hawk hardware?'

After a usual year of instability and changing ownership among system vendors, some familiar names had new corporate parents, including Atex, Mycrotek, Camex, Diadem, Leaf Systems and Xitron.

There were also signs the weak business trend of the last few years was breaking. Smaller companies such as Software Consulting Services and Digital Technologies Inc. reported large sales increases this year.

As newspapers internally evolve into a series of databases, system suppliers emphasized their abilities to use software to integrate the databases generated by often separate newspaper departments.

Those databases increasingly are downsizing from IBM and other minicomputers to networks of UNIX application servers, according to Software Consulting president Richard Cichelli.

Vendors were also touting enhancements to raise ad and classified systems from simply production systems to tools for marketing, selling and performing transactions.

While the so-called Fourth Wave of computerized production was more firmly entrenched than ever--even SII and Atex completed the shift from their own hardware to standard computer hardware--the shift has not been altogether painless. Desktop-style publishing systems have grown to serve larger and larger papers, but they have yet to fully tame systems of 1,000 terminals.

Front ends

Atex, a dominant system supplier that had fallen on hard times under Kodak, has moved quickly to revamp itself since British entrepreneur Danny Chapchal took over in January.

It has agreed to integrate with products from other vendors, acquired components from other vendors, and moved to Bedford, Mass., from Billerica.

At Nexpo, the company introduced the PC-based editorial and ad systems Deadline and Enterprise; six Macintosh-based makeup systems using Quark software; a page production management system called Reflex; and a system designed for companies that publish multiple titles, Work Group Publishing System.

Traditionally strong at large papers, Atex hopes its standard-platform systems will make inroads into smaller papers.

"In under six months we've made the transfer to open architecture and a much broader array of products to serve all tiers of the newspaper marketplace," said Atex spokesman Mike Akillian. …

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