Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Clustering: One Plant Serves Multiple Papers

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Clustering: One Plant Serves Multiple Papers

Article excerpt

THE TERM PRESS capacity is gaining new meaning at many small newspapers across the country. It not only relates to how many pages a press can produce, but how many different newspapers the machines can churn out in one or two shifts.

Proponents of this latest cost-cutting tactic call it clustering, and it has led to the abandonment of many newspaper plants as neighboring weeklies and small dailies share press facilities, sometimes augmented with extra units or inserting equipment.

A typical scenario involves the purchase or ownership of a medium-size daily like the New Haven (Conn.) Register, whose double-wide presses and modern inserting equipment can handle its own 100,000-plus daily press run (130,000 on Sunday), plus four weeklies, TV books and comics for other smaller dailies and still have time for the Yale Daily News.

Journal Register Co., owner of the Register and some weeklies it prints, has also clustered production of two small New England dailies, and a daily and area weeklies. In some cases, press units have been moved from an abandoned plant to supplement capacity at a remaining plant. The company, based in Trenton, N.J., owns dailies in New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In California, Alameda Newspaper Group, a couple of years ago, added the Oakland Tribune's 100,000 or so daily circulation to the four dailies it was already producing from three plants -- with the addition of a Harris 1372 inserter at one plant and 10 Urbanite units at another.

Thomson Newspapers, a chain with dailies and weeklies scattered across North America, is reorganizing its newspapers into what president and CEO Dick Harrington calls a "strategic marketing group." It has sold off most of the papers that don't fit into this strategy. The chain now owns (as of Oct. 23) 80 U.S. dailies and 23 weeklies, and in Canada 24 dailies and nine weeklies. Before the corporate overhaul announced last year, Thomson owned 105 U.S. dailies and 26 weeklies, and 38 Canadian dailies and 16 weeklies.

While Thomson's clustering is driven by marketing, Bob Daleo, senior vice president and chief financial officer for the Stamford, Conn.-based newspaper group, said: "When it makes sense, we are consolidating our production facilities and bringing in high-powered printing professionals."

Since the restructuring, Daleo explained, Thomson considers production a "stand-alone business" and expects its newspaper printing plants to be in the commercial printing business, as well.

Paul Martin, Thomson Newspapers' vice president of production systems, said most newspaper plants have surplus press time, even when plants print two dailies. A press that runs five to six hours a day. to print two newspapers sits idle the other 18 hours, he said.

While the company is trying to make the most efficient use of its newspaper plants, closing some and consolidating production nearby, Martin said, it is also planning new production facilities, situated between two newspapers and designed to serve each better.

One of these is already in the works, he said. A new plant is in Kelowna, British Columbia, to print the Kelowna Capital News, Morning Star in Vernon and Western News Advertiser in Penticton. Kelowna, where the three papers are now printed in the Capital News plant, was chosen for the new plant because it is central to the other two communities. Equipment was still being evaluated, Martin added, but the presses will probably be a medium-size configuration of Goss Urbanite units.

Martin said the production goal is to serve the "specific needs" of each newspaper to produce a "better-quality product. …

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