Magazine article Editor & Publisher

E&P Technical: Dow Deal Done for CTP?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

E&P Technical: Dow Deal Done for CTP?

Article excerpt

By Jim Rosenberg

A newspaper company that was among the first to investigate computer-to-plate output will soon be among the last to adopt the direct digital prepress technology. Maintaining the story's suspense through its last chapter, Dow Jones & Co. seems to have made a major course correction at some point between late last fall and early this spring.

For most publishers in recent years, a major hurdle in converting to or updating CTP output has been the choice between thermal and violet imaging. Among factors to be weighed and compared are purchase price and operating cost; laser operating mode, service life and replacement cost; plate and dot characteristics; processing requirements; imager speed; net system throughput; and differences in imaging process, in plate handling and sensitivity, and in calibration and maintenance requirements.

Newspapers large and small can be counted among each technology's users. The Wall Street Journal sits near the top of the circulation list, between USA Today and The New York Times, and like those two, Dow Jones' flagship is a national newspaper printed at numerous plants. All Journal print sites have large press runs, but not all are equivalent to a major metro's. Its page count today, however, is as high as or higher than the Times' and other big dailies' weekday editions. Its choice for outputting plates might have gone either way.

It appears to have gone both ways. In December it was thought to be leaning toward violet, according to a source familiar with the company's print operations. But by spring, says the same person, who cannot speak for the company, "we were looking at thermal."

Strictly from an outsider's view, both choices are understandable. Kodak, this market's principal supplier of thermal platesetting systems, inherited a history with Dow Jones when it acquired Creo. Creo earlier had acquired the Scitex business that developed the imagesetters bought by Dow Jones in 2000 in connection with its plants' color-tower expansions.

Most Dow Jones plants are believed to still be using the CreoScitex (now Kodak) Dolev 4NewsV XL internal-drum imagesetters (rated at 50-plus broadsheet pages/separations per hour) and Carnfeldt processors to output film to burn subtractive precoated plates from Konica. Those Dolevs were interfaced with Dow Jones' page-distribution system. Today, says the same source, "they're reaching the end of their useful life. There's a lot of maintenance involved with them."

But last summer, News Corp. bought Dow Jones. News Corp. operates DiamondSetter CTP lines in Britain and at what until now was its lone U.S. daily, the New York Post. The comparatively costly green-laser systems (relying on frequency-doubled infrared lasers) were developed by Western Lithotech in the mid-1990s. The Post purchased its DiamondSetters in 2000. Agfa acquired the Western Lithotech business in 2004, when it acquired Lastra, which earlier had bought Western Lithotech. (Three years earlier, Agfa acquired another major competitor, platesetter supplier Autologic Information International.)

So observers in and out of Dow Jones assumed that the company would stay with Agfa and implement violet platesetting, just as the New York Times recently converted from DiamondSetters to Agfa Polaris violet imagers (and output-management software), in addition to the smaller Agfa Advantage violet devices used at several of its national print sites. …

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