Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Old Idea in a Digital Age

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Old Idea in a Digital Age

Article excerpt

Recalling teenage Wizard's weekly newspaper, magazine publisher wants to print daily on trains

Borrowing a 135-year-old idea from the short-lived Weekly Herald, a magazine publisher would like to distribute the latest news to rail passengers by printing a newspaper on their train.

The Herald went out of print when, at age 15, newsboy-turned-publisher Thomas Edison gave up his baggage-car printing press and took up the railroad telegraph. IBM Corp. and Germany's Spiegel Verlag, however, want to combine the two -- printing and encoded electronic telecommunication -- to accomplish the same publishing task on a daily basis.

Taking over where small, black-only fax newspaper editions leave off, a pilot project in Germany seeks to print news for travelers in a larger format with color. The aim, however, is similar to the New York Times' effort to fax a small-format, multipage edition to cruise ships for distribution to passengers.

But even though the German enterprise requires more than just faxing editions to fixed or mobile receivers, it is somewhat less involved than transmissions to remote color printers for subsequent distribution through more-traditional single-copy retailing -- the model adopted by Scitex Corp. spinoff PressPoint.

The PressPoint venture (E&P, April 13, July 20, 1996) takes files of composed newspaper pages at a hub, converts them to Adobe's Portable Document Format and sends the resulting files by satellite to sites that print out 10- to 15-page editions on Xerox color or black-only printers using sheets preprinted with ads on one side.

In the latest test, IBM and the printer of the news weekly Der Spiegel have collaborated on an abbreviated daily newspaper for train passengers that is similar to the newsletter Washington-based States News Service has supplied to airlines and will soon distribute on a major passenger rail line (see story, p. 6).

Like PressPoint, Der Tag can run to several 11 3/4" x 16 1/2" pages (a tab that's an inch or two deeper) with color advertisements.

Unlike PressPoint, however, the Spiegel test uses an IBM InfoPrint 60 black-and-white printer that can be loaded with sheets preprinted on both sides with color ads. Spiegel fills the resulting news hole with "highlights of the most up-to-date news of the day" and transmits files that match the layout to the traveling printer, according to IBM telecommunications & media publishing solutions manager Wayne Forte.

Begun earlier in the year as a preprinted publication distributed to gauge passenger interest, the newspaper continues rail-based publication by Art and Information GmbH, a unit of Spiegel, according to Der Spiegel New York bureau manager Anjelika Wrubel. …

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