Left or right the Berlin focus is on publishing success

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It was "the Ifra", but somehow not as you know it. The newly-partnered World Publishing Expo and DCX Digital Content Expo opened on Tuesday with a pragmatic reformatting of what remains the world's premier newspaper trade show.

Not that you would necessarily know it, with a high proportion of domestic exhibitors - they're the ones with their signage entirely in German - and conference presentations in a mix of languages.

At the entrance to halls 21 and 22 of the Berlin Messe, a sign directs you to left or right, and urges you to "Make publishing successful". Perhaps something got lost in the translation, but I had thought that was what we had been doing for a while now.

Certainly the strong contingent of Indian delegates - including close to a dozen from the Times of India among them Sanat Hazra and Snehasis Roy - still know what publishing success is. Aptly, Hazra and Rajiv Lochan, chief executive of The Hindu publisher Kasturi & Sons, will close the show on a high note tomorrow (Thursday).

The new format under joint company Publishing Exhibition has put the event on a more secure footing, but the separate branding - Ifra to the left, DCX to the right - leaves you wondering whether the digital and systems show may someday leave its print-focussed neighbour and head off on its own.

Six keynotes - three on the opening morning - set the event on an optimistic footing, with New York Times vice chairman Michael Golden among those crossing the Atlantic for the show. Also from the US, as both an exhibitor and a contributor to the speaker roster is Arc Systems, the tech vendor based on Jeff Bezos' personally-owned Washington Post business, and represented by director Matt Monahan.

Three stages and a start-up "park" have ensured plenty of representation both for stalwart exhibitors and those making their first appearance at the show, but there are still "aisle exhibitors" - some of them high-profile companies - around as well.

Monday's programme included a session on robot journalism, and presentation of the World Digital Media Awards with two top places going to The Guardian, two more to Hong Kong publishers the South China Morning Post and WeMedia01, and another to Malaysia's Star Media R.AGE youth engagement project.

Nor is it all digital, with a session on targeted newspapers, and another American, Mike Blinder among those rallying support for print in a rousing presentation this afternoon.

The event continues today (Thursday) and will return to Berlin in 2018 from October 9-11.

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