'Zero imagination' limits Jersey's print opportunity

His Jersey gig done, Jack Knadjian makes no secret of his frustration over what has and has not been achieved in a well-publicised project.

The Channel Islands print plant - a joint venture between Kodak and the owner of the Jersey Evening Post - has printed all the UK national papers (bar one) every day since it went live on May 2 this year, as well as taking over production of the local daily from a 35-year-old Harris newspaper press.

But the Post copies Knadjian carries under his arm speak for the frustration: Printed on two of the best and fastest inkjet web presses in the world, they're dull and grey - suggestive of what would be an emulsification problem on a web press - and most of the advertisements are in black-and-white.

Cut back to the two years it took to nut out details of the project, which put two Prosper 6000P inkjets and four Hunkeler finishing lines into a 13,500 m2 industrial unit near the island's capital of St Helier: "We printed lots of samples during that period, with the newspaper wanting more density and (more expensive) better quality, but then choosing to go for the cheaper and cheaper options," he says.

"A traditional printer wouldn't think much of what we're putting out, but perhaps the fact that there have only been a couple of complaints suggests that they are right."

The 300 metres/minute digital presses print 100 per cent full colour, but in conservative Jersey, the local paper still sells the option of mono advertising... and that is what a majority of its clients seem to go for, adding to the dull look of the grey pages.

Before digital, colour availability was limited in the Post. And as the paper rolls off the most modern, most capable equipment as a result of a multimillion dollar investment, "we haven't done anything that our great grandfathers wouldn't have been able to do," he says. "There is zero imagination."

One option he canvassed was a tie-up with the local newsletters which serve Jersey's 16 parishes, but so far to no avail.

It's a pity therefore, that Knadjian - the star of a PrintWorld conference during WAN-Ifra's World Publishing Conference in Vienna - wasn't joined by Italian Dario De Cian from CSQ (Centro Stampa Quotidiane) in Erbusco, a no-show due to travel difficulties.

The general manager of a plant equipped with two large Wifag offset presses and an HP/manroland inkjet line was to have told of projects which put hyperlocal inserts into regional daily newspapers there. One is a four-page Il Mio Piccolo supplement personalized for each individual reader, who chooses editorial from a range of topics and receives a product including targeted advertising.

Of the Jersey project, Knadjian is noneless upbeat: Its 364-day operational year has ensured islanders get papers regardless of whether fog or other adverse conditions have slowed or stopped the aircraft which used to freight them from London. In a community of 100,000 people buying an average of 30,000 newspapers (and growing) new opportunities have opened up. Home delivery - impossible with irregular delivery times - is now an option, bringing with it the possibility of microzoning.

And so much more: Knadjian came out of retirement to get a concept he had been talking about for 13 years underway, and now he says he's going to retire again, "for good this time".

He looks back on a project which has changed the dynamic of short-run digital newspaper printing. The joint venture company, KP Services, is now the world's biggest user of digital print consumables (ink and printheads) bringing them to less-than-a-quarter of the per copy cost - on a par with the 48.8 gsm Palm newsprint used - instead of more than a third.

And the lessons learned position others for similar projects: One has been that big variations in pagination "make life difficult". Friday and Saturday production of about 30,000 copies requires 248,000-261,000 metres of digital printing, while the smaller Sunday paper runs amount to only 136,000 metres.

As a result, the original plan to split the equipment to set up a plant in the neighbouring island of Guernsey - to print the UK nationals but not the Guernsey daily, where the press is "only 25 years old" - will require a third Prosper 6000P and investment in this, plus mechanized stackers, has been approved.

Currently the labour-intensive business of collating a complex mix of tabloid and broadsheet products has called for the employment of 24 more people than previously, all locals without print experience.

But the latent potential of the plant - which can print iup to 168 pages tabloid, and ensure bundles tailored for each delivery point all have the same number of copies in them - goes largely untapped.

Peter Coleman

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