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Serve the customer right

New digital print heads on offset presses help The Sun to reward loyalty, writes Gary Cullum

IN an age when it seems we only reward ‘brand new customers only’ – to coin a well-known TV ad – it’s refreshing to see The Sun offering the same digital subscription added value to its core print brand.

Sunday 4 August could go down in history as the day when digital technology helped the traditional printed newspaper take a big leap forward in the fight for readers and reader loyalty: It was the day The Sun started placing a unique reader code on every one of its two million-plus printed copies.

To coincide with the arrival of Sun+, the new world of digital entertainment launched by The Sun, the News UK presses at the group’s three Newsprinters’ plants have been upgraded with the latest printing technology to ensure the most loyal readers of The Sun receive exactly the same benefits as their digital counterparts.

For just £2 a week, Sun+ members will receive all The Sun’s news, showbiz, features and sport coverage as well as a guaranteed £200 of savings online and via its smartphone and ‘classic’ apps.

Coinciding also with the start of the new football season, customers can now also download The Sun’s brand new ‘Goals’ app for smartphone and tablet. From the start of the season they have been receiving exclusive access to nearlive video clips of every Barclays Premier League goal on the go – hours before the football round-up programmes have even started.

Now customers who buy the paper but also want to subscribe to what The Sun describes as a “fantastic bundle of benefits”, will be able to collect special codes that are printed in each paper every day. These codes initially unlock one month’s worth of digital access and from then onwards, by collecting 20 codes each month, members receive continuous access to The Sun’s digital content and perks. This is possible using the latest inkjet printing technology supplied by Kodak, which has been fitted across all The Sun’s presses in the UK and Ireland. Each press will print a unique code on every single paper every single day.

News UK – the former News International – has installed the UK’s largest order of Kodak Prosper S30 imprinting systems with the aim of transforming its printed newspaper business. A total of 22 Prosper S30 imprinting systems have been installed on its triple wide manroland presses at its three Newsprinters’ plants at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire, Knowsley on Merseyside and at Eurocentral in Scotland. The 22 also includes print heads fitted to presses at print plants in Kells (Ireland) and Belfast where The Sun is printed under contract.

Creating an attractive bundle of news, entertainment and great offers worth paying for is a key part of the strategy for The Sun’s parent company, News UK.

“By launching Sun+, we are delivering greater choice and unlocking this new world of digital entertainment for both our print and digital customers,” says The Sun editor David Dinsmore.

“It is also a clear sign of our commitment to invest in and secure a sustainable future for our great journalism, putting it and our consumers at the heart of everything we do.”

He adds: “The strong bond between The Sun and its millions of customers is behind its enduring success over many decades. However, we are never complacent and continue striving to deliver greater choice and value which is why we’ve invested millions in this solution to ensure every one of our loyal readers can get their hands on the huge benefits of Sun+ membership.”

Philip Cullimore, regional managing director, EAMER, Kodak, comments: “Few events in the UK’s sporting calendar are more keenly anticipated than the start of the new football season. We are delighted that News UK has chosen Kodak’s unique Stream Inkjet Technology to present to its readers the extensive benefits of our printheads.

“Every single day, a unique code will be printed in every paper, and this represents the perfect example of variable-data printing in a hybrid environment, combining the advantages of both the digital and offset worlds.”

Digital printing capability enables a number of other exciting applications, such as late-breaking news and photos, late sports scores, geographically targeted content, interactive advertisements, gaming or lottery applications, personalised social media links, and more. Digital printing can help newspaper publishers around the world produce a solution that meets the needs and reading habits of their specific audiences.

“Newspapers all around the world are facing changing business models as readers increasingly look online for the latest news and content,” says Kodak’s Will Mansfield, director of marketing, Inkjet Printing Solutions.

“With high-speed inline digital printing solutions, Kodak is helping newspaper publishers shift from a paper-dependent retail model to one of blended print and digital content via subscriptions.”

To offset decreasing subscription and print advertising revenues, publishers are moving expanded content online and selling subscriptions to that content. Variable-data printing allows publishers to promote the online content and provide a variety of incentives for readers to engage with both platforms.

Other installations

NEWS UK is not the first major newspaper company to invest in digital print heads for offset presses.

CN Group at Carlisle has been experimenting with the technology while at Axel Springer’s Hamburg- Ahrensburg offset plant a Prosper S30 imprinting system was installed last year on a manroland Colorman press.

That installation, enabling offset print to be combined with high quality digital inkjet printing at full production speed of up to 914 m / min (15 metres per second), was followed by an order for 25 more print heads.

Olivier Claude, general manager for print and vice-president commercial business EAMER Kodak says: “Axel Springer was the first newspaper to implement hybrid printing at speed.”

Applications include versioning or personalisation of ad campaigns, combining static ad content with variable data and image components, as well as enabling local advertising without plate changes. It also facilitates cross-media marketing and builds bridges between the online and offline world.

In fact, German newspaper Bild embraced the capabilities of the Prosper S30 imprinting system for a large scale ‘cash millions lottery’ campaign aimed at its Hamburg readers. Tickets bearing a one-off, inkjet-imprinted number combination were included with the newspaper at the start of the week. Readers were then urged to compare their numbers with the daily lucky numbers for a chance to win cash and non-cash prizes. A similar prize draw was organised in which around 35,000 copies of Welt Kompakt were imprinted every day with the S30 System.

The promotion was only supposed to last two weeks, but was doubled by the publisher due to its huge success. Says Claude: “Then there is variable QR codes, changes in text and image information as well as URLs or graphics to change ads from copy to copy for incentives in multi-channel campaigns and prize draws. All can help boost sales and loyalty. The Prosper S30 can also be used for editorial purposes – inserting targeted reader content and last minute stories or updates during production.”

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