Indian publishing software solutions from 4Cplus

Editorial systems from print to digital and broadcast

Sanjay Gupta, chief executive officer and Ashish Aron, director, marketing of 4Cplus. Photo IPP

In the old days, computer-aided news publishing was focused on producing pages. Editorial systems sitting on a relational database were handy for giving access to stories and pages on the basis of the hierarchy of responsibility. The idea was to process the news for relevance, to homogenize the style, put in the headlines and captions and add value with images and illustrations. The idea was to put flair and punch in the story and sell it well on the page or in the full package that was printed and delivered each morning.

Apart from saving the Indian language newspapers with the advent of Adobe PostScript that enabled the low cost production and use of non-Roman script fonts, computers and digitization became increasingly important in design including advertising design and eventually as film gave way to direct imaging on offset plates, to the digital transmission of ad material. In India, with its unique model of multi-edition dailies, publishers were especially fascinated by the possibility of using computers to help them see all their edition’s pages so that they could maximize their yield in each edition or page with with ad bookings and placement. This was far more exciting than the editorial improvements that computerized publishing systems could bring to the newspaper.

Next came the internet, online video and social media – especially Google and Facebook and WhatsApp. And newspapers venturing to television and radio. In India, since there is no restriction on geography, language or simultaneous radio and television ownership in any territory, there came the almost impossible demand for technology solutions that could do everything – to produce print, web, video, television and radio and digital social media using the same core technology backbone.

The Indian editorial solutions

Right from the 1980s, there were several editorial software companies such as 4Cplus and Summit (both of which are Delhi-NCR based) that helped newspapers and magazines produce stories and pages. Their unique specialization may have been the implementation of Indian languages, scripts and fonts driving typesetters, imagesetters and ultimately computer to plate devices. Adobe Postscript (1984) together with Adobe’s PDF made possible the transmission of entire pages to editions which started proliferating to every district.

However, what 4Cplus does today for its numerous print and broadcast media customers is supply a huge number of solutions based on modules to fit their scope and size. These modules still sit on a relational database, be it from Oracle or Microsoft or others. For a long time these have been browser based and work with industry standard protocols and applications – MOS (multimedia operating system) compatible for output to television, teleprompter, radio, mobile phone, social media and archival storage. The solutions can also be integrated with Adobe and Quark for old-fashioned print pages.

From print’s static plutocracy to interactive multi-channel democracy

Print when it was difficult to produce had a cache; the implication was that print was close to the truth. While that notion has gone out of the window, every publisher feels the need to engage the potential reader throughout the day through a combination of channels – print, cell phone, computer, radio and television. This has put huge stress on news organizations to differentiate themselves in their news gathering, processing and presentation process.

Input is no longer just the keyboard and the camera or scanned photos. The 4Cplus NRCS editorial system accepts inputs from social media and citizen journalists. It has a Newswrap Nomad Mobile app module for remote filing of news, video and photos using a cell phone.
Delivery is another huge issue as are ad selling and placement, which rely on integration with ERP systems. Paywalls and digital subscriptions are the next major challenge for news in print and on digital platforms.

Paid articles and paywall solutions

4Cplus has helped one of the few Indian newspapers that actually implements a dynamic paywall and digital subscriptions. For the Business Standard, its publishing software helps mark articles that are free or paid. While Pratham Alo in Bangladesh uses 4C’s New Wrap for its print editorial system, its paid ePaper is produced using 4Cplus’s ePaper solution.
4Cplus is currently implementing its paid content and ePaper solutions at The Graphic – a newspaper belonging to the Grafica group in Ghana in Africa. These responsively deliver content on iOS, Android and web. The iOS and Android apps have also been built by 4Cplus. More than half a dozen newspaper groups in Africa, including some of the largest in East Africa, are clients of the company.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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