ppi Media’s browser-based multichannel vision

Adapting to the new realities of news publishing

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Andreas Gawert, Hemant Kumar and Matthias Fischer of ppi Media at the INMA South Asia event in New Delhi in the autumn of 2019
Andreas Gawert, Hemant Kumar and Matthias Fischer of ppi Media at the INMA South Asia event in New Delhi in the autumn of 2019

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns worldwide, the news publishing industry was in a state of turmoil. The difficulties varied by region and market but broadly indicated a continuing erosion of print readers and advertisers to digital media. With legacy publishers reluctant to surrender their print ad revenues to competition in markets like India, most found it challenging to balance their print and digital investments. 

The pandemic has catalyzed the need for agility and perhaps speeded up the digital transition, even in markets where printed news media still has considerable mileage. For instance, the complete lockdown brought disruption to the relatively efficient house to house distribution of newspapers in markets such as India and significantly increased web traffic to news sites. The question remains how can news media organizations efficiently and economically serve up better and differentiated content to ratchet up the digital, print, and multichannel opportunities that are crucial for their survival. 

A shared newsroom for print and digital

In our recent interaction with the ppiMedia’s Andreas Gawert and Matthias Fischer in Germany and Hemant Kumar in India, Gawert began by saying the company traveled several months ago to visit customers — media organizations and editorial departments around the world to listen to them. To hear how they saw their future news operations, their constraints, and discuss their market requirements to align product and technology development more closely. The exercise led to the compilation of the most common ideas – a customer’s wish list of the main requirements.

According to Gawert, there is a consensus amongst news media that they would like to have a common newsroom for all media channels. “No one wants a newsroom just for print or digital.” Instead, companies would like to have a common tool for content editing and with the flexibility to react quickly to market requirements. The solutions, including their implementation, should be cost-effective. Additionally, since the print operations are under pressure everywhere, the solutions should incorporate automation of the print content as well.

“There is a reluctant mood for investments in the print sector at the moment. And our solutions help cutting down costs in the print sector extensively,” explains Andreas Gawert, adding, “As a first step, we developed a feature called ‘web based production’ that enables our customers to reduce the number of Adobe Indesign clients to a minimum. The designer is able to make 90% of the pages without an InDesign client by assigning templates to the page. All common layout and design activities can be done very easily within the web browser. The InDesign magic happens now in the background, executed by an InDesign Server.”

The idea is to provide InDesign functionality without an InDesign client. While a few InDesign licenses may still be required for design templates and special supplements and pages.

A common tool for digital and print

In late May, we interviewed Matthias Fischer to write about current digital asset management systems (DAMs). In the resulting article in our June issue, Fischer presented the DAM as central to all content operations and touched on the company’s DCX and Content-X solutions.

When we queried Fischer a bit further about ppi Media’s editorial solution Content-X linking to third party web CMS solutions, he gave us a hint of a new approach the company was developing. “In our concept, the web CMS can be integrated into Content-X itself – as well as other input systems. We will be able to give you more information on this in the next few weeks,” he said.

WordPress to the center

In a subsequent virtual interaction on 24 August, Fischer presented the concept in more detail. “We wanted to come up with a new solution that was web browser based and works for making both digital and print pages. To reduce cost, we use the open-source and free of charge WordPress content management system (CMS) and ppi Media’s new publishing platform can use WordPress and its built-in block editor, Gutenberg, to produce not only web blogs as many of us have been doing, but also to layout our print pages.”

ppi Media's new publishing platforms is based on the use of WordPress open source CMS to drive both web and print Graphic ppi Media
ppi Media’s new publishing platforms is based on the use of WordPress open source CMS to drive both web and print Graphic ppi Media

Thus the new ppi publishing platform is designed as a headless solution with WordPress and the Gutenberg editor at the center. Based on a customer’s needs ppi will integrate any third-party WebCMS or other third-party modules to increase functionality. These could be DAMs from third parties, and ppi’s solution of course still connects to the well-known DC-X. As Fischer said, “WordPress is not designed as an archive solution. Initially, we will use DC-X for asset management where needed, but we can integrate other solutions as well.” 

Special functions or software modules for page pairing and sending pages to printing plants can be attached to the core platform as can other modules and what are called microservices from third parties such as grammar and spell checking and SEO modules.

On the one hand, ppi Media becomes one of a multitude of suppliers of plug-ins to WordPress, and on the other hand, it becomes an integrator of plug-ins that can serve the customized needs of news publishers. The difference is that the company brings its expertise and experience in the print publishing domain to create a hybrid multichannel publishing solution. The API’s can extend many exciting functionalities and services further into the future. 

A pilot partner for print 

ppi Media has found a partner to become a pilot user for the new publishing platform – RussMedia in Austria. Fischer says, “We started to work with Russmedia in Austria on this. Russmedia is known as the most progressive niche multi-media company in Europe and is already using WordPress for their digital channels.”

This new ppi publishing platform is expected to be available soon. A webinar presentation to German publishers met with broad approval and interest. A webinar planned for Asian and Indian publishers on 26 October 2020, will again present the new concept and vision — this time in English. In Fischer’s words, “Our vision is to extend our publishing solution to the end of the digital transformation process.”

26 October 2020 Live Webinar webinar.ppimedia.com/asia

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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