We met with Heiko Ritscher, the vice president Sales for Manroland Goss Web Systems (MGWS), at the Elite conference in Mumbai at the end of August. It was an opportunity again to speak about where he sees the global news media industry going and its current outlook. Naresh Khanna reports on the conversation.
Indian Printer and Publisher – How can we generally describe the worldwide activity of the news media industry, especially about print and the renewal and modernization of presses and the purchases of new presses?
Heiko Ritscher – On one side, the worldwide newspaper industry continues to be in a process of strong consolidation, reducing circulations and pagination. This leads to a generally more restrictive investment policy. However, it’s not just about the cost of machines, but about all costs. The cost of everything, energy, raw materials, and human resources has gone up. Nevertheless, most of our MGWS customers strategically decided to stay in print for at least another five to ten years.
Many newspaper publishers realize that just going online won’t suffice or ensure their survival. The long-term way to think is to be attractive to both readers and advertisers.
IPP – Is digital really greener than print on paper? There have been some long-term comparative studies on the effectiveness of print and digital media used in education that I have seen based in Canada but their results seem inconclusive as of now.
Heiko Ritscher – We do need more results out of studies analyzing the whole added value process of digital media to correctly answer this. Digital is not as environmentally friendly as it is sometimes made out to be when one considers the substantial cost of energy and resources in maintaining round-the-clock networks of servers, satellites, cellphone towers and local screens, keeping in mind that most electricity everywhere is still generated using fossil fuels. And, first studies are showing some question marks regarding a better CO2 footprint of digital, especially when readers are online for a certain time span to read the newspaper.
More research is needed on the life-cycle and environmental impact of electronics, including eWaste. So pitting paper and eMedia against each other may not be the way to look at the newspaper business. In any case, many businesses are not looking to reduce the use of print for advertising because of the environment but to reduce costs. Using both electronic and print media in a way that meets our social, environmental, and economic
needs, could perhaps be a better approach. Considering the social needs of societies and education, especially in democracies, there is a place for both paper and eMedia.
IPP – Given that most of the high-speed large newspaper presses (and even the smaller web offset presses) are now aging what is the path for those publishers who still see a significant need for print operations?
Heiko Ritscher – Since 2008, there has been less and less investment in new presses and the installed base is getting older and older. With a limited number of investments in new equipment during the last decade, the equipment in place is relatively old, with electronic obsolescence issues and higher operational costs including higher manning needs.
For these installed production lines in particular, we offer an attractive range of extensive retrofit solutions to keep maintenance requirements as low as possible and at the same time improve the efficiency of the presses in operation, for example by reducing electricity and water consumption. We see more investments of newspapers in electronic and automation upgrades to ensure the availability of spare parts for the next decade and also to reduce operational costs. There are also possibilities of implanting new and additional functionalities helping to reduce the operational cost and improve the efficiencies. MGWS developes and offers tools and functionalities, helping our customers in this regard. Such as our ‘Maintellisense’ product, a sensor and data based tool for predictive maintenance.
IPP – What about new presses, is there any revival in interest?
Heiko Ritscher – I wouldn’t speak about a revival of interest into new machines. But today we are talking about future-oriented projects that are becoming increasingly important. Newspaper printing houses investing in new equipment have long-term planning or a specific need such as consolidation from several to only one printing center or considerable reductions in the operational cost. They have a future vision that believes in the benefits and advantages of a printed product in combination with other media channels.
A certain revival we see is in the discussions about contract printing. The consolidation in the newspaper market, the financial strength of some and weakness of others, opens the possibility of contract printing investment in new machines with automation. The shortage of qualified employees who are willing to work in these plants is a consideration in all parts of the world now.