In the old days, computer-aided news publishing was focussed 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.