Two announcements within the past week demonstrate that some newspaper publishers are increasingly viewing printing as a profit center while others take the opposite tack and shut down their printing operations.
The Chicago Sun-Times revealed Tuesday that it will become the second major metropolitan daily in the U.S. to outsource all of its printing. But rather than turning production over to a commercial printer, as the San Francisco Chronicle did, the Sun-Times will entrust its printing to the rival Chicago Tribune starting in late September.
The next day, Baldwin Technology Company announced that is has sold UV dryers that will be installed on two newspaper presses in Australia "to significantly improve print quality and enable use of a wider range of paper qualities." In other words, the presses will be able to do heatset offset printing on such higher-grade stocks as coated and supercalendered papers as well as lower-quality coldset printing on newsprint.
As demand for printed newspapers has shrunk in recent years, publishers have more idle time on their presses and less ability to justify investing in new presses. Increasingly, they will either turn their printing over to others or chase after outside printing work to justify the investments needed to keep their printing operations up to date.
The Sun-Times's shift will save it an estimated $10 million annually, partly because it can narrow the paper's width, and will provide more ability to run color ads, according to a Chicago Tribune article. The Tribune plant already produces Chicago editions of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal but has enough capacity to take on the Sun-Times and seven suburban Sun-Times papers apparently without breaking a sweat.
Newspapers & Technology lists 20 closures of newspaper printing plants this year because of outsourcing to other newspapers. And there are increasing reports of newspaper publishers going after work that used to be done by commercial printers.
Baldwin's announcement suggests commercial printers can expect to see even more competition from newspaper publishers. Rather than the sort of multimillion-dollar investments in new presses for the San Francisco Chronicle plant, Baldwin is adding heatset as an option to the Australian presses for only $375,000 per press.
For its technology, which was originally developed for sheetfed presses, Baldwin envisions "further opportunities as printers around the world add flexibility and quality improvement to their production capabilities."
For further reading: Newspaper Production Enters Colorful, Outsourced Era and Can Transcon transform newspapers?, which explain why the San Francisco Chronicle plant and a similar facility in Montreal are so significant for both the newspaper and printing industries.