Agfa Introduces Robotic Plate Loader
Agfa has introduced a plate-loading robot that streamlines and speeds up printers’ prepress operations while reducing overall cost, the company says. Agfa’s robotic plate loader frees prepress staff from heavy manual, repetitive tasks such as plate-loading cassettes of autoloaders or fixing pallets on the base frame of skid loaders.
“Heatset printers usually have multiple presses with different sizes, and therefore multiple CTP lines. Linked to that come so-called COMBO loading configurations, each consisting of a pallet loader and autoloader. The robotic plate loader replaces both configurations, reducing footprint by up to 30%, and making prepress operations more efficient and productive,” says Iris Bogunovic, product manager of plate & CTP systems at Agfa in a news release.
In a first phase, Agfa is offering its plate loading robot to printing companies using its Avalon VLF platesetters. Scandinavian printed marketing solutions provider Stibo Complete is an early adopter of Agfa’s robotic plate loader. Also, with the drupa trade fair postponed until 2021, Agfa has organized a series of free webinars from June 18 to 26 to show printers how they can benefit from offset printing innovations. A newspaper-specific webinar will be held on June 26. Go to this address to register. https://www.agfa.com/int/studio4d48/
Agfa’s headquarters are in Belgium. The largest production and research centers are in Belgium, the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, the U.K., Austria, China and Brazil.
Norske Skog to Enter European Packaging Markets
Norske Skog will take a step in its transformation towards a growing and high-margin business by converting two newsprint paper machines into renewable containerboard production, the company announced June 17. The conversions at Golbey (France) and Bruck (Austria) will introduce 765,000 metric tons of competitive containerboard capacity to meet the growing demand for renewable packaging, the company says. Norway-based Norske Skog will continue to be a supplier of all publication paper grades after the planned conversions. Newsprint capacity will be reduced, balancing the market for Norske Skog’s remaining European publication paper capacity. Norske Skog plans to invest approximately 350 million euros (nearly $392 million) in the conversion project over an 18-month period starting in the second half of 2021.
“This is a milestone in Norske Skog’s strategy to become a leading European packaging producer through conversion of publication paper capacity. We will continue to optimize our broad asset base to diversify within high-growth fiber segments, and maximize cash flows from the publication paper business,” says Norske Skog Chairman John Chiang, who also represents the largest shareholder, Oceanwood. Final investment decisions are planned in the first half of 2021 and the start of containerboard production in the first half of 2023.
Highlights from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report
Here are some details from the Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2020.
- The coronavirus crisis has substantially increased news consumption for mainstream media in all of the countries where the institute conducted surveys before and after the pandemic had taken root. Television news and online sources have seen significant upticks, and more people identify television as their main source of news, providing temporary respite from a picture of steady decline. Consumption of printed newspapers, has fallen as lockdowns undermine physical distribution, almost certainly accelerating the shift to an all-digital future.
- The use of online and social media substantially increased in most countries. WhatsApp saw the biggest growth in general with increases of around ten percentage points in some countries.
- Global concerns about misinformation remain high. Even before the coronavirus crisis hit, more than half of the institute’s global sample said they were concerned about what is true or false on the internet when it comes to news. Despite this, the survey shows that the majority (60%) still prefer news that has no particular point of view and that only a minority (28%) prefer news that shares or reinforces their views. Partisan preferences have slightly increased in the U.S. since the institute last asked this question in 2013 but even here a silent majority seems to be looking for news that at least tries to be objective.
- The surveys sees significant increases in payment for online news in a number of countries including the U.S. 20% (+4) and Norway 42% (+8), with smaller rises in a range of other markets. Across all countries, most people are still not paying for online news, even if some publishers have since reported a coronavirus bump.
- In countries with higher levels of payment (e.g. the U.S. and Norway) between a third and half of all subscriptions go to just a few big national brands. But in both these countries a significant minority are now taking out more than one subscription, often adding a local or specialist publication.
- In most countries, local newspapers and their websites remain the top source of news about a particular town or region, reaching four in ten (44%) weekly. But the institute finds that Facebook and other social media groups are now used on average by around a third (31%) for local news and information.
- Across age groups, use of Instagram for news has doubled since 2018 and looks likely to overtake Twitter over the next year.
The research was conducted by YouGov using an online questionnaire at the end of January/beginning of February 2020.
SNPA Foundation Announces Officers Slate
The board of trustees of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation elected a new slate of officers for 2020–2021 at its meeting on June 17. P.J. Browning will be the new chair, succeeding Tom Silvestri. Browning is the president and publisher of The Post and Courier in Charleston (South Carolina). Silvestri, who retired on Dec. 31 after 15 years as president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, will continue his service on the board as a foundation trustee.
David Dunn-Rankin, president of D-R Media in Venice (Florida), was re-elected vice chair, and Charles Hill Morris, regional manager of Morris Multimedia in Atlanta, was re-elected treasurer. The board also elected three trustees for new three-year terms: Dunn-Rankin; David Woronoff, publisher of The Pilot in Southern Pines (North Carolina); and Paul Tash, chairman and CEO, Tampa Bay Times.
Other SNPA Foundation trustees are Patrick Dorsey, publisher, Austin American-Statesman, and regional vice president, Coastal Publishing Group, Gannett; Eliza Hussman Gaines, managing editor, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock; and Les High, publisher, The News Reporter, Whiteville (North Carolina). Edward VanHorn, retired executive director of SNPA and the SNPA Foundation, serves as the foundation’s secretary.
Programs endorsed by the SNPA Foundation include America’s Newspapers, which was created in the merger of the original SNPA organization and Inland Press Association. SNPA Foundation-supported programs are intended to spotlight the critical need for ethical journalism, explore sustainable business models and promote the value that newspapers bring to communities they serve, according to the organization.
TownNews, BlueFrame Partner
TownNews and BlueFrame Technology have formed a partnership that will give the more than 2,000 local media websites using TownNews’ digital publishing platforms access to BlueFrame’s live sports and events video streaming services. The arrangement enables TownNews to supply its client network with live sports and event streaming. In turn, TownNews customers can offer the same services to their local school districts at a significantly reduced cost or free, according to a TownNews news release.
“What will high school sports look like in the fall of 2020? Will in-person events be held at all and, if so, will coronavirus fears keep people at home?” said Rick Rogers, chief revenue officer at TownNews. “These are the questions that are keeping district athletic directors up at night, and there’s a lot riding on the answers.”
As athletic departments grapple with these issues, Kentucky-based BlueFrame’s sponsorship, advertising, and content monetization opportunities extend a new revenue stream, the release says.
Fujifilm: Customer Interviews Indicate ‘Encouraging’ Outlook
Fujifilm North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, announced results from interviews with more than 1,100 customers indicating an encouraging outlook for print service providers despite the recent COVID-19 impact.
The highest number of responses (32%) projected a return to normal business conditions in the July/August 2020 time frame and 24% projected a return to normal business conditions in September/October 2020. Overall, a total of 72% of the customers expressed optimism about a return to normal business conditions by October.
In regard to staffing, the highest number of respondents said staffing levels remained unchanged for 36% of respondents, while some accounts reported decreases of between 1% and 26%. Some respondents reported retention of staff and use of material cutting and sewing capabilities to successfully shift business priorities and produce personal protective equipment to support COVID-19 response. A significant number of customers (54%) reported applying for Paycheck Protection Program or operating loans.
Expanding the variety of production capabilities was key to business continuity plans for print service providers, as the reported production volume impact from COVID-19 was significant, with 83% of the respondents reporting declines in production volume up to 40% or more since the start of the pandemic. This statistic excludes businesses deemed essential during the shutdown, including news/print media, whose performance remained flat during this time.
Across segments, despite lower order intake in April, there has been a significant increase in demand for consumable products in May that correlates closely with states re-opening and an increased level of business activity across the country. Fujifilm North America Corporation, a marketing subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings America Corporation, consists of four operating divisions and one subsidiary company: Imaging, Electronic Imaging, Graphic Systems, Optical Devices and Fujifilm Canada.
- According to an inside source, the sale of Kodak paper and chemistry business Kodak Alaris to Chinese corporation Sino Promise Holdings will be announced in July, Australia’s Inside Imaging reported.
- The free Chicago Reader is going to a biweekly print schedule, the paper announced. Advertising spending has fallen almost 90 percent due to the coronavirus shutdown, the paper said.
- Resolute Forest Products has stopped production at two mills and removed 40 percent of its capacities from the market, EUWID reports. The company has temporarily idled its Baie-Comeau and Amos mills in Quebec. Resolute’s head office is in Montreal.
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