“A good printer is your partner, not just your supplier.”

That’s what former DLG Media Holdings COO Dana Spain-Smith told FOLIO: a little more than a year ago, and it still holds true. Just as many publishers are delving into products and services beyond their core competencies, printers are keeping pace, and looking to establish themselves as one-stop shops for publishers, by bulking up on offerings beyond ink on paper. New services include everything from digital magazine production, CMS, data, ad sales and mobile platforms.

“These product offerings are very different from the services printers have traditionally offered,” says Justin Kissida, senior marketing communication specialist for Brown Printing Company.

“We’re breaking the barriers between the relationship of printers working solely with publishers’ production departments with innovative products that get the marketing and ad sales teams involved with things like ad sales intelligence.”

Kissida says Brown is able to offer publishers the same or better pricing due to their service agreements and partnerships with service providers. But lower costs aside, it’s still a major decision whether or not to turn over tech and data to a printer.
Here’s a look at a few of the new services that printers are and will be offering to publishers, and how they stack up against enterprise solutions.

CMS Solutions

In the first quarter of 2010, Publishers Press will launch a fully-hosted suite of content management services called “Tarpon.”

The printer-gone-CMS provider assimilated multiple software resources and a host of services to provide clients with a “best of class” content management and distribution system, says Publishers Press executive vice president Michael Simon. They teamed up with Atex to offer its Polopoly content management system; Mark Logic to offer an XML repository; Temis for text mining; Bronto for e-mailing marketing services and Omniture for analytics.

While open source CMS options are becoming increasingly attractive to publishers, an enterprise system still has some advantages, according to Simon. “You can get ‘freeware’ to do this, but the integration of freeware can lead to long-term legacy costs. All the challenges of backup and upgrades will reside on our end.”

The deterrent to an enterprise solution, of course, is that it can cost thousands of dollars. That’s why the Publishers Press model will be a monthly lease program that’s dependent on seats and viewers, which Simon says should level the playing field for smaller and larger publishers when it comes to digital infrastructure. “We can make this affordable,” he adds. “What otherwise would potentially be multi-million dollar systems to an individual client, we can offer at more palatable price point.”

Publishers Press is hoping to have magazine publishing clients beta testing shortly after January.

Mobile Offerings

Another way printers are shaking up their offerings is by delving into mobile. B.Mobile integrates products from Brown’s sister company Prinovis and NeoMedia Inc. to provide a total solution package.

Nada Marjanovich, publisher and editor of 100,000-circ. Long Island Pulse, says her team did its due diligence to research a number of vendors before opting for Brown’s service. “Our first thought was ’Oh, we can’t go with Brown, we already use them as our printer!’” she says. But after much consideration, the title, launched in 2005, opted for the printer to incorporate this technology for the first time in their November 2009 issue.

As of early December, Long Island Pulse saw 10 sign ups per day from readers using and scanning the mobile pages of the issue.

In order to explain the service and get readers on the mobile bandwagon, Marjanovich says the magazine is appealing to them through a “Do You 2D?” ad campaign with call outs scattered throughout the November issue. There were six house ads and opportunities to use this technology throughout the issue. The magazine plans to use it for both editorial content, as well as with advertising initiatives.

Marjanovich wouldn’t disclose specifics, but says “every deal comes with its own structure.” Kissida says B.Mobile costs around $1,000 per issue run (pricing is built on a base charge plus a per transaction fee) with Brown taking care of all barcode creation and creating mobile phone-optimized Web pages.

Digital Edition Provider

Publishers have had the option of receiving digital editions through printers for a few years now. Talty O’Connor, founder and president of Gulf Shores, Alabama-based Covey Communications Corp. decided in March 2008 to use Publishers Press for its SportsEvents and ConventionSouth digital editions.

When Covey’s publishing model changed significantly in 2009, putting more emphasis on its digital editions, the model slowly became a viable revenue stream. Now, the “digital editions are a substantial part of the marketing program we offer to our advertisers,” O’Connor says. They have a recently-upgraded viewer via e-PubXpress, as well.

In spite of a tough year industry-wide, Covey has been able to grow digital revenue in 2009 five-fold for about 14 percent of their total ad revenue from less than 3 percent in 2008. It also has been able to reduce expenses, much of which can be attributed to its “aggressive” digital and online media programs.