PDF Workflows Widespread
A majority of publishers have adopted PDF workflows, but other tools of the new digital workflow—from virtual proofing to JDF files—remain in infrequent use, an exclusive digital publishing survey conducted by FOLIO: and Readex Research has found.
The survey, conducted in June and July, offers a comprehensive look at the state of the art in magazine manufacturing, and includes some surprising findings. For example, while FTP is the transmission method of choice for the majority (53%) of respondents, a quarter of them ship files via CDs. And film, finally, empirically, is finished. Only 2.5 percent send files to their printer via e-mail or film.
Meanwhile, PDF is definitely the name of the game in manufacturing workflow. A full 90 percent of respondents say they use a PDF workflow, while only 10 percent say they do not. Of those using PDF workflows, 39 percent have been using PDF for more than three years, while only 5 percent just started in the last six months. Thirteen percent of respondents say PDF workflows save them more than $200,000 annually, while 41 percent say it saves more than 10 days in their production process. The biggest challenges for PDF workflow include a lack of manufacturing standards (21%) and training personnel (20%), followed by unsatisfactory color/image production (18 percent). The majority (39%) of those who don’t currently use a PDF workflow expect to start within one to two years.
Interestingly, the lack of manufacturing standards has been identified by both practitioners and industry organizations such as IdeAlliance as a key challenge.
Beyond the PDF, new techniques are clearly emerging. The majority of survey respondents (55%) say they do not currently use virtual proofing, but 27 percent of those not currently using it expect to start in one to two years. Publishers who use virtual proofing, such as Guy Gleysteen at Time Inc., will tell you not to go into it to save a ton of money, and our survey results bear that out. A full 20 percent of our respondents say that the process saves them less than $500 annually.
Another emerging tool is ad portals, and a whopping 25 percent of respondents say they use these systems—which automate ad delivery to either publisher or printer and include such features as flight-checking before acceptance. Fourteen percent of our respondents use online insertion orders, a number that seems high, given the confusion over which department—sales, production, finance—should take the lead in building and governing a system. However, those respondents not currently using online insertion orders, the majority (23%) say they will never adopt the system, while 21 percent say it will take between one to two years.
Less surprising, perhaps is the lack of penetration so far of the use of JDF (Job Definition Format, XML-based files that serve as electronic job tickets for production), with 6 percent using it. Most publishers view JDF as more relevant and useful downstream—on the printing side. Still, the majority of respondents say they think they will start moving in that direction, but that it will be several years before they actually adopt those tools.
A Look at the Respondents
Seventy-four percent of the survey respondents were people directly involved in production. And 55 percent handle art and design. The majority (59%) of respondents work on monthly titles, while 15 percent handle bimonthlies and 11 percent are on weekly titles. Most respondents (21%) publish one magazine while 18 percent publish between five and nine. Fifty-seven percent of publication desingers/art directors are doing production work, while 5 percent of respondents say they do not have a publication designer or art director at their organization.
Seventy-three percent of respondents say that PDF workflows save money on pre-press supplier costs, while 38 percent say it saves money on late charges from the printer.
Monetary savings are significantly less with other workflow tools. The majority of respondents using online insertion orders couldn’t identify a specific amount they’ve saved from the system.