De Persgroep Publishing (dPP) is a 100% subsidiary of De Persgroep, which has expanded from a local, Flemish media company to a leading bi-national organization. dPP is active in newspapers, magazines and new media and home to a number of market leaders such as Het Laatste Nieuws, Dag Allemaal, Goed Gevoel and HLN.be. The turnover of de Persgroep is around 750 million euros; for the whole group this is one billion euros, which makes it one of the largest media companies worldwide.
Like other publishing houses, dPP faces significant challenges going forward. The ongoing financial recession puts pressure on revenues – especially from advertising. Additionally the advertisement market is experiencing a shift to digital media and television, taking away revenue from traditional print advertising. Lower consumer confidence is yet another trend in the reader market; people buy fewer individual issues and are switching titles more often.
dPP still flourished in this changing landscape; through focus on traditional print and embracing new digital media, the group managed to maintain and for a number of titles even improve reader numbers. dPP also invested in a joint IT platform which improves performance and reliability while decreasing costs. This is where Elpical Claro Premedia comes into the picture.
In 2009 de Persgroep Publishing started a division in the Netherlands, acquiring some of the major local newspapers such as Algemeen Dagblad, de Volkskrant and Het Parool. All existing ICT systems were migrated and integrated in the existing ICT platform in Asse, Belgium. Marc Roelants, ICT Project Leader - Editorial and Advertising Systems explains: “With the growing number of publications, automating the production of these publications became crucially important; it is the only solution to reduce human intervention and therefore errors. Especially because we also face the challenge to automate our production workflows in such a way as to make it possible to publish both to paper and digitally online and on mobile devices.
As part of this automation and ICT integration process dPP migrated their image workflows to Claro Premedia in December 2012. They invested in two Claro Premedia 9 environments; one for production and one for testing and development, each consisting of two virtualized servers. This implementation happened in close collaboration with dPP’s ‘Flash Center’ department that takes care of all production related operational processes within dPP; such as PDF and image optimization. Steven Baelen, Flash Center Manager explains: “We chose Claro Premedia as our image enhancement software based on the intelligent image processing and therefore the excellent image quality.”
In order to make the integration possible, the software needed to have robust automation capabilities, coupled with excellent image optimization that allowed individual images to be further optimized by dPP’s Flash Center. It also needed to function in a dynamic way, using job tickets and web services to drive it from the larger workflow system. Elpical Claro Premedia fulfilled all of those needs, and that is why dPP finally went with the solution after analyzing the different products on the market today.
Marc Roelants adds: “If we have to pick the 2 main reasons why we chose to work with Claro Premedia then it would be high availability and product quality. On top of that, the implementation of Claro Premedia in our workflow went very smoothly. We’ve received excellent support from Elpical and their distributor Four Pees. We have worked closely together in the development stage and beta testing of the new Claro Premedia 9 version. Even now that we use the product in our daily production, we can always count on an excellent and swift support.”
In order to ensure 100% uptime for Claro Premedia as it is integrated into their production workflow, dPP and Elpical worked on comprehensive cluster support for the new Elpical Claro Premedia 9. This ensures that a server with software or hardware problems doesn’t affect the entire image processing system; the load is dynamically shifted to the remaining processing servers.
De Persgroep Publishing handles a huge number of images day-in, day-out; so many that it would be cost prohibitive (not to mention too time-consuming) to optimize all of them manually. This is the typical scenario where Elpical Claro excels. Not just because it can handle a vast amount of images in a short period of time, but also (and mainly) because it knows its own limits.
“Starting with version 9, Elpical Claro can be configured in a true cluster configuration. This ensures high availability and provides load-balancing across multiple servers, ” explains John De Jong, CEO of Elpical Software: “This is of course very important to our bigger customers. However, it is the built-in quality control that is the most important functionality”.
Elpical Claro automatically calculates how good its image optimization algorithm performed on every single image it processes. Depending on the workflow, you can then decide what percentage of images you want to process completely automatically and what percentage to keep aside for manual inspection and
further manual cleanup. Claro comes with a Claro Inspector plug-in for Adobe Photoshop where a retoucher can see the original and processed image. This allows a quick decision on whether the original or the processed image is better and allows further manual processing in Photoshop.
“You can mix this automatic and manual mode in one Elpical Claro installation,” continues John De Jong: “This allows a publisher to make different workflows for different magazines or newspapers for example. For some publications completely automatic processing might be the best option, while for high-quality, glossy magazines every image could be pre-processed by Claro but quality controlled and further optimized by a photo retoucher in Photoshop. That’s really the best of two worlds”.