Technology Update: Hot Picks for 2005
November 1, 2004

When computer-to-plate (CTP) printing hit the catalog scene in the mid-1990s, it promised to revolutionize catalog production. And it has. But it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t occur without the support and cooperation of vendors and developers who built tools to support the new digital way of printing. The development of CTP platesetters was just the beginning of the transition from film-based processes to a completely digital way of producing catalogs. Every year since CTP was first introduced, the catalog industry has grown more adept at using it to produce editions. And each sequential year has seen exciting new technologies that promise to

Ecology Wise
September 1, 2004

Environmental concern has re-emerged as an important issue for the direct marketing industry in the past few years. And the use of recycled paper is one of the issues that has been at the forefront of the resurgence. U.S. catalog companies mailed about 17 billion catalogs last year, using 3.6 million tons of paper, according to the Alliance for Environmental Innovation (AEI), a national nonprofit organization focused on environmental protection. “Catalogers are more aware of the environmental impact of their paper use and increasingly understand that reducing waste, maximizing recycled content and protecting forests are the right things to do,” says Victoria Mills,

Case Study: A Subtle Approach to Environmental Stewardship
August 1, 2004

Problem: Officials at Modern Farm and Cody Mercantile catalogs wanted to incorporate environmental initiatives into their business practices. Solution: They methodically introduced more ecologically sound products, and carefully selected appropriate vendors and partners. Results: Environmentally sensitive products are registering increasing sales. And catalog managers rest assured they’re moving further toward sound ecological stewardship. In the past few years The Direct Marketing Association has been calling upon the direct mail and catalog industries to pay particular attention to their impact on the environment. Officials at Modern Farm and Cody Mercantile catalogs offer a good example of how to turn ecological sensitivity into a business practice

Paper-buying Resources: A Primer
July 1, 2004

Paper prices are expected to increase this year. Couple that with the still-uncertain U.S. economy, and you have a period in which making a smart decision about paper is tougher than ever. It requires both a fundamental understanding of the paper market and a willingness to rely on a little help from your friends. Think Branding First No matter the type of catalog you have — or the products or services it touts — the first step to take before choosing a catalog paper is to consider your brand, says Kathy Johnston, creative/production services manager at catalog consultancy J. Schmid & Assoc.,

Get the Most From Your Photography Investment
May 1, 2004

The product images in your print book and on your Web site represent both a critical creative component as well as a significant financial investment for your business. There’s no doubt that photography sells product. Whether you shoot your images with an in-house team or use a studio or creative agency, be sure you’re getting the most from your investment — and potentially improving sales — by following these five pointers. 1. Match your shots and the level of aesthetic quality you require to the appropriate photography medium. You may think the debate is over, and that digital has won. That’s

Case Study: How NEBS Brought Prepress in House
May 1, 2004

Problem: Multititle business-to-business cataloger NEBS wanted to reduce catalog and direct mail prepress costs charged by its third-party providers. Solution: Bring prepress duties in house. Results: Prepress costs were reduced by up to 50 percent, for an estimated annual savings of more than $450,000. And production turnaround times have decreased significantly. New England Business Service (NEBS) has provided small to medium-sized U.S. businesses with forms, checks and promotional solutions since 1952. The Groton, MA-based company now boasts a customer base of more than 2 million. NEBS produces more than 40 catalog titles, with a total annual circulation of more than 57

Special Report The 3Ps: Printing, Production and Paper
April 1, 2004

Dollars & Sense: Catalog Co-mailings For catalogers, the past decade has been explosive with innovation. For example, desktop publishing led to computer-to-plate manufacturing and digital prepress. Files replaced film, and the process of print production became more streamlined and efficient. So much so, in fact, that catalogers now must look to operations outside the prepress and pressroom realms for cost savings, to what some consider a hard-numbers-based necessary evil: postage. “As postal costs continue to be an ever-increasing part of a cataloger’s total budget — and in order to stay competitive — they have to seek out new efficiencies in the process,”

Is JDF the Future of Catalog Print Production?
March 1, 2004

The printing and publishing industry’s transformation into a computer-integrated manufacturing platform continues unabated. “The artificial intelligence that’s being incorporated into technology reduces makeready times, reproduces color consistently and provides feedback on performance — ensuring the finished product is of the highest quality,” says George Ryan, executive vice president and COO of the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF). The artificial intelligence communication protocol Ryan is referring to is known as the Job Definition Format (JDF). And it’s a term you are sure to hear more about in the future. What is JDF? JDF is based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a standard

Case Study: United Stationers Has Versioning Down
January 1, 2004

United Stationers, a distributor of office supplies and other merchandise, has been producing various levels of versioned print catalogs for the past 10 years. Its clients, which include about 5,000 resellers ranging from mom-and-pop neighborhood stores to national chains such as Staples, use the catalogs to sell products to end-users. For this Des Plaines, IL-based wholesaler, versioning is need-driven. “We have so many resellers with different marketing needs that we must satisfy,” explains Jeff Kressman, director of marketing communications and research. United Stationers produces the following types of print catalog versions: 1. A standardized catalog with customized covers denoting the contact information

Paper: It’s a Question of Brightness
November 1, 2003

If I told you that white catalog paper can have the same brightness measurement as a trendy purple sheet, you’d probably wonder from which planet I hail. But it’s true. Brightness often is a critical determinant in paper specification, but it’s an attribute whose measurement has fallen prey lately to a wide variation. That wasn’t always so. When first established, it measured the brightness of pulp by evaluating and controlling the degree of bleaching during the pulp-cooking phase of production. Pulp manufacturers used uniform processes and instrumentation to assess brightness, which resulted in an apples-to-apples comparison and a consistent standard to help classify