French Connection goes lenticular

Walking along a drizzly day in Oxford Street, I Just had to stop and stare at these lenticular screens used on French Connection’s store-front displays. The
black and white lenticular photos are being used as part of the fashion store’s
This Is Man/This Is Woman campaign. As you walk along the store, the woman’s eyes open and close whilst the man turns
around. I thought it was very innovative and actually commands the public’s
attention.

From PrintWeek

Something else that caught my eye on Saturday was a new Giclée -print shop. It seems the current trend in small print outfits is
proving quite popular. I spotted the pop-up print shop near Carnaby Street. Outline Editions is selling limited edition printworks from the likes of Anthony
Burrill and James Jarvis. I was quite tempted by Robert Green’s A Matter of Life and Death. It opened on
Friday (28th May) and lasts till July 3.

From PrintWeek
From PrintWeek

 

The London Weekly: the worst newspaper ever

I feel a bit like Charlie Bucket when he found the golden ticket. For unlike most of the Londoners I have come across this morning, I have a copy of the eagerly anticipated new London freesheet, The London Weekly.

However, the surprise that was to greet my eyes was arguably worse than a crowd of Oompa Loompas coming at me with machetes.

Desperately trying not to use language that even Gordon Ramsay would consider extreme, I can sum this new paper up: CRAP. CRAP. CRAP (yes, I am shouting). I am even going to use exclamation marks!!! And as a sub editor, I hate the damn things.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a publication so atrocious. My university paper was a million times more proficient and professional. Scrap that, this is a paper that makes the London Lite look like a collector’s edition. It’s made more mistakes than Tiger Woods and John Terry put together.

Seriously, I am struggling to know where to start: the mistakes on the front page; the cut-out that has white lines behind it; the startling grammatical and layout errors; stories that finish mid-sentence; orange headlines; centred capped-up headlines; chasms of white space big enough to play hide and seek in; an album review of an CD released in June 2009; the front page news story that continues on page 31; a phobia of paragraphs; food and drink news on page 8; news that is completely indistinguishable from advertorial.

Who are these jokers? Have they ever written a news story before or laid out a page? Sure, the printing is fine – it’s full colour, and boy, do they make use of it. Each page looks like a chameleon’s been run over on it by a forklift. I have seen enough orange to feel like I’ve been Tango-ed repeatedly and I’m only halfway through.

PrintWeek has covered the run-up to The London Weekly‘s launch before. We revealed that the jokers I mentioned earlier are in fact more formally known as the Global Publishing Group. According to this group, some 250,000 unlucky commuters in the capital will receive their copy today and tomorrow. I for one wish I hadn’t been one of them.

While it provided much belly-aching laughter at PrintWeek Towers, there is an odious unease underpinning this new launch.

As newspaper readers, we have seen standards drop in recent years. We’ve seen the arrival of the London Lite and thelondonpaper, and witnessed their demise. The Evening Standard has gone free and many other nationals have dropped pages, dropped staff and, in many instances, dropped quality.

The all-singing, all-dancing digital era arrived and print began to look like the ugly one at the party that no-one wants to dance with.

And with moves like this paper, can you really blame readers?

Papers like this don’t just herald the demise of print, they actually contribute to it. They reinforce the curmudgeonly, mouldy, stale image of static, out-of-date news. This paper could single-handedly turn many people away from the pleasures of reading printed news – me included – I rushed onto the internet as soon as I got into the office to see what other sensibly minded people made of this travesty, hoping to hear that it’s just a spoof.

This may well be the work of a team on a budget, but that’s no excuse. Working in publishing, we all face dwindling cashpots and have felt the unmistakably cold chill of redundancy’s breath on our necks when we go into the boardroom. Yet this only makes us work harder to keep the standards up – spelling mistakes, confusing layout, badly written old news stories – it’s plain lazy. In the reviews section, it promises to review five albums. There are only four.

According to the website, GPG plans to add three additional new titles by 2012, with Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham the next target cities.

Someone please start a Facebook group, chain themselves to a railing – do something. This kind of paper cannot be in existence in a country that prides itself on being the organ grinder of news.

On page ’04′, the soon-to-be shamefaced editor asks us ‘Got any news story?’ Well when you ask so eloquently…

The paper’s tagline is: ‘The light hearted paper for light hearted Londoners’.

Or perhaps that should read: ‘The light-on-news paper for down-hearted Londoners’?

10 July 2009

ONE YEAR AGO Pindar sold its directories division to sole client Yell after 28 years… Suitors for failed east London printer Capital emerged despite confusions over payments from the LDA… The Daily Telegraph began moving its printing across to rival publisher News International

FIVE YEARS AGO A Paragon Corporate Holdings creditor tried to get his name on the board of directors… Capital Print and Display planned to become an all-KBA house… Former Boots inplant Centerprint went into administration…

TEN YEARS AGO Harrison Scott Associates managing director Dominic Grudzien announced plans to buy Oldham Athletic FC… Komori edged out Heidelberg and Manroland to secure a £4.5m order for St Ives Roche

The Google generation deserts book learnin’

Education just isn’t what it used to be. No more chalk boards, no more caning and now it seems, there may be no more books.

Following on from Arnie’s suggestion to end the printing of textbooks in Californian schools, the American Chemical Society has taken the step of switching to an online only publishing model for all of its journals.

However, rather than a price focus, the ACS may have had something a bit more practical in mind.

When marking a project, a professor at Columbia University found that a large number of students had cited the work of an obscure work that was over 100 years old.

Baffled he set out to find out why only to learn that it was one of the first hits of a google book search on the subject.

Print 1, Robert Mugabe 0

Imagine a time when banknotes are worth less than paper. No Paperlinx, Arjowiggins and co haven’t put up their prices again, we are talking about life in Zimbabwe. The place where you can park your car at the airport for about Z$400bn (that is one US dollar). Sounds like something Ryanair might consider (mental note to email Michael O’Leary).

The country, which takes the world record rate for hyperinflation at 256,000,000%, has sparked outraged headlines around the world, most detailing political unrest, tragedy and the rocketing food prices.

So it makes a welcome change to read some good news coming out of the country. I read today, that the Zimbabwean (a newspaper that challenges Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship regime) has scooped the top outdoor advertising award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The newspaper, which is published in the UK and South Africa, used a hard-hitting ad campaign to drive sales, which highlighted the ridiculously high inflation rate in the country.

Billboard posters consisting of hundreds of bank notes carried straplines such as: ‘Thanks to Mugabe this money is wallpaper’, ‘Z$250,000,000 cannot buy the paper to print this poster on’ and ‘It’s cheaper to print this on money than on paper’.

The billboards, designed by a South African ad agency, were a direct challenge to the spiralling value of the Zimbabwean dollar and the cost of living in the country under Mugabe’s brutal regime. The judges at the festival recognised the campaign’s power and handed it the Cannes Lion Grand Prix award for outdoor advertising, as well as another gold in a separate media category.

Unfortunately, most locals in Zimbabwe will not get to see either the adverts or read the newspaper, as the government has imposed a 55% “luxury import” tax on the paper and its editor/publisher has been driven out of the country.

However, the target audience are the 1m Zimbabweans living in the UK and the 2m who reside in South Africa and Botswana. For these people, it is a stark reminder of what remains in the country. For us in the print industry, it is a great example of the huge power of printed advertising, to both boost sales and awareness, in this case of a vitally important political situation unfolding 5,000 miles away.

It may just make us think twice next we have a grumble about suppliers putting up prices in the UK. I can confidently say that, despite the fact that the House of Commons is overrun by the cast of The Muppets, things are never going to get that bad – I bet you Z$400bn…

Sainsbury’s to say Cheerio to cereal boxes

I popped into Sainsbury’s in my lunch break the other day. Not the most thrilling blog you are thinking, but it gets better, so stay with me.

I was looking for milk, so petrified was I that I would have to wake up the next morning without a cup of tea, that I actually gave up my lunch break to brave the hordes of Hammersmith.

It was with some bemusement that I noted a new promotion in the store – milk in a bag. A big, floppy polythene plastic bag filled with two pints of calcium goodness. I picked it up. It felt rather like a giant udder, I would imagine. I wondered how easy it was to pierce, how durable it was, and most importantly, how hard would it be to pour into my teacup with one eye closed at 7am on a weekday morning.

The point of it, I have since discovered, is not to create an edible stress ball, but to cut down on plastic – by as much as 75%. Honourable, but is this really a good way to reduce plastic? How more likely are we to wash out and recycle a big plastic sack, as opposed to a bottle that’s easily left in the sink and swirled? And seriously, how will I pour that perfect cup of morning tea with any finesse?

So it was with interest that I read this morning that Sainsbury’s is also set to become the first supermarket chain to get rid of cardboard cereal boxes.

Despite the century-old tradition, Sainsbury’s is going to rid its shelves of own-brand cereal boxes, replacing them instead with recyclable plastic packets, a bit like those used for crisps. Cereal heavyweight Kellogg’s is also said to be considering the idea itself.

Not only is this going to pose problems for transportation (those Coco Pops will look like dust by the time I get them home), but also for marketers. Long have the cut-out pack promotions ruled in cereal-land, for both adults and kids. And I must admit I am faintly nostalgic about those toys/stickers to be found at the bottom of the box which inspired many WWF-style wrestling matches with my brothers.
    
It may seem strange to care at all about cardboard boxes in any form. Yet cereal boxes, I believe, will hold some strange sugar-coated place in our frostie (sorry) hearts. It’s like drinking out of a plastic wine glass or dry-slope skiing. A bit naff and unauthentic.

The bright and colourful boxes that line every house in the country would look odd if covered with lots of hard-to-seal bags slouching like teenagers? Plus, plastic bags look messy – this won’t do my OCD any good. And will the cornflakes magically last for years like the ones in my house do now?

What with bags of milk and sacks of cereal, the misty world of breakfast time is certainly changing. And with the end result probably being a better attitude towards the environment, I can’t complain – it’s great that these big companies are prepared to shake things up a bit. And so long as I get my tea in a bag, I won’t go getting myself in a stir.

It’s newsprint, but not as we know it

With the fallout of this week’s Digital Britain report still being bandied about and the mongers of doom heralding the end of local newspapers, it is easy to think the wind might have changed on the grumpy face of today’s media.

Granted, newspapers have a lot to contend with, and no amount of exposing MPs’ expenses, or Jordan hitting nightclubs in Ibiza is going to halt what is sure to be a gradual decline in circulation and profits, due in the main, to the rise of digital media.

It therefore was a pleasure to read a news story today (on the internet, I confess) that warmed my print cockles.

The British Library has today put 2m digitised pages from 19th century and early 20th century newspapers online. So rather than continuing to fight like siblings with inferiority complexes, digital and print have shook hands and decided to work together – and to great benefit; their individual strengths complementing each other.

For years, these millions of pages have been gathering dust in the British Library, read by only academics and the odd curious spider. But now, we can all have a look – a rare glimpse into our social history that reveals more than any textbook ever could.

We can read about Jack the Ripper causing mayhem in Whitechapel, the first FA Cup Final in 1872, the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, as well as highwaymen, high drama and high society.

The archive consists of 49 national and regional newspapers, including the Daily News, the Manchester Times and the Penny Illustrated Paper. Searches are free, but most of the articles will charge a download fee.

It will be an invaluable resource for people researching family histories, as well as anyone wanting to find out more about the Britain of old (which saw banking collapses and smoking teenagers – what goes around comes around eh?).

By putting these pages online, we can marvel at the beauty that is printed news in all its glory. It is a reminder that print is something special, to be cherished for future generations.

In today’s era, when newspapers are having to fight tooth and nail for their printed lives, it would perhaps do us all good to remember how important a role they have played in our pasts. And something the OFT should have given some thought to when it ruled out a relaxation in the merger laws for local media, effectively condemning many papers (and journalists), not to the dusty, rather romantic, libraries of tomorrow, but to the recycling bin instead.

19 June 2009

ONE YEAR AGO St Ives won a print contract with Sainsbury’s worth an estimated £20m a year from Communisis… Sterling Press invested in the UK’s first Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 long perfectors… Hopes for an MBO at Butler and Tanner
were fading…

FIVE YEARS AGO GPMU members at St Ives Westerham Press voted in favour of industrial action… Paperlinx appointed Malcolm Lane-Ley as the new managing director of Howard Smith Paper…

TEN YEARS AGO Precision Printing invested £3.1m in a second Wifag OF7S press… Photobition acquired Los Angeles-based Custom Color… Graham Harris invented the Tech-ni-Fold, a multiple-creasing device for Stahl and MBP folders…

Jonathan Ross isn’t complaining, but would you?

So even the darlings of the BBC are feeling the pinch, it seems. The BBC held a meeting this week and told the likes of Bruce Forsyth, Sir Terry Wogan and Jonathan Ross that they could expect some zeros to disappear from their pay packets.

And quite rightly so in my book – cuts are too often made from the bottom up and not top down in business. And when you are talking such big salaries, the cuts are surely less noticeable. Wossie’s 5% is the difference between a shop doorway and a one-bed in west London to me.

This round of BBC cost-cutting is very public and it is very purposeful – wooing the disillusioned licence payer and saving itself some pounds (£1.9bn to be precise). But I wonder how consistent the cuts are: will all BBC workers face the same percentage cuts in salary? Should they have to or should it just be the big earners? The BBC has said it will negotiate each contract individually, but there are rumours that cuts of 25% or more are likely for those earning £100,000 or more. £100,000 is a very decent salary. However, a 25% cut is a slap in the face to anyone and surely a one-way ticket to insomnia.

I am sure none of us could care less about Sir Terry maybe having to buy a Merc instead of a Maserati, for example, but what about the ‘non celebrity’ presenters, the cameraman or the runner, the researcher or administrative staff? And what of the freelancers, of which there are many, earning varying rates.

These are dilemmas facing many print companies at this moment in time. We have already seen pay cuts imposed and pay rises frozen, but is there a danger of companies getting too ‘cut-happy’?

This is something that Unite’s Tony Burke warned about recently – he claimed some companies were “taking advantage” of the recession to enforce pay cuts on staff. This provoked some strong reactions in the printweek.com forums. It seemed a silly statement on the surface – companies are desperate; they are trying to save money, and in turn, save jobs and the future of the business. Often, pay cuts, for both high and low earners, are a painful but necessary last resort that no chief exec would wish upon his or her staff.

Look at the staff at MPGi – 90 out of 120 voted in favour of a three-month 33.3% salary cut in order to save their ailing firm. However, in the long run, even these last-ditch heroics were not enough, with the Chessington-based group eventually succumbing to administration at the end of last month.

But does Mr Burke have a point? Are pay cuts really an effective tool against the cruel bite of a credit crunch? More importantly, how can we tell?

I try to imagine myself in the same situation – taking a fall for the greater good of my company. How would I feel? How much trust would I put in the forces that be? Would I expect the same from my bosses? To answer these questions as briefly as possible: Rubbish; No comment; Yes

Should the pawns have to fall to make way for the king? Morally, probably not, but in the real world, yes.

Ronaldo’s off to Spain, but where next for Wyndeham Heron execs?

So that’s Ronaldo off to Real Madrid then, for a whopping £80m apparently. As a United fan, I am having minor palpitations at the prospect of a season without him. But at least he has gone abroad, I tell myself, and not to a rival UK club.
 
And it looks like today is the day for big-name news. It seems the print industry is set for a few major transfers itself, with the announcement that Wyndeham Heron is looking to cut three senior members of staff at its Essex site. It is part of a move to consolidate its “publishing-facing sites in the south of England to work together as one business”, according to chief exec Paul Utting. Sounds ominous for the staff there.
 
This latest Wyndeham announcement follows some major restructuring at a number of the big players in the print and paper industries: UPM, St Ives, Heidelberg to name just a few.
 
With the recession apparently coming to an end, according to one think-tank, maybe we will have seen the worse of the ‘restructuring’ and ‘reductions of headcounts’, but it makes you wonder doesn’t it? Who will be waiting to scoop some top-notch summer signings if the trend continues and, more importantly, who will be sidelined and left on the bench?