Publish Asia 2014: a major concern on press freedom and current technology trends

First time venue Hong Kong hosted Publish Asia 2014 to successfully stage seminars, summits and conferences giving ‘press freedom concerns’ in addition to current technological highlights. Around 400 key global publishing/media executives from 29 countries gathered at Kowloon for fruitful discussions on the future of publishing/media of different platforms. Pointing out the fact that companies are now plunged into the mist of a technological storm constantly compelling everyone to re-invent new ways to survive, SK Khurana, editor, Print & Publishing reports a brief account of the two-day event where the industry leaders mutually interacted and shared key insights to efficiently adapt themselves to the changes (including technologically) in order to remain relevant and profitable.

Unveiling of Publish Asia 2014 at Kowloon in Hong Kong set off in a traditional way of formal inauguration. The issue of ‘press freedom’ to the forefront, Tomas Brunegard, president, WAN-IFRA, in his opening address, condemned the recent attacks on media personalities. Drawing attention to the changes, Tomas asserted that ‘Change’ has become the buzzword these days as new technologies keep pouring in. He further mentioned that the notion of new waves and new generations is coming to reality. He further mentioned that the notion of new waves and new generations is coming to reality with the world of news media today witnessing 2.5 billion readers all over the globe. But he pointed out that financial, new media, new regulations and free/demographic expressions still remain four big challenges in the industry. In the similar line, Leung Chun-ying, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conveyed that press freedom was not just a constitutional duty but a cornerstone for Hong Kong’s status as a global society and an intellectual city.

Media leaders from all over the world at Publish Asia 2014 also discussed other problems that the industry has been facing, from falling advertising revenues to the challenges posed by new modes of digital distribution to other interesting topics through a series of CEO conferences, advertising summits, newsroom summits and printing & production seminars.

Exhibitors and sponsors

Prominent table top exhibitors who brought solutions to Publish Asia 2014 included WoodWing, Cxense, Atex, CCI, NEWSCYCLE Solutions, Mediaspectrum, Protecmedia, ppi Media, Crowdynews, Tolerans, Pongrass, 4Cplus, red.web and Miles 33. Distinguished among them, Protecmedia, an international software engineering and services company which develops applications and services for publishing firms covering all aspects of advertising. Newstech (India) Pvt Ltd is a recent authourised distributor of Protecmedia products in India. Tolerans is a leader in in-line stitching systems for newspapers and commercial prints. This Swiss company, which has installed more than 2,000 stitching systems over 70 countries, revealed new attractions at Publish Asia 2014. Ferag India added Tolerans products in their portfolio for distribution across the country.

Pongrass is yet another innovator of publishing software which newspapers rely on the company’s state-of-the-art solutions for publications of all sizes. An all alone exhibitor from India, with their core focus on media, 4Cplus boasts of its team comprising more than 150 engineers and domain experts who have been providing services to news publishers in Asia and Africa. And to mention a few, manroland web systems, Cxense, Atex, Alfamedia, Google, NEXT Media and Xalok were some sponsors who lent generous support to the success of Publish Asia 2014.

Digital vs Inkjet

Chaired by Anand Srinivasan, research engineer, WAN-IFRA India, Printing & Production Seminars staged a session titled ‘Hybrid Printing’ under which a panel of eminent speakers delivered a series of dialogues on the trends of digital printing. Hubert Pedurand, director-collective action, INIGraph, France pointed out the differences in ‘Digital Printer vs Inkjet Heads’ with a highlight on the need of digital printing solutions for the Indian market.

Presenting two case studies from China and Germany, Evandro Matteucci, VP-marketing & GM, Graphics APAC, Eastman Kodak, China stressed on how newspapers can become more relevant and attractive as a media vehicle or new business model to ad agencies and brand owners through adoption of hybrid printing solutions. In the followup was Hubert Pedurand, CEO, RotOcean, France spotlighting their stance after five years of their link to digital. He revealed a case study on their fully digital printing centre located on Reunion Island.

CEO Conferences

New media disruption: In his opening keynote address at the CEO Conference’s first session titled ‘Riding the Waves of News Media Disruption’ on the first day, Sverre Munck, CEO, Libras, SA and former vice president, Schibsted, Norway delivered a fruitful discourse about searching for competitive advantage, from stable to unstable competitive dynamics in the news industry. He underlined how Schibsted has broken the historical business model of the newspapers, moving on from a natural monopoly to the new competitive dynamics. Session 2 of the conference staged talk on a thought-provoking topic ‘The Content Monetisation Controversy’ Revenue stream diversification: Further, at the second half of the first day at CEO Conference, expert CEOs weighed in on diversifying revenue streams.

Audience engagement: On the second day at CEO Conference, panelists stressed on a brand new social media newswire launched to filter raw content for journalists. Facebook and Storyful that aggregate news from social media platforms have come together to launch FB Newswire. In his keynote speech, Mark Little, CEO & founder, Storyful said the newswire, which is a monthly paid subscription service, aims to help journalists separate the newsworthy content from all the noise.

Fostering innovation in advertising: Advertising Summit on the second day of Publish Asia gorged on different topics leveraging the ways to foster innovation to generate new revenues from advertisements.

Going Green

A big concern among the current trends in the industry highlighted during the talks and discussions at Printing & Production Seminars on the last day of Publish Asia 2014 was eco-friendliness. At the session titled ‘Why going green?’ Sanat Hazra, technical director, Bennett & Coleman, India explained why do we need to save recourses. Followed up next on the same topic in the Session 2 was about ‘Going Green: From Concept to Implementation’ in which Sanat further explicated different projects that The Times of India has worked on to significantly contribute to improving process efficiently and consequently reducing cost across its 56 printing sites.

Sanat further elaborated on an initiative implemented in their facilities towards ‘green’ by forming CIG (Continuous Improvement Group) which ultimately helped them save newsprints, energy, water and ink. Speaking on ‘Grow Green in India’, Anand Srinivasan revealed the findings with respect to WANIFRA- led green projects in five printing centres across India in just four months. End of the session was marked with Sanat’s prolific dialogue on ‘going green’ for improving competitive advantages.

Finally, what it perceptibly observed was a steep decline in the number of organisations attending the Publish Asia 2014. Compared to the previous editions, presence of around 150 organisations this year is indeed a low attendance. This is a matter of concern that needs to be looked into seriously. Many questions have been put up whether it is due to the lack of participants or the content of the event not suitable with news media organisations or something else?

Asian Media Awards And the winners are...

Indeed an enticement at Publish Asia 2014 was the ‘13th Asian Media Awards’ for which a record of 534 entries comprising newspapers and magazines from all over Asia and the Middle East competed for excellence in printing quality, design, infographics, photojournalism, editorial content, newspaper marketing and community service. Among the 45 winners recognised with the prestigious accolades were five newspaper houses from India which bagged eight awards in different categories, viz, HT Media Limited (Bronze in ‘Best in Print' for Hindustan Times); The Indian Express Ltd (Bronze in ‘Best in Design’ for their website of Finalcial Express); HT Media Limited (Bronze in ‘Best in Editorial Content’ for the project 'My India My Voice 2013'); Kasturi & Sons Ltd (Silver in ‘Best in Newspaper Marketing’ for the project ‘We Have Changed With You’ for The Hindu); Jagran Prakashan Ltd (Silver in ‘Best in Newspaper Marketing’ for Dainik Jagran); Kasturi & Sons Ltd (Bronze in ‘Best in Newspaper Marketing’ for the project ‘Behave Yourself India' in The Hindu); Malayala Manorama Company Ltd (Gold in ‘Best in Photojournalism’ in Malayala Manorama); and (Bronze in ‘Best in Photojournalism’ for The Week). The Best in Print Awards were sponsored by manroland web systems and those overseas winners in top positions included The Star (Malaysia), The South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Singapore Press Holdings (Singapore) and The New Straits Times (Malaysia), among others honoured at a gala ceremony organised gracefully.

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