Wicked web: web offset goes online print – Weppert is partnering with Presse-Druck Augsburg

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Newspaper printing at an online print store? Does that make sense – is that affordable? Druckhaus Weppert and Presse-Druck-und Verlags-GmbH Augsburg seem to have a cunning plan. I spoke with the brains behind this collaborative venture – Norbert Hettrich (Druckhaus Weppert) and Andreas Ullmann (Presse-Druck).

Bernd Zipper: Norbert, Druckhaus Weppert is primarily involved in sheet-fed offset print, advertising print as well as other market segments via your xposeprint.de site. What has now inspired you to offer web offset print products?  

Norbert Hettrich: Our roots are of course in offset print and it was via these roots that we got into online print. We have just noticed from operating the online portal that the market requires a far wider range of products and that automatically takes you down the web offset route. In our opinion that is a logical extension to our product portfolio.

Bernd Zipper: Andreas, as Presse-Druck Augsburg you are actually a newspaper publisher and at first glance don’t have much to do with online print. You operate online by offering content, but what has now made you proactively search for a partner to help you market other products online? 

Andreas Ullmann: We are indeed a conventional newspaper publisher, that segment is where we are at home and is part of our tradition. It’s important for us to broaden our product range and to be able to position our offerings online as well and thus get closer to our customers. And that’s why we need an experienced and reliable partner, which is where Druckhaus Weppert comes in.

Bernd Zipper: Great, but many people regard a newspaper as a product that ideally you find lying on the breakfast table. What are the products that are now being provided by this partnership, Andreas? 

Andreas Ullmann: You have put your finger on it; our readers normally regard us and our products as newspapers. For us as a print company it is also vital that we master the digital transformation process successfully and think not just in terms of e-papers and content, but in terms of print – one of our core skills. Conventional products on the one hand and our HQP (high-quality package) production approach will be key components of our product portfolio and of our partnership, which we also intend to enhance.

Bernd Zipper: HQP? Norbert, did HQP mean anything to you at the start or was it completely new to you? 

Norbert Hettrich: As an established term that was certainly new to me, but premium print at online prices or, put another way, quality at online prices, that is both our slogan and our aspiration. And this aspiration then certainly brought web offset to our attention. Actually we are already serving this target audience, providing it with leaflets and folders. Therefore it makes a great deal of sense to provide these customers with quality web offset print products with the support of a reliable partner. So for now we will be providing HQP – i.e. premium newspaper print, online.

Bernd Zipper: Great, but there are other providers operating in the web-fed print segment. What’s your point of difference other than HQP? Is it easier access, lower prices – what is the plan? 

Norbert Hettrich: We certainly want to achieve sales by offering lower prices. Bur we also want to offer greater speed and at the same time produce a premium product.  But I think that premium web offset will enable us to differentiate our offering effectively and users will appreciate the quality they get.

Bernd Zipper: Now an old maxim of the newspaper industry is that web offset only makes commercial sense if it involves major print runs of 10-20,000 copies. How are you going to get into that segment? How are you going to tap into this market? 

Norbert Hettrich: Well our target audience is certainly able to get the ball rolling with lower-quantity print runs. I am thinking event agencies or theaters here. Upwards of a thousand is an appealing number to enable us to sell the product.

Bernd Zipper: 1.000 copies or more? 

Norbert Hettrich: Yes

Bernd Zipper: OK, well that is a statement of intent. Andreas, what happens if you get such a small print job in? You normally produce print runs of more than 200,000 copies every night …

Andreas Ullmann: Every night, except Saturdays – we take Saturdays off.

Bernd Zipper: And then you get a 1.000-copy job in between. How do you handle that? 

Andreas Ullmann: We have done our homework and optimized our processes. We are thus able to offer small print runs too. I mean that was certainly a challenge that we simply had to confront when establishing this collaborative venture. And we are seeing the potential that we can exploit.  The hard work has been worthwhile.

Bernd Zipper: But that means that you have had to substantially reengineer your workflows and your own systems, doesn’t it? 

Andreas Ullmann: We have reengineered, we have invested, we have to deliver up front, but we see the huge opportunity that this venture offers. We have also got major plans that we want to action together with Druckhaus Weppert. It’s not all downside.

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“Web offset is already used in the online print sector –however new niches can be exploited in the premium segment.” – Bernd Zipper

Bernd Zipper: Norbert, when are you going to get actively involved in the market? You have very recently agreed this collaborative venture. But when are you really going to start production? 

Norbert Hettrich: The products will be rolled out in our store in the second quarter of 2016, which means that production will then commence following the roll-out, i.e. no later than July 1, 2016.

Bernd Zipper: Does that mean that you will be including all Presse-Druck Augsburg products in your portfolio? That seems to me to make things very complicated.

Norbert Hettrich: We are kicking off with a selection of three to four products featuring a print-run scale starting at 1000 copies. And that’s how we are going to start; however other, to some extent very specific, products will follow.

Bernd Zipper: Andreas, can you tell me a little bit more about HQP, because it is something of an alien concept to anybody not involved in web offset printing. What does HQP mean for users? 

Andreas Ullmann: We ultimately developed HQP, which is an abbreviation of High-Quality Package, in-house and it is actually a technical term. However our customers ultimately regard it as the premium segment, where the printing methods we use enable us to offer the quality grades that they require. Thus using HQP we can handle high-quality 90g papers and hybrid rasters of 60 lines per centimeter (approx. 152 lpi), which coupled with the appropriate level of pre-press preparation, delivers a supreme level of quality, which makes us unique.

Bernd Zipper: Norbert, you have taken a look at the products and you produce offset products yourselves. If you compare a HQP-standard web offset product with a standard offset product and lay them next to each other, can you achieve the same level of quality? 

Norbert Hettrich: Well you almost reach the same level of quality. It is just an addition to the higher-print-run segment, and, given that we offer an almost identical level of quality, we term ourselves as a premium portal and continue to be differentiated from other players.

Bernd Zipper: Thanks for talking with us. Good luck with your collaborative venture!

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