This fully automated digital pagination system was one of the largest projects I have managed in the publishing industry. Its full development took five years and, in the end was the result of collaboration work between Canadian, American, British, German and Dutch software developers specialized in publishing and advertising.

When completed, the 160 page publication (for which we developed the system before being marketed to others) required only three production people (down from twelve required before this implementation) and the full layout time of the newspaper required less than four hours for each edition (down from twenty hours. In addition, the quality of design in advertisements and the overall visual presentation of this publication was raised to new standards which, in turn, permitted the paper to both raise its advertising rates and acquire new accounts. All overtime pay was eliminated.

The prototype configuration of the system, allowed a full color, 32 page magazine to be laid out by ONE single person in less than ten hours. The variable, of course was only the operator's skill level. When completed, the finished pre-press digital files were delivered to the printing company (initially) on a CD disc, later were uploaded directly to the printing plant's servers (in some cases, the printing services were located in other cities or, even countries.

Please note that the rest of the copy on this page was written shortly after the project was completed; thus the writing style.

The Objective

To built an automated newspaper layout production system that required minimal use of staff handling a high volume of advertisements under very tight deadlines.

The Impossible Task

Presented the proposed project to the publisher. Demonstrated its benefits and explained why the first step, which was also the crucial turning point in the publication's future success: the transition from manual paste-up to digital composition while using a key off-the-shelf product as opposed to the already chosen (installed and in use) proprietary software.

Project Implementation (I-a)

(a) Built a production computer network and configured all machines (computers) to the exact design and technical standards. Also set all the ad design standards, digital templates, color correction values, etc.

Project Implementation (I-b)

(b) Built the production's network directories and the company's first digital image library - where over a period of eight years I managed to build over 1,000 logos and miscellaneous corporate identities.

(c) Installed and configured dedicated production stations: server, backup computers, scanning and digitizing machines. Programmed and installed automated scanning and image processing routines and trained the production staff on how to use them.

(d) Designed and programmed specific PostScript fonts (Illustrator, Fontographer, etc.) which were installed into the paper's ad-taking system (Mac and PC versions); built font translation filters for international characters in order to import ads coming - via the internet - from similar papers from around the world.

Project Implementation (II)

(e) Trained the sales people on what was needed and how it was to be accomplished: usage of the digital cameras, file naming convensions, a common design vocabulary that was needed in order to communicate properly between the departments.

(f) Wrote procedural manuals and "Quick Reference" cards for all the stations of the production department and guidelines for the display sales and the classifieds advisors and held regular training and update sessions with all departments - managers and departmental key positions.

(g) Maintained and troubleshooted the production's computers and network's configurations: operating systems and application software, routing, file sharing and transfer, communications, backup scheduling and upgrades. Networking configurations included setup and management of Apple file servers, internet routers, remote troubleshooting, etc. Operating system: Mac OS.


When installed in production environments this system requires a minimal use of staff and time, thus providing production-saving performances rarely achieved with traditional layout and design methods. Here are its major benefits...

  • Reduce the production cost by cutting a number of redundant activities in your company.
  • Reduce the number of employees and eliminate overtime.
  • Cut expenses on production materials used for layout purposes.
  • Eliminate loss of revenue incurred as result of layout errors and missed ads.
  • Eliminate the pre-press fees that printers charge in order to cover the costs of making final additions, corrections and "touch-ups", or printing extra proofs.
  • Avoid production pressure and further errors created by missed deadlines.

Improve the publication's visual presentation. This particular page make-up system is a controlled environment. In most cases, it follows fine-tuned digital layout or "traffic" reports which are unique to each publication and each issue. For this reason, any publication produced with this technology also experiences a major improvement in the quality of its visual presentation.

Increase advertising revenues. As advertisers take pride in presenting their ads, and as ads become cheaper to manage and produce, it is obvious that these advertisers will buy more ad space.

Reduce sales commissions. Where applicable, or required, these systems can maintain parallel online functions which, in addition to creating access to archives of current and past issues, they would enable the sales of business ads and subscriptions.

In addition, by being a distinct process, this pagination contractual proposal also suggests to respect all your other in-house, non-related and pre-pagination procedures. This means that, regardless of how or where your publication's content is produced, this process will not interfere with your other production functions.

Save time. Needless to say that, by reducing the production's workload, your managers will be able to focus on further priorities.


Under its full configuration, this system involves the development of numerous automation routines between classified ad-taking systems, the production of content used in the design of display advertising and the actual layout process of all pages of the publication.

The process can also double-format a publication. That is, it creates the content for both the print and online versions, simultaneously.

Where applicable, the process handles the formatting and transfer of data through a number of operating systems such as UNIX/Mac, Windows, etc.

During the pagination process, the system sorts, transports and places all types of ad formats according to a layout report which follows all the technical and marketing specifications such as page colors (CMYK, SPOT, B/W), page positioning, ad size and cost.

Raw images (from either scanners or digital photo cameras) are imported in automated processing routine at the end of which are properly formatted, according to preset parameters, for both the printed and online versions. During these routines, all required corrections to the images are also applied.

The automation routines, fully developed by Padronius programmers, can be configured to any type of print production setup.

As mentioned above, this pagination system is based on Quark XPress and serves for both the Macintosh and PC platforms. However, at this time, we only offer this service for the Mac-based production environments.

Read more about this, and learn what actually happens during a pagination process, on the right column of this page.

The system's architecture is based on modules, which means that you don't have to wait until the completion of the project before you see any results. As each step is being built it is also incorporated into the live production of your publication. Should you decide to change directions or add more modules as you go, you can do so pretty much at any time without compromising the overall process of development.


The first step in the introduction of a new automated digital pagination system is the assessment process: what is it that the subjected production environment has, what exactly is that it needs and how is everything going to be done. of the your specific pre-development needs.

Typically, the following list will cover most scenarios:

  • Build development flowcharts based on your desired production configuration.
  • As we do so we will help your publication make a smooth transition from lower production technologies to a fully automated digital composition process.
  • Build and link image libraries and advertisement databases.
  • Design and program PostScript fonts which you own and install on your production systems (Mac and PC versions).
  • Build font translation filters for international characters in order to import advertisements and text coming - via the internet - from similar publications from around the world.
  • Setup and maintain the production's computers operating systems and your network's configurations: system software, routing, file sharing and transfer, communications, backup scheduling, upgrades and troubleshooting.
  • Train computer graphics - and desktop publishing - and fundamentals of applied visual communications for advertising, development of branding and corporate identifications, billboards, posters, point of sale, and even government and office forms.
  • Write training manuals and updated technical releases for in-house use in order to increase your company's efficiency.
  • Link the publication's printed production to an online presence, if already available (other than web publishing).
  • Link your site to references that will enhance your online experience.
  • Provide online technical support for all services.
  • Provide further research and/or development of your production's special needs.

Under a previous production model which was used for five years (still under a computerized configuration) this publication employed 12 layout people who were working an average of 20 hrs each (including an average of 5 hrs of overtime, each) in order to layout the 120 pages required.

At the completion of the new digital pagination system, the (now) 160 page publication required only three production people working less than four hours for each edition. In addition, the quality of design in advertisements and the overall visual presentation of this publication was raised to new standards which, in turn, permitted the paper to both raise its advertising rates and acquire new accounts.

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digital pagination systems

As content (ads, photos, editorials, etc., also referred to as "objects") is being created, it is also being filed in designated modules of a layout database.

Once ready for pagination (better known as page layout or composition) all objects are collected from their respective databases, formatted and fed to Quark XPress where the layout of the publication is pretty much being done by the computer(s). The entire process is automatically controlled by an advertising "traffic", or layout report. The functions of the layout report are built, partially, based on information collected from the ad sales logs for that particular issue. A number of other parameters, such as ad-tracking, ad-value, technical and procedural data also make-up an issue's profile report.

During the layout process, all objects are placed under their assigned / reserved pages, categories and exact requested (by advertisers) positioning, following the exact order decided upon. Photos, logos and other images are imported from their database or some storage device - even directly from a digital camera - after they undergo a digital file formatting process.

The entire process is done in three steps: 1] place holders for each object are positioned onto pages (they contain a contract number and a short description of what actually will be filling those spaces), 2] the actual content is brought in and 3] an error check is performed and (if any) necessary adjustments are flagged.

The entire ad value of the publication is calculated automatically prior to pagination and all spot color and CMYK pages are positioned according to the number of pages determined for each particular issue and the respective printing templates provided by the printing company. Place holders for house ads and fillers are also reserved. Registration marks for color separations and other utility functions are inserted automatically along with page numbers, dates and sections' descriptions and their graphical markers or logos, if any.

happy face


First of all, you need to understand that, in general terms, the cost of advertising is based on readership. You also need to understand that readership is also a marketing tool, which means, it has to look good no matter how you slice it. So, the more "eyeballs" the space where your ad is printed on is seen by, the more expensive your ad is going to be. (Ad prices are also heavily dependent of their size, color and page positioning or, in other words, how eye catching they can be. However, these are all attributes that classifieds don't qualify for).

For the most part, readership numbers are calculated by multiplying (a) by (b), where

(a) is the average number of copies that a publication prints during the time period for which your ad is published, and

(b) is the "manufactured" number of people that the publication is presumably read by "in general" -- not necessarily within the time frame that your ad was booked.

Is this confusing? Well, it should be, because if you would really understand all the technicalities of selling print advertising, you'll no longer be interested in buying the ads.

What all this actually means when translated is that no matter what "they" want to have you believe, your ad will never be seen by that many people they tell you. No one, that is, NO ONE reads an entire newspaper -- every single page, section and/or ad on it. By the way... Usually, and depending on demographics the manufactured household readership is a number between 2.5 and 4. And, yes, the newspaper market research people will impress you how good and accurate they are at what they do. So, when you call the paper to place an ad, the sales rep will eagerly inform you that in your city, in average, there are (i.e.) 3.47 people per household. Got that? Not 2, not 3, not even 4, but exactly 3.47 family members, all of which read the classified ad that you are about to pay for so happily and handsomely...

Do you really believe that those 1.47 kids (in the household) under five years of age which are part of the readership will actually shuffle the paper and read your business ad, between breast-feedings?


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