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Printing magazine showcases variable data on cover

It’s no secret that marketers are combining digital print and variable data for powerful results on short-run jobs. Recently, trade magazine Graphic Arts Monthly and Xerox showed that the strategy also can be applied on a larger scale – for example, to 72,000 personalized magazine covers.

Graphic Arts Monthly, which targets commercial printers, has partnered with various printing manufacturers for the past 18 months to demonstrate cutting-edge technology on its covers, including extra coatings, added dimensionality and extended color ranges. The Xerox cover, which appeared in December, is the second one featuring digital print but the most complex to date concerning the use of variable data.

“Variable data printing is one of the most edgy topics for our readers,” editor in chief Bill Esler said. “Our reader base is looking at adopting these tools and educating their customers on how to use them.”

Inside each issue with a manufacturer cover is an article explaining the process used to create the cover called, “How’d We Print This?” That article is always the best-read feature in the magazine, Mr. Esler said, and reader engagement is one goal of the covers.

Along with demonstrating VDP technology, Graphic Arts Monthly and Xerox want to see how the use of personalization will affect the magazine’s renewal rate, as the December issue was a renewal issue.

“This is a test to see if high design and variable data will peak the reader to respond online,” Mr. Esler said. “For the printing industry to connect up to the Web, that is the Holy Grail,” as the successful marriage of the mediums “ensures the future for printing.”

Two weeks after the issue dropped, initial results indicated a response rate of 0.57 percent, whereas the average response rate to a renewal issue for a typical magazine is 2.9 percent. However, responses typically come in for six weeks in a postcard campaign, so it may be early yet.

To drive recipients online, Graphic Arts Monthly’s December cover featured a recipient’s name, initials, company name, account number and a personalized URL address as part of the cover art, which depicts a space rocket bursting through the page. The creative concept was developed jointly with Xerox and XMPie, Xerox’s newly acquired variable information software provider, to take full advantage of XMPie’s personalization capabilities.

Once recipients click through to their personalized Web site, they enter their subscription number and can update their personal data directly on the site. No other renewal method is offered in the issue.

Graphic Arts Monthly, Oak Brook, IL, promoted the issue with two e-mail blasts to its 20,000 online subscribers. Xerox, Rochester, NY, promoted it in a news release.

Traditionally, Graphic Arts Monthly’s renewal issues came with a protective cover that included a business reply card. The publication also had used telemarketing and e-mail to drive renewal rates. The typical magazine reader is “jaded about those very ordinary over-wrap postcards,” Mr. Esler said.

For Xerox, the cover was a chance to show existing and potential clients what can be done with variable data and digital printing.

“It’s not just for short runs,” Xerox spokeswoman Karin Stroh said. “We took on a project of over 70,000. It can be done, and that’s what we wanted to show everyone.”

Using Graphic Arts Monthly’s database, Xerox and XMPie created different imagery for every cover and then managed the transfer of that data to an iGen3 110 digital press. Because of the scope of the project, the covers were composed and printed in batches of 1,500 records, said Mike Riebesehl, iGen3 project manager with Xerox.

In addition, the data had to be scrubbed several times and the covers spot-checked before they went out to ensure the records matched. As a result, the process took about 10 days whereas a typical offset cover would be done in hours.

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