If you've noticed something different about this morning's Washington Post, count yourself among the observant. Beginning with today's editions, The Post has converted to "samesize" makeup, or page layout. This change is the most recent in a program of technological improvements in the production of the newspaper.
Samesize makeup, according to Michael Clurman, assistant to the president of The Post, "eliminates all shrinkage. The print you lay out is the same size as that which appears in the newspaper."
In the past, individual page layouts were slightly larger than the actual finished product. At the platemaking phase in the production process, these pages would shrink about 10 percent horizontally, resulting in the correct dimensions for the newspaper but causing distress to advertisers who occasionally discovered distortions in their ads.
Samesize makeup eliminates this problem, and should result in a superior product overall.
"We've been planning this for almost a year," Clurman explained. "Virtually everything in the newspaper changes in size, but hopefully not in appearance. In fact, we expect a much finer quality reproduction. Everything has been scaled down, and that's what samesize is all about."
Several months ago, The Post reduced the actual width of the newspaper rolls used in the printing presses from 58 to 56 inches across, yielding four pages of 14 inches each. This reduction went virtually unnoticed, but resulted in considerable savings in newsprint costs that have already been absorbed by rapidly mounting costs in other production sectors, according to Clurman. The switch last night to samesize makeup is the final step in this phase.
The change has only minor implications for general readers, but for advertisers, it should prove to be a godsend. Some months ago, the American Newspaper Publishers Association formulated standard sizes for national advertising for newspapers using an electronic typesetting process. Samesize will facilitate the handling of national advertising between newspapers, and "dramatically simplifies the process of preparing display ads," Clurman said.
Scaling down the newspaper has some important side effects.Tree lovers will be delighted to learn that the new process results in a 3 percent savings in newsprint. That may not sound like a lot until you consider the thousands of tons needed to produce The Washington Post annually.
"There really is an evolution going on, especially in the past five years," said Clurman. "This change to samesize is in anticipation of totally electronic page makeup, which requires things to be extremely precise. The improved reproduction should become evident in the pictures and the ads."