Nordwest Zeitung goes live with automated print page layout

The German regional daily has launched an AI-driven pagination process that cuts print edition production times from hours to minutes.

Milan, Italy. April 18, 2024

“As well as higher productivity, page automation has also created a more flexible workflow, with significant gains in editorial quality” said Jörg Drees, Eidosmedia director of Marketing and Business Development.

Nordwest Zeitung is a regional news daily based in the city of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony. In addition to its digital formats, the paper publishes ten local print editions containing up to a dozen pages of local news.

Since 2011 NWZ has been using Eidosmedia platforms for its online and print editions. In 2023 it was the first to adopt a new automated page layout system powered by an AI model supplied by Canadian developer

“We streamlined and automated our management of online local news several years ago,” said Ulrich Schönborn, NWZ editor-in-chief. “We were looking for a similar solution for our print editions, which continue to be important sources of advertising and subscription revenue.“

The page automation process is fully integrated with the Eidosmedia edition management workspace. Stories are prepared for digital and print publication in the usual way and then selected for pagination in a specified page sequence.

The story text and media content is sent to the AI engine - which is cloud-deployed - together with layout parameters. After a short interval the page data is returned to the editorial workspace and the pages are filled with the selected content. For a 10-page section the process takes under two minutes.

Click here to see a brief demo of AI authoring and page layout tools.

Most pages will require no further attention and can be released for printing. Where adjustments are needed, staff can edit the pages using the normal layout tools. The auto-pagination can be repeated as many times as necessary to accommodate new or updated story content. Any corrections are fed back to the AI model as part of its continuous training.

“We’re currently laying out about 30 to 50 pages a day, which will grow and represents already about 10-20% of the total daily output,” said Daniel Steinhaus, technical responsible in the editorial team and member of the Sophi project team. “The work needed to create the layouts has been reduced by about a third, so far.”

For the print channel managers, who previously spent several hours each afternoon working on the layouts, page automation has freed up valuable time. Their workflow now includes quality control on page contents, including improving and updating the editorial content.

“We’re moving beyond the traditional demarcation between page design and story editing,” said Ulrich Schönborn. ”Print channel managers are now able to make an important contribution to all aspects of page quality.”

The next steps for the NWZ is to extend the page automation to all daily print pages – a total of between 120 and 150 pages a day – and eventually to include the other titles in the group’s publications.

The pagination system will also facilitate the the creation of special supplements and new formats, which normally absorb significant design and layout resources.

“As well as enhancing print productivity and quality, we expect the page automation tool will enable us to cater more flexibly to the interests and needs of our readers,” said Ulrich Schönborn.

Page automation is also being rolled out at two other Eidosmedia customers in Germany and is scheduled to enter production in the near future.