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new-features April 21, 2022

Print page automation - the AI challenge

Laying out news stories onto newspaper pages is one of the last great manual tasks in the news-media business - but AI-assisted page layout promises to bring significant gains in speed and productivity.

Eidosmedia Page Automation

AI-assisted page layout | Eidosmedia

When it comes to filling Web pages with stories and media, the automation of this process is straightforward and already fairly routine. Even in the very hands-on area of local news, the German daily Nordwest-Zeitung, for example, has for several years been using algorithms and metadata to automatically paginate nearly a thousand items of online local news each day with little manual intervention.

Print - another order of complexity

But the design and population of pages in print editions presents another order of complexity. Not only are the typography and graphics of print layouts more detailed than web pages, but the ‘architecture’ of a print edition is a key part of the visual identity of the newspaper as a brand. Publishers invest considerable resources in creating this identity and ensuring that it is expressed in every page of every published edition.

Time for templates

The technology for laying out newspaper pages has come a long way since the days of Linotype machines and cut-and-paste layouts. Today’s page designers work with templates that automatically format headlines, text and pictures according to the paper’s design rules.

The story templates are grouped into page templates, complete with lines and headers and other page furniture. Page templates, in turn, are assembled into entire multi-edition print titles, ready to be filled with content.

These developments have vastly increased the productivity of print newspaper operations. Nevertheless, the bringing together of the layout and the stories streaming out of the editorial operation in real time remains a highly labor-intensive process. Journalists rarely ‘write-to-fit’ the space available. Automatic copyfit mechanisms can help, but only up to a point. Advertising is another fast-moving content stream that has to be accommodated.

The daily miracle

For daily newspapers, the miraculous marriage of content and layout has to be completed in just a few hours and may involve hundreds of pages. The skilled resources required to do this, day after day, make the pagination process the most costly part of most news publishers’ operations. For this reason there is considerable interest in applying the power of artificial intelligence to automate the process of print pagination.

Intelligent layouting

News operations are beginning to make use of artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools to aid the creation and management of content and these tools are already delivering results in terms of faster and more cost-effective news creation.

Can these techniques also be applied to the creation of complex print page layouts? Eidosmedia is actively exploring the integration of AI routines into its pagination processes. It promises to deliver significant time and cost savings for print media publishers.

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