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The Washington Post’s Ink-Saving Project

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Every day over 600,000 copies of the Washington Post hit newsstands and front porches. Printing now requires 30% less ink yet no additional frustration.


© Flickr user Jon S

According to an article in Newspapers and Technology, the upgrade has been a success:

The Washington Post is among the latest papers to deploy ink-savings software, in its case capping off a two-year project to study the technology.

The Post rolled out GMG Americas’ inkOptimizer app this spring, following an evaluation that included putting four different vendors through their paces, according to Kevin Conner, quality assurance manager.

The goals were straightforward: to quantify savings, and to ensure that the app selected has no negative impact on ads – or in the best of all scenarios, to see an improvement in ad quality.

“We randomly chose pages of photos and full-page color ads of varying ink coverage amounts,” Conner said. “Some ad pages were saturated and dark and others were lighter, with more pastels, so we could really judge color shift.”

The Post ran its test pages through each vendor’s product, looking at various elements.

“We looked at pixel counts, so if a vendor said they could give us 30 percent improvement, we would quantify that,” Conner said.

Although reducing the total ink required to print a paper is primarily a cost saving measure, the Post understands the potential impact on productivity. “We had some established workflows,” one staffer remarked, “and we didn’t want to change those.” How does an organization conduct a major operational improvement without affecting daily routines?

The team at the Washington Post made a bold choice: implement the upgrade so seamlessly that it requires no changes to workflow. From the coverage:

The ability to integrate the ink-optimization software into The Post’s existing workflows was another key consideration, said Costa Bugg, the paper’s director of advertising operations.

“We had some established workflows and we didn’t want to change those,” he said.

That workflow is based on The Post’s homegrown document tracking system, dubbed TrackIt, and its front-end editorial Newsdesk software from CCI Europe. InkOptimizer easily integrated with both, Bugg said…

Deciding the best practical test was to wait for reaction, Conner didn’t tell staff or advertisers about the new app ahead of its deployment.

“Two to three weeks after we implemented it, I received a comment from our photo department about how much better the photos were printing,” he said. “This has been a win-win.”

Advertisers also took notice, according to Bugg.

“Of course, the potential reaction from advertisers was really important to us,” he said. “And we’ve actually seen improvements and had a lot of positive feedback.”…

Meantime, the workflow associated with optimizing files is also helping The Post lay the groundwork to migrate to an all-PDF workflow, a move the paper is considering, Bugg said.

“This has opened the door for a more simplified transition and also to enable us to move to a new pagination system if we decide to do that down the road,” he said.

This story demonstrates an exceptional commitment to stakeholder satisfaction: upper management is pleased because of a reduction in costs, staff has an improved product without any change in routine, and customers feel positively about the increased printing quality of their advertisements. Seeing how successful this change has been for the Post, it seems as if it would benefit other organizations to study this event as a best practice for enhancing in-house technology.

At AccelaWork, we remind organizations that sometimes the best way to make a change is to ensure it doesn’t require change from others. Process improvement and workflow management is about embracing routines, not disrupting established patterns. If you are considering adopting a new software package, even for only a few people, contact our business improvement consultants today!

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
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