The newspaper business is changing, and we must help our customers with those changes.
To improve efficiency, newspapers are consolidating. Newspaper groups are building design centers to help streamline newspaper design and production.
We have been releasing incremental changes in Layout-8000 Version 14 since March of last year. All together the changes since then support a huge change in orientation.
It's been a year in the making, but for newspapers using SCS’s Layout-8000 to dummy the display ads into their printed products, the new feature set available in Version 15, launching Aug. 5, 2015, will be more than worth the wait.
This major upgrade to the industry's leading ad dummying software includes important advancements in security and redundancy, making it a whole lot less likely that a single point of failure - a power outage, equipment breakdown, network hiccup, etc. - will interrupt production workflow. For newspaper groups with consolidated design centers, the application has been thoroughly reengineered for the very different workflows necessary in that kind of environment, including
- multi-product management
- busy work reduction including mobile access to reports
- an enhanced method of assuring ad placement consistency
- improved high availability
The image below shows what you will see when you startup Layout-8000 and get ready to select a product to dummy.
You might want or need to start work on a new product before you have finished the last one. This is now no problem; you can select a new product and work on it in a new window. You can switch back and forth with no need to close and reopen products each time.
We are working hard to reduce and simplify repetitive clerical tasks.
If there is a series of steps that are always performed at a particular point in the dummying process (e.g. when a product is “sent to pagination”), these steps can be configured once and executed with a single mouse click.
One of these repetitive steps is generating and distributing a Final Report for a product after it has been sent to pagination. This report can be emailed to users throughout the organization who need a copy. The email list details can be set up once and invoked with a mouse click when needed.
With Version 15 this can be automated further. Instead of requiring the Layout user to distribute the report, users of the report can retrieve it on any mobile device or workstation via self-service just as they can retrieve page dummies (Note: this feature requires the optional module PGLAdBoss). The Layout operator does not need to take the time to print or email copies.
Ad placement consistency
Version 15 includes a learning module, LayoutHistoryAdBoss, which remembers where the ads of various advertisers for various products are consistently placed. It uses this data to provide a ranked set of placement recommendations.
Improved high availability
This is a critical issue, and it is a sufficient reason in and of itself to install Version 15.
Why is high availability something Layout-8000 users need to think about?
The simple answer is that if Layout-8000 were somehow to be unavailable, its users would be in a world of hurt. And it is not just about ad dummying. At almost every installation, Layout-8000 provides important interfaces (middleware) among advertising order entry systems, production systems and pagination systems. The requirements for this middleware are as complex as any of the interfaces among applications in newspapers. What comes in from a rate card based insertion order goes out from Layout-8000 as an edition design with precise geometric locations for ads, etc. It's mission critical and, without it, getting out an edition on time is nearly impossible.
As more and more products are dummied in large design centers, there is more risk of workflow disruption if a centralized server fails.
Most newspapers back up their data processing oriented ad scheduler with Layout-8000's production oriented scheduler by constantly feeding current insertion order transactions to it. They depend on it.
SCS takes high availability very seriously. We are changing our approach to this for Layout-8000 from a nightly full snapshot to a combination of the nightly snapshot with a technique called log shipping.
We have used the full snapshot approach in Layout-8000 for numerous years. Recovery takes you back to the state when the last snapshot was done. Snapshots taken the night before lose the session work back to the nightly backup should there be some sort of failure. Since Layout-8000 almost never fails, this method has provided adequate reliability. As design centers grow, however, the possibility of a server failure and its impact on multiple publications becomes more serious.
SCS's other advertising applications don’t rely on snapshots alone to provide high availability. To meet the needs for even higher availability with larger active computational states, they keep two (or more) application environments in sync in near real time. You can switch from one to the other and be assured you will lose little, if anything, when an application server fails. This is done by sending copies of all changed records from the active environment to be almost immediately applied to a backup environment (this is called log shipping).
Log shipping is a reliable mechanism for building recoverable databases. Layout-8000 Version 15 is being deployed with log shipping. Read this article we have posted on LinkedIn at http://bit.ly/1IHgyEe (link is external) for the technical details - especially if you are using VMWare. For specifics about how this technology is deployed for Layout-8000, see the diagrams at the end of this article.
A special thanks to the folks at Gannett for sharing how well they use our high availability technology and for challenging us to make it better. We also appreciate having the many new Gannett publications using Layout-8000.
And thank you, Kris Julius of Lee Enterprises for sharing your insights for building well-managed corporate design centers. You are teaching us how to do it better.