After successfully implementing Layout-8000 and SCS/ClassPag in 2018, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette selected SCS/Track to bolster its production environment and replace its legacy system. The Post-Gazette, owned by Toledo-based media company, Block Communications (BCI), went live with SCS/Track in July of 2019.
Meantime, The BCI-owned Toledo Blade—which has been an SCS customer for more than two decades—has decided to join its sister paper in moving forward with SCS/Track. The Blade is projected to go live with SCS/Track in the next few weeks.
Now that the two newspapers are running the same production systems from SCS—Layout-8000,™ SCS/ClassPag™, and SCS/Track—they serve as disaster recovery backups for one another and can seamlessly transition their workload between Toledo and Pittsburgh in a disaster situation.
About Block Communications:
Founded in 1900, Block Communications, Inc. is a privately-held diversified media holding company headquartered in Toledo, OH.
In September of 1975 skilled developer and new mother, Martha Cichelli, started her business in Allentown, PA. Her husband, Richard, was research manager for computer applications at the American Newspaper Publishers Association Research Institute. He was also Co-Director of the Computer Science Group in the Graduate School of Mathematics at Lehigh University.
Richard has often said that one of his happiest days was starting work at the ANPA/RI and realizing he would get to do computer science research that would help those who were charged with holding the powerful accountable. "It's in the Constitution." he would often say.
Martha brought skills she learned from DuPont and Pennsylvania Power and Light to her new business. Her accomplishments included developing and supporting the data management software used by PP&L in all its applications. She called her business Software Consulting Services. Her first customers included a major manufacturer (tracking court cases), a drug maker (indexing a library of research papers) and several hospitals. One of her biggest coups was getting a contract to build Apple II-based desktop applications for American Express.
In 1977 the Apple II+ was proving to be a great little personal computer. It had Visicalc, the first popular spreadsheet. It had a Pascal development system. It had many quirky applications that made use of its open bus (motherboard slots) architecture. What it didn't have were sophisticated applications. Thus the interest from American Express.
As a new type of entrepreneur and a woman in technology, she was written up in Inc Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
Martha has been honored with the prestigious Lehigh Valley Business Journal 2016 Woman of Influence award.
About early SCS systems - one was used for managing intravenous solutions at several hospitals. It's a little tricky when a software bug could lead to using the wrong cancer medicine and kill a patient.
Martha and Richard still own SCS and serve their many clients every day. SCS remains a family-owned business.
Over 300 media businesses with nearly 2,000 publications in 10 countries are using SCS systems. Five different languages are supported.
Many of the technologies on which newspaper systems are built were first realized by SCS. Some of these include the first extensions to desktop layout applications that made them viable tools for newspaper pagination (e.g., the first XTension for QuarkXPress, commodity hardware from Dell, free open-source software, etc.)
SCS is a modest company that serves newspapers of all sizes (and other businesses).
Longevity characterizes SCS's staff. Up until recently the average tenure at SCS was 18 years. Most customers are on a first name basis with our support staff and (its less nerdy) developers.
In 2019, SCS hired six new developers. Several were to fill two positions left by those who retired after 25 years with the company. The others were needed because of the growth due to the successes of SCS's newest products and the recent demises of other vendors.
All SCS staff are well-paid US citizens. SCS competes effectively with the FAANG companies for the best computer science graduates.
No SCS customer has failed to publish due to a failure of any of their SCS systems.
The entire SCS staff is committed to the company's motto. "SCS builds trusted newspaper systems."
We wrote this website to help you to get to know us. We want to be informative, clear and complete. We will answer questions about who, what, where, when and how we think about ourselves.
We are Martha and Richard Cichelli. We own 100% of Software Consulting Services, LLC and have done so since its founding in 1975.
We started SCS as software developers.
We are not financial people, although we recognize the importance of having accurate and timely financial records and reports. We know the importance of setting and meeting ROI goals.
We are not sales people, although we make newspaper advertising systems engineered for supporting sales people well. To not ignore the value of our sales staff, let me say: They really know our systems and can explain, demo, configure and price them. They understand the newspaper business and will consult with you freely to assure a good fit between us.
We are not production people, although we make excellent technology for managing newspaper advertising production.
We are neither reporters nor editors, although we make newsroom systems and recognize the importance of clear writing as recommended by Robert Gunning. We follow his advice for all our correspondence, including technical literature and contracts.
We are owners. We hope you are like us (or work for someone like us) who is dedicated to providing quality journalism that holds the powerful accountable and which informs and creates a local community using whichever media seems appropriate. We'd like to think that if you are an owner you would be proud to have your children inherit your newspaper. And you would be glad you had set it up with systems from SCS.
We are not seeking to be like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook or Google.
Mr. Jeff Bezos has more money than God and seems to now think that being a newspaper vendor is a good idea. We tell you, that is not likely to be a good idea. Mr. Bill Gates is retired. We are not. However, SCS can be run by our very competent staff pretty much without us. Mr. Steve Jobs is dead and the last time I checked the obits, we are not. Mr. Mark Zuckerberg is a lot younger than we are and seems much more confused. And who knows what the guys at Google are up to. They get fined on a regular basis. This may indicate they are up to no good sometimes. We have never had any legal conflicts in over 40 years of business.
Our business was founded within a year or two of the oldest of the above.
We are located in Nazareth PA. We live and work there. We love Nazareth's small town atmosphere and yet appreciate being near the Lehigh Valley cities of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. We have good schools here with universities that have excellent computer science degree programs. (Some of their professors are former students of Richard.) Neighboring businesses include Martin Guitar and Crayola.
We are firmly US-based and family owned. We do not have developers, contract or otherwise, in Germany, Ukraine, Russia, South Asia (India, Bangladesh, China) or elsewhere. However, our customers produce thousands of publications. They range in size and location from the largest newspaper groups and biggest metro newspapers around the world (18 countries) to the smallest of shoppers located in nearby towns. There are English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Chinese products made with SCS systems.
Our customers stay with us. There is very little churn among our customers on support. What there is, is usually the result of an independent newspaper being bought by some private equity behemoth. (BTW - On a busman's holiday in Fairbanks Alaska recently, we visited the Daily News-Miner, a happy customer since June 22, 1984. They are running on our newest platform with current SCS software.)
If you call SCS for support, the phone will be answered by a person. Our support folks understand the newspaper business and the systems we (and, usually, others) supply. If our front line support doesn't have a solution for you, one of our developers surely will.
Our staff stays with us. The average tenure of our staff is 18 years. Our support people know our customers by name.
We pay back to our local community by hiring computer science students for summer internships. We get first dibs on the best local talent.
We are inventors and investors in technology. If you ever wonder where the first QuarkXPress Xtension came from, look no further than SCS. If you wonder who introduced commodity hardware to newspapers, SCS was Dell's first reseller. We introduced and long supported open source free software, like Linux and Apache, to and for newspapers.
We are an independent software vendor, a value added reseller and a managed service provider. Our niche market is the newspaper industry, although we have non-newspaper customers.
The systems we make are used to produce newspapers.
They are used to design, produce and paginate them. They support order entry for all types of ads, including retail and classified. Sales and accounting are supported. We are world leaders in display ad dummying and classified pagination technology. (Corporate design centers and metro-newspapers can reduce labor costs by as much as 80% and more by this using our artificial intelligence-based automated design systems.)
Our systems are also used by newsrooms. Everything from copy editing and workflow management to library and e-editions are provided.
Details about our products are available on the pages of this website.
We realize that newspapers are facing challenging times. We address this need with technological and business innovation.
We incorporate open source software into our solutions. We build our own tools. We provide loosely-coupled, tightly-integrated systems that are built as modules that can be easily combined in innovative ways. Customers get the same software configured to their needs.
We recognize there are those who seek vendors with the lowest price. These newspapers are not likely to want SCS as their supplier.
We provide systems on a subscription basis. Both software and hardware are usually leased from us along with managed services. (I.e., a SaaS model with little or no capital expenditures.) We calculate that this provides the most economical and durable solution for both parties. Some may say they want to be your partner. We, however, wish to be your supplier, the best you will ever do business with. We seek mutually-respectful, win-win relationships.
Articles in the SCS Blog are written by SCS employees and associated news outlets.