Success Stories

K4 Guides Northstar to a New Collaborative Workflow

Popular editorial system helps industry-leading travel publisher chart a new course

When Northstar Travel Media bought the K4 Publishing System, it was a happy answer to a problem that had lingered for years: Upgrade or start over? With K4, starting over turned out to be cost-effective and surprisingly smooth. It also energized staff to work together to find new ways to get things done.

Before switching to the K4 Publishing System, Northstar Travel Media was settling for less.

Just a few years ago, the Secaucus, N.J., publisher of numerous industry-leading travel magazines and meeting guides, was in need of a new editorial production system. The company had run a Quark Publishing System for years, and even though it considered upgrading its existing software, the project was never realized. Cost estimates were close to $1 million, and, after all, Northstar’s publications were still getting out, albeit inefficiently.

The company was having a problem that countless other publishers face: The existing system worked, but with limitations. Northstar needed a catalyst if it was ever going to undertake its publishing system upgrade.

“The old system limited the staff to do more with less, be flexible with file formats, and be creative with workflows,” said Northstar production director Robert Brai. “Each year we put the project on the capital list, but it got rejected because there were other priorities.”

Meanwhile, Quark stopped supporting the version Northstar was running, and it was unclear when an upgrade would be available.

At the same time, Brai noticed that Adobe was improving its InDesign product. He started pushing the company to look into systems that would integrate with InDesign.

In December 2004, Northstar’s staff watched a demo of the K4 Publishing System, and they liked what they saw. Brai said one of the system’s immediate attractions was its SQL database, which was a good fit for Northstar’s existing setup. Ultimately, Northstar concluded that switching to an entirely new K4 system would actually be easier and more cost-effective than doing a QPS upgrade.

“When I looked at what we were getting and the cost, the value was much better with the combination of K4 and Adobe products,” Brai said. “We were able to get a system that was based on all new software and was still costing less than upgrading what we had.”

Brai said the decision was also based heavily on the reputations of the companies involved. “K4 came recommended by people I trusted,” he said. “We knew with the companies we selected — Adobe, MEI, SoftCare — we were going to have the support we needed to get this done. As the project went through, those expectations held up.”

K4’s stability and functionality saves Northstar time and effort that can be put to better use. “We’ve been running the server since January, and I haven’t heard one instance of the system crashing,” Brai said. “It has saved us time, but more importantly, it has provided us with new tools and a chance to be more creative, You always want to give an artist the best paint to paint with. K4 and Adobe really just offer better products that allow us to do new things in production.”

And as the staff works, they learn more about K4 and collaborate to adapt it to their needs. “We want to be streamlined, to have all the important stuff right there and easy to see,” said Rebecca Tobin, managing editor of Travel Weekly, Northstar’s biggest product. “Working with other people has helped us all get used to the system. We all share best practices, and learning has been easy and quick.

“The good thing is that we use it our own way, but there’s potential to use it for so much more.”

Northstar also invested in K4 with the future in mind. Brai is getting ready to add K4 XML Exporter to help streamline repurposing print content for the web. Travel Weekly Creative Director Kent Lau is looking forward to incorporating Caption&Credit, an enhancement he expects will improve the “important but clunky process” of keeping cutlines and images together by linking a picture’s metadata with its caption.

The company is also eagerly anticipating the promised K4 Web Editor, which provides a web interface so users can work with the K4 database from around the globe — exactly where many of Northstar’s travel-business contributors are.

Not that Brai minds how things are going now.

“The thing that tells me that everyone is satisfied is silence — I haven’t heard anyone complain,” Brai said. “Everyone has really adapted to the new system. They see the immense functionality of these products and have made extra efforts to make this integration happen.

“It really couldn’t have gone any smoother.”

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