Fenske Media: “Information is the Currency of the 21st Century”

Jim Hamilton
Dec 13, 2011

I had a chance to visit Fenske Media again last week as part of an analyst briefing sponsored by Kodak. This was my second visit to Fenske Media this year (see my blog on my previous visit) but even so there were plenty of new things to see. They run a fantastic operation and it was fascinating to see it again to explore what had changed since my last visit.

Fenske Media is a major Kodak customer, with color products from three Kodak platforms: NexPress, Versamark VL, and Prosper. Their color Prosper 5000XL is the newest arrival of the three, though it has already been there a year so they have had plenty of experience using it.

The Fenske brothers next to their Kodak Prosper 5000XL

The Fenske brothers next to their Kodak Prosper 5000XL

The Prosper 5000XL configuration has been expanded since my last visit. They have added a new in-line post-coater from InterFlex. Fenske Media uses the device to add a UV coating for extra rub protection, particularly when outputting on coated stock. While I was there they were running NewPage TrueJet, a recently released coated stock designed for high-speed inkjet output.

InterFlex coater shown in-line with a Kodak Prosper 5000XL

InterFlex coater shown in-line with Fenske Media's Kodak Prosper 5000XL

Before long there will be another in-line addition to Fenske Media’s Prosper 5000XL. They have ordered one of Kodak’s Image Optimization Systems (IOS) and when it arrives it will give them the flexibility to run a broader range of stocks, particularly some additional coated ones that they would like use. Fenske Media conducts direct mail campaigns, many of which mix digital and offset print output. This means that coated paper is important from a promotional perspective and also that the use of the same class of paper for offset and digital is a frequent requirement. Being able to use the same stock for offset and digital is key. Another advantage of the IOS is that it allows sites to use house stocks they have on hand rather than having to order specialty ones for inkjet.

Another new inkjet development since my last visit was the addition of a Pitney Bowes Print+ Messenger system. This process color inkjet system, which was introduced at Graph Expo in 2010, was just being installed and will be used for printing personalized messages and postage on the outside of envelopes.

Despite all of the new purchases, the most interesting part of my return visit Fenske Media isn’t the new equipment. The bigger story is Fenske Media itself and how they are delivering data-driven messages for their customers. As it turns out, this is something that they have been doing for a long, long time, but now with the advent of high-quality, high-speed color inkjet devices, particularly those like the Prosper 5000XL that can print on coated stocks, there is much more that a company like Fenske Media can do with the technology they have. More than thirty years ago, Fenske Media produced database printing applications including a real estate listing book whose entries were organized by price and street. This was a mainframe application whose output was transferred to film and then printed on an offset press. How times have changed. The applications today are still data driven but the link between information and print is direct and the results are much more timely.

I’ll close with a couple of memorable quotes from Fenske management that build on this theme of using data. The first is about the best way to use data. Dave Fenske said that, “Data is like fruit that you pick off a tree — it has an expiration date.” This speaks to the need to clean, mine, and analyze data. He also noted that “Information is the currency of the 21st century.” Now there are some wise words to remember from a company that has been dealing with data for a long time.

Note: For a look at some of the applications that help drive variable data workflows, have a look at our Ultimate Guide to Variable Data solutions.

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