November 2023 Vol. 78 No.11

Editor's Log

Cool changes: Underground Infrastructure converts to total digital platform

Robert Carpenter | Editor-in-Chief 

The older I get the harder change comes. I guess that’s just human nature. 

I like printed materials. I read a lot of books, comic books, newspapers and magazines while growing up. Books were an essential part of college, where my first degree was in print journalism (newspapers). 

I’ve been involved in printed media since junior high when I used to write sports for a local newspaper. That’s when I got hooked, watching what happened to my written words. First, they were inputted and formatted into a photomechanical machine that would then process a “slick.” 

These slicks were run through another machine that would put a wax coating on the backside. Each slick would be trimmed with scissors and then positioned on a special type of full broadsheet newspaper style template. All the pages for the newspaper would be composed that way, including ads. 

From there, a special type of large camera would shoot the pages and create a full-sized negative. Those negatives would be stripped together into the right sequence, taken to a “plate maker” that would burn a reverse image into a silver oxide coated aluminum plate. The plates were placed on drums of large presses and the printing began, completing the offset printing process. With excitement and pride, I would grab one of the first copies off the press to view my printed words. 

Or, offset printing worked something like that – it’s been a long time since I was directly involved in that end of production. As I started my post-college newspaper career, that process kept getting better, faster and more flexible in its capabilities. 

One of the biggest changes came with the rapid development of the computer industry. With advances in computer graphics, no longer did a physical page need to be produced. It was all created on Macs and PCs. The digital version of a newspaper or magazine page was downloaded onto special storage devices and sent overnight to the printer, who loaded the digital images straight to a plate making machine. Talk about a time saver. 

That process kept getting better due, in part, to the advancement of digital transportation capabilities i.e., internet, then fast internet and, today, fiber internet. We instantly upload an entire magazine directly to the printer’s equipment. Funny how underground infrastructure (via fiber) has played such a strong role with my media industry. 

Today, fast digital communications include modern 5G cell service, as well. By combining fiber and cell mediums, we get instant communications to our phones, tablets and computers. 

Underground Infrastructure has been heavily trending towards the advantages of digital for some time now. Not only do we have a very active and comprehensive website, but we publish the industry’s largest circulation and only daily newsletter. I love the advantages that gives us as the premier construction, rehabilitation and asset management news, data and information source. 

I started my career on a newspaper, bringing news to readers on a daily basis. And now, thanks to our digital products, we’ve come full circle and are back to a daily news and information source. I appreciate how many people have commented that reading our early morning newsletter is like the old days of reading the morning paper with their first cup of coffee, only now your medium is a cell phone, tablet or computer. 

But even better, don’t be surprised if occasionally you get a midday or late-night special update when there is breaking news. We have an expert digital staff with broad resources that understands the significance and importance of that capability. 

Further, our website never rests. It is updated continually with all kinds of information. You’ll always find something new and interesting on our website, and it serves as a virtual encyclopedia of valuable facts and data for our readers. Factor in our growing webinar and podcast programs, and it’s easy to see why we are becoming the dominate digital medium for underground infrastructure. 

However, we’re not quite done. I’ve known for some time that the print version of Underground Infrastructure is limiting and essentially no longer relevant to our goals of producing the preeminent and timely news and information package for the underground market. So, the time is now, and opportunity awaits. 

Effective with our December 2023 issue, the Underground Infrastructure print magazine will take the final step in its digital evolution and convert to a unique all-digital format. Rather than the cumbersome and difficult-to-read products currently on the market, we’re moving to PageRaft technology that provides an amazing ease of reading and efficiency of displaying our entire magazine each month. 

Total digital has arrived for Underground Infrastructure and while it is a major change, it represents exciting new and proficient methods of communication with our readers. With excitement and pride, I can’t wait to “grab” my digital copy.

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