Written by Jaco de Wet, Co-founder of Personera

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In the VDP landscape the saying goes: “He who owns the data wins”. There are good days ahead for printers as the world’s largest user-maintained personal database, the social network Facebook, recently passed the 400 million mark, and has become the most visited site in America. Facebook allows developers direct access to user information with the use of an open API and Facebook Connect. Anyone developing Facebook applications can put the Facebook Connect button on their website with which a developer can allow the user to opt in and share their data. One click and voila, the developer can access all of the user’s personal information, comments, interests, photos, friend birthdays and events.

Personera.com was the first company in the world to spot the link between VDP and using social networks as a source of user information. Starting out in Cape Town, South Africa, co-founders Sheraan Amod, Jaco de Wet and Michael Champanis had to overcome several barriers as sending PDFs to printers around the world was a poor option due to the high bandwidth costs (file sizes exceeded several gigabytes). After extensive research into the available VDP technologies they developed an internationally scalable solution compatible with the Xerox iGen production press, crunching down file sizes for orders to just a few megabytes.

A Facebook wall calendar was the first product to be launched by Personera.com in November 2009. Users click on a Facebook Connect button from the Personera landing page, select a theme, and drag and drop their photos. The system can also insert all the friends’ birthdays automatically and users can even add their own events and dated notes. Print runs occur on-demand at the site closest to the user.
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With this online to offline approach that merged the social networking uptake of consumers with the latest developments in VDP, Personera soon became one of the most forward thinking companies in the eyes of technology, publishing and print companies. From day one the Personera website made it possible to have a personalized calendar delivered anywhere in the world as they adopted the distribute-then-print mindset cultivated over the past decade in the print industry. The global accessibility of Xerox digital presses via their respected Premier Partner Network, combined with new VDP technology enabled the rapid scaling of Personera’s order fulfillment.

The principle behind VDP is to send the artwork and templates to a print house once, which then keeps it as reusable objects to be used along with variable information. Reusable objects only have to be RIP’ed once. Variable data is then sent to the print house in the form of text, photos and coordinates, and the VDP technology assembles the final products on the iGen’s RIP just before it gets printed.

This way of producing large variable production runs substantially decreased the bandwidth usage and upload time Personera would have incurred, allowing the creation of an efficient network printing model. The future they foresee would be for all their Xerox production partners to have Personera software on site that would automatically download content directly from Facebook as orders are placed by users. On the Personera end, money would be transferred directly to the printer as an order gets placed, which is then fulfilled immediately at the print site.

By successfully integrating Facebook data and personalized print with a single click, the future product options for Personera are numerous. By leveraging their unique, distributed production solution, Personera’s potential reach extends to the magnitude of the Xerox network. It is an exciting time to witness at last the intersection of online into offline media.

For more information on how you can grow your business by integrating online media into print, please e-mail jaco@personera.com