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Supply Chain Changes: New Publishing Paradigm

September 2013 By David Zwang
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This has led to new opportunities for print service providers. Publishers are looking for partners to take over many of their production processes. There has been an increase in offshore outsourcing. Labor-intensive, non-creative, lower skilled production tasks can be handled in Asia and, with the help of the Internet and the time difference, without missing a day of production. Still, many of them feel that the more skilled roles need to be handled by local partners that are easier to communicate with and manage.

A New Ecosystem

While each publisher may have different business needs, there are business and process transformations that will occur for all of them to some extent. In the first diagram (on the next page) you can see how these new dynamics are affecting the roles and responsibilities in the publishing supply chain ecosystem. These are the before and after business model views of some of the many publishers and publication printers with whom I have recently spoke. In the before view, these publication printers were able to incrementally excel at their role, but were limited to their growth potential because of the distractions beyond content monetization. It also shows the limited role of the print service provider.

In the second diagram you can see how print service providers are now transforming their roles and businesses by expanding their preferred positions in the publishing supply chain ecosystem. They are doing this by taking on roles from the publisher client that will allow publishers to focus on content creation, aggregation and monetization—their core business.

While incremental efficiency for all of the parties can be achieved through technological development and process improvement, further transformation is primarily available through continued expansion and focus of goals, roles and influence in the publishing supply chain ecosystem. Some of these will even be shared roles, like those in studio/premedia and marketing services provider. This type of role sharing will be facilitated through continued innovation and the tighter integration of business processes.

The book publishing supply chain ecosystem is not immune from these changes either. It is going through its own shifts with the increase of digitally produced on-demand books using business models like that of one of the early entrants, Lightning Source. This new production model was initially driven by online distribution from companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which created an illusion that hid the minimal production times required to print as needed/ordered.

Since much of the book publishers' profits were determined by their ability to manage print runs and inventory, digital book production was viewed as the holy grail by many publishers. These changes affect the print service provider, although it also creates opportunities for those who embrace on-demand digital printing technologies.

Book publishers were somewhat insulated from much of the Internet effect that impacted magazine and newspaper publishers until the introduction of smart phones, mobile and tablet reading devices. However, the introduction and adoption of these new devices and channels has accelerated the shift away from printed book production.

Book publishers are now in a similar place as magazine and newspaper publishers. They are looking for new ways to monetize their content, and partner with production resources that can allow them to increase their focus on that goal.

So, while there are many challenges for print service providers as a result of e-media and financial pressures, there are also many new opportunities for those willing to leverage their relationships with their publishing clients through re-defined roles utilizing existing and new skills. PI

About the Author

David Zwang travels around the globe helping companies increase their productivity, margins and market reach. With more than 40 years of industry experience, he specializes in process analysis and strategic development for firms in the fields of publishing, design, premedia and printing. E-mail him at



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