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A Scramble for the Remains --Waldman

December 2002
The lions carefully targeted their prey. They stalked, they struck and then feasted on their successful enterprise. When they finished, the scramble for the leftovers began.

These images flashed through my mind in vivid detail as Vince Naselli, director of TrendWatch Graphic Arts, delivered his projections on the printing industry. No shock here for anyone who has been looking at future trends. Printing, overall, will grow slightly—but digital printing will grow significantly at the expense of the 40˝ sheetfed offset market.

The good news is that the traditional 40˝ sheetfed market isn't going away, at least any time soon. The bad news is that those solely dependent on this venue for their living will be scrambling for the remains. This is not a scenario for growth and profits. It is a struggle for survival.

New Media Looming

While the current economic situation is a major contributor to the tough times, the economy will rebound eventually. But does that mean 40˝ cylinders will happily return to churning out profits? Not necessarily so and, as stated above, future projections paint a grimmer picture. Electronic media presents the most formidable challenge that print has faced since Gutenberg got us all into the act.

Fast, cost-efficient and easy, electronic media is gulping down more and more of our share of the communications or content pie. Just think about all those e-mails that are promoting insurance, or refinancing your mortgage, or something unmentionable in this column, and then stop to realize this is stuff (most of it anyway) that we used to print. What's worse, instead of encouraging interested consumers to get the catalog, there's a link to their Website that has all of the current information coupled with interactive ordering.

Yes, print is still a viable content provider, but to compete with electronic media it must become faster, more cost-effective and better targeted. This means using the challenger, electronic media, to our advantage by starting with easy, intuitive customer Web submission that includes the job ticket. And that's just for starters because an automated workflow is a must for speed and cost efficiency.

Now add to the mix digital printing for fast turns and short runs. And then take this one step further by offering variable imaging or the term I like best: one-to-one marketing.

I am not advocating that you throw out your 40˝ press. Quite the contrary; the addition of these capabilities should increase your sheetfed business. What I am telling my fellow commercial printers is to become a lion. Unfortunately I see most heading down the scavenger path. So many close their eyes and don't want to explore new alternatives.

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