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Catalog and Publication Outlook : Finding the Right Mix

December 2012 By Julie Greenbaum, Associate Editor

While there were some optimistic signs for the magazine and catalog sectors in 2012, many publishers and catalogers still faced rising postal costs, increased supply chain costs, finding the best path to multi-channel integration, and the reshaping of advertisers' mixes.

In 2012, magazine publishers saw a decline in newsstand and single-copy sales, with circulation trends for printed magazines down. But new launches outnumbered closures in both the consumer and business-to-business segments, and there was also an increase in advertising expenditures across many categories. Other good news this year was that page counts stabilized in most areas, while increasing in others. The forecast for ad spending for 2013 also appears to be optimistic.

Multichannel marketing continued to be the main focus for both publishers and catalogers in 2012, with the integration of print and electronic media being a key driver. As mobile technology such as smart phones and tablets gained more popularity, publishers continued to look for ways to monetize and incorporate them into their mix. The adoption of QR codes, pURLs and Augmented Reality applications also continued to grow.

To address clients' multichannel needs, Chicago-based RR Donnelley offers several solutions, such as Helium Content Source, which can provide editorial content; the DigiMag digital publishing solution that converts existing PDF files into dynamic, online publications; and LibreDigital, enabling books, magazines and other content to be formatted for e-reading devices.

Press+ was another tool that RR Donnelley introduced to help its publishing clients find the right approach for monetizing content through their online offerings. "Last year alone we formatted and helped distribute more than 1.5 million pages of unique magazine and newspaper pages for e-reading," notes Rick Marcoux, group president sales, at RR Donnelley, who foresees a continued drive to multi-channel communications and brand building next year.

2013 Top 5 Publication and Catalog Printers
[+] click to enlarge
Earlier in 2012, Quad/Graphics, of Sussex, WI, introduced an Interactive Print Solutions app for publishers and catalogers that uses Augmented Reality, image recognition, Near Field Communication (NFC) and other techniques to provide a more engaging experience for readers. For example, NFC chips were placed into WIRED magazine that, with a tap of a smart phone, launches an interactive mobile experience. The company also helped Maxim magazine power its Maxim Motion app that allows readers to launch interactive video on their mobile devices.

"Interactive print is the newest and fastest-growing revenue stream in our company, and we expect that trend to continue into 2013," relays Dave Blais, executive vice president of sales and client services at Quad/Graphics.

An Even Larger Panorama

Canada-based TC Transcontinental Printing has formed cross-discipline innovation teams charged with creating new products or developing innovative variations of existing ones. "This year's winner was Panoramax, a new and unique promotional insert we recently introduced in Canada that provides 63.5x21 inches of panoramic real estate," notes Bruce Jensen, vice president of sales for TC Transcontinental Printing.

In 2012, the company also introduced branded iPad apps for free and paid subscription magazines to help publishers reach the growing legions of iPad users, helping to create a profitable new advertising and content channel.

On the postal front, there continued to be a lot of uncertainty among publishers and catalogers about rising mailing costs, and when and how the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will address its financial problems. Both segments have responded by continuing to co-mail, co-palletize and co-bind to receive maximum discounts.

"One trend that we have seen this year is the more frequent participation of longer-run publications in co-mailing," Marcoux points out. "Even though these titles were already doing well on their own from a postage cost-per-copy perspective, they are now willing to add a modest amount of time to their schedules in exchange for further reductions in postage costs."

Quad/Graphics is working with its customers and the USPS to optimize systems and volumes to offset postal increases. "We saw some year-over-year positive trends in the second quarter of 2012 as reported by the USPS data," says Blais. "The third quarter was sluggish again but, entering into the fourth quarter, we began seeing some positive signs overall as we head into 2013."

Magazine publishers and catalogers may see some relief in 2013 when new USPS automation regulations are implemented on Jan. 27, which will require them to migrate from Postnet to Intelligent Mail barcodes (IMb). By choosing the Full Service version of Intelligent Mail, publishers will be able to convert from traditional Address Correction Service (ACS) to new, free ACS systems, reducing postal-related expenses and earning them extra postage discounts.

Many catalogers in 2012 continued to integrate print and the Web into their multi-channel marketing mix, while also incorporating mobile barcodes and other applications. Catalog page volumes also began to stabilize from the steeper declines experienced earlier in the recession, showing print's continued relevancy.

"Catalogers have demonstrated through their mailing patterns that print is an important and evolving part of the mix," notes John Coyle, group president sales, at RR Donnelley. "Print's emerging role is to inspire recipients to jump onto a PC, tablet or mobile device to learn more and place an order."

Target marketing is another method, Coyle says, which can make that happen more effectively. "Our customers are drawing on our catalog and direct mail platforms to create highly versioned magalogs that are extremely effective in supporting loyalty programs."

With the addition of Quad/Graphics' Interactive Print Solutions app, catalog recipients can now scan a product image using their smart phone or other mobile device and get a video demonstration of the product in action. There are even one-click purchase options built into these interactive experiences.

Quad/Graphics has also invested in digital photography, video and creative services to help catalogers simultaneously develop content for multiple catalog channels. "An example of this is our new digital photography and video studio in Minneapolis, which is almost entirely devoted to multi-channel catalog creative needs," Blais adds.

Transcontinental's Jensen remains optimistic that the printed catalog will continue to play a critical, multipurpose role in brand building, prospecting, and driving both Website and store traffic. "No other channel appeals to a broader spectrum of people and can accomplish as many marketing goals."

He also notes the significance that mobile barcodes and emerging technologies will have on catalogs. "This is an important step because it combines the strength of print with the digital world, and delivers increased interactivity that younger 'Gen Y' buyers love." PI





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The graphic communications industry is facing some very serious challenges, but that doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of life and opportunity in our future. “Competing for Print's Thriving Future” focuses on how printers can create their own positive future by understanding and taking advantage of the  changes that...




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