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Frenemies: Tablets, E-Readers, Mobile –Michelson

May 1, 2012

Conventional wisdom is that e-readers like the Kindle and tablet devices like the iPad are displacing the demand for printed books, magazines, catalogs and many other ink-on-paper products. And, the same reasoning goes, the rapid adoption of these electronic devices by consumers paints a very bleak future for printing establishments that rely on those types of jobs as their primary revenue streams.

But, as Senior Editor Erik Cagle points out in “Defeating the Digital Myth” on page 22, these types of printed products still have a lot of life, and printers are evolving with the digital world by offering multimedia services and customized printed products to support their clients.

That might include helping magazine publishers create interactive digital and tablet editions that incorporate video, audio, flash animation and Web links. Or it could mean printing highly targeted and personalized specialty catalogs that drive recipients to make their purchases at catalogers’ Websites. Or perhaps it’s printing textbooks and customized course materials for educators; studies have shown that students, even those in higher ed, prefer learning through printed materials vs. electronic devices. With print remaining as the cornerstone, embracing the digital world can create new business models and revenue streams.

That’s certainly the case with Tribune Direct, this issue’s cover story profile on page 18. The nearly $100 million direct mail provider’s bread-and-butter comes from highly versioned and localized direct marketing offers for retail, telecom and financial customers. However, integrated into many of Tribune Direct’s consumer offerings—all of which printed digitally—are e-mail campaigns, personalized URLs, microsites and 2-D codes, coupled with database management and project analytics.

Similarly, as InfoTrends analyst Bryan Yeager reveals in “Integrating Mobile Into Print” on page 24, mobile phone technologies give printed products new interactivity. Mobile barcodes like QR codes and Microsoft tags, mobile messaging, and even Augmented Reality, integrate very well with print to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. Used wisely within printed products—in conjunction with sound campaign strategy and analytics—they answer marketers’ desire for the interactivity and measurability that electronic media provides.

So, don’t automatically cast e-readers, tablets and mobile smart phones as being “enemies” to our industry. It truly is wise, and profitable, to keep your enemies closer. They make print more engaging, and open the door for printers to provide new, value-added, digital services. 

Mark T. Michelson



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