Printing Impressions

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End of Print-Centric Buyers —Dana

October 2010
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We're so focused on the evolution of the printing industry—and how printers must change to remain (or become) relevant—that we are overlooking a major class of industry professionals who are just as affected by the same business trends: print buyers.

I'm talking about professionals in companies large and small, including agencies, whose primary responsibility has historically been the sourcing and managing of their company's printed materials.

They are the backbone of the creative team (yes, I'm biased), the go-to people within corporate communications departments, the Jacks- and Jills-of-all-trades who can answer questions about mailing regulations and sustainable printing definitions as easily as they can impress their boss with their knowledge of varnish techniques.

You know them by a host of titles, including Print Buyer, Production Manager, Publications Manager and Purchasing Manager. Already, these titles are changing. I've noticed a trend over the past two years to more, shall we say, modern titles. I'm seeing Print Procurement/Supply Chain Managers, Production Analysts, Procurement Specialists, and Project and Planning Managers. Call them what you will; they count print sourcing among their growing responsibilities.

Fewer and fewer print customers have "print" in their titles. Looking at the titles of registrants we already have for our 5th Annual Print & Media Conference this November (www.printbuyersconference.com), I can tell you that only 18 percent do.

Mariah Hunt, senior production manager at Digitas, spoke of the shift in names at the agency. "We are called 'print producers' here. No more production or print production managers. We also use the term 'offline' to differentiate ourselves from the 'online' crowd."

Irreversible Trend

As offset printing declines in business usage, fewer full-time professional print buyers are needed. In an online survey I conducted early this year among print buyers who were laid off due to the economy, 36.6 percent of the 134 respondents reported that 100 percent of their duties had been related to printing, and another 30 percent indicated that about 75 percent of their duties had been print related.

This is representative of what's happening nationwide. The significance is huge: Print buyers whose primary responsibility is print-centric are most at risk for job loss.

When asked how the print-related work would be handled in their absence, nearly 50 percent of our survey participants reported that their work would be reassigned to other print buyers on staff. Secondarily, some companies (13 percent) would reassign the print-buying duties to designers. (This fascinated me. Not only was most of the work kept in-house, but it meant that the work was not outsourced to brokers or print management firms.)

 
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Most Recent Comments:
Thad McIlroy, The Future of Publishing - Posted on November 30, 2010
Great column, Margie! It's very refreshing to read it straight and clear. I'd like to stress the excitement that Jim Derochea says will likely be there. This is THE MOST exciting time in graphic communications in many, many years. Which means it's also the most challenging. It's going to take a lot of excellent educational efforts from folks like you and from Dave Zwang at next year's Publishing Xchange conference to help get these very skilled people through the transition.
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Archived Comments:
Thad McIlroy, The Future of Publishing - Posted on November 30, 2010
Great column, Margie! It's very refreshing to read it straight and clear. I'd like to stress the excitement that Jim Derochea says will likely be there. This is THE MOST exciting time in graphic communications in many, many years. Which means it's also the most challenging. It's going to take a lot of excellent educational efforts from folks like you and from Dave Zwang at next year's Publishing Xchange conference to help get these very skilled people through the transition.