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New Opportunities Through Integration of Print and Digital Media

December 23, 2011
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With the advent of digital media, increasing numbers of print buyers and print service providers are asking themselves what the future of print will be. For Bernhard Schreier, president of Drupa 2012 and chairman of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, the answer is clear: Despite complex conditions and regional differences, the merging of print and online media, functional printing and smart technologies in security and packaging print is opening up new perspectives that can be turned into profitable opportunities.

Q—Mr. Schreier, since the last Drupa the printing industry has been experiencing tough times, especially in the Western industrial countries. In addition to the difficult economic conditions, digital media is increasingly in direct competition with traditional print products. Is the Gutenberg era coming to an end?

Schreier—Not at all. Even today, more than 500 years after the invention of book printing, our industry still has enormous potential. That said, the environment has changed dramatically over the past few years. The economic crisis two years ago, and the current unstable situation in the Eurozone, have caused a significant change in the market that will continue.

The printing market in Western industrial countries has largely stagnated at a high level. At the same time, emerging countries and the Asian markets are experiencing high growth rates. Take a look at the Chinese print market, which alone in 2009 achieved around 42 billion euros. Within just six years, the market volume there has doubled.

The reasons for these regional growth differences are obvious. Whereas the print market in Western countries is essentially stable and at a high level, in upcoming countries such as China or India, there is enormous pent-up demand in virtually all areas of the economy. Naturally the print industry is also profiting from this.

Just look at packaging print. Even recently, in these countries, a large proportion of goods were packed in newspaper or sold loose across the shop counter. All this is changing at a breathtaking tempo. Almost everywhere, there are now supermarkets for a growing number of consumers who are consciously deciding in favour of goods and brands packaged in an appealing way.

That is another reason why packaging print will see the largest worldwide growth potential of almost 17 percent by 2014. It’s a similar picture for print shops in the Western industrial nations; this is because with the increasing range of products and greater competitive pressure at the point-of-sale, packaging conveying a brand image and marketing messages is continuing to increase in importance here as well.

Q—Other sectors are seeing a drop in turnover, though. Ultimately, digital media is taking away budget and market share from traditional print products forever.

Schreier—It is true that the situation in largely saturated markets is disportionately tougher than in emerging countries or China. The latest smartphones and social mediSchreier—such as Twitter, Facebook or Google+—are currently experiencing an astonishing upturn because they are opening up entirely new opportunities for communication and interaction. They bring people together online who want to share their everyday life or digital media such as videos or music with one another.

Print used to play only a subordinate role here, because printed media was virtually never used in this world of digital sharing. But this is precisely what is changing at the moment. It’s also true to say that at present there are increasing numbers of publishers and media houses, Web agencies and designers implementing very successful print-to-Web projects. This is possible because with applications from the fields of augmented reality and smart tagging there are now bridging technologies that can be used to seamlessly combine the benefits of print and those of mobile and social media.

What we are currently experiencing is not, therefore, a process of one thing replacing another, and certainly not a showdown between the Gutenberg world and the online universe. Instead we are at the beginning of a sweeping and exciting integration process that is opening up new perspectives and opportunities.

Q—What do these prospects look like in concrete terms. What are the up-and-coming opportunities for the print industry, in your opinion?

Schreier—The range of opportunities is massive. For example, companies and Web agencies can add interactive value to mailings, advertisements and posters using QR codes or other image recognition systems and use them for multi-stage cross-media service and product campaigns.

In packaging printing as well, or more specifically in what is referred to as extended or smart packaging, increasing numbers of QR or smart tags are being used that provide consumers with additional product information. For example, on ingredients that might set off allergies, logistics data or for meat products, on the origin and production date of the goods.

A third application is printed security features to counteract brand piracy, such as new interactive security solutions where analogue and digital codes can be combined with one another in a forgery-proof way and printed on packaging, labels or blisters. Using the corresponding smartphone app, consumers or intermediaries then verify the authenticity of the product directly on-site.

And let’s not forget another application that could revolutionize the entire sector: functional printing. This is the printing of extremely thin electronic components such as PCBs, solar cells, RFID labels and even self-luminous wallpapers. This is possible thanks to special printing processes where polymer plastics are used instead of dyes or inks. This could well be ringing the bells of future opportunity for some companies. The fact is, however, that the relevant machines are already in use in the shape of prototypes, and the progress being made in this field is extremely encouraging. This will also be on show at drupa 2012.

Q—The sector’s leading trade show is almost upon us. And significant expectations are being placed on the 15th print media trade show that for over 60 years has been the driving force for growth in the entire sector. Which megatrends will characterize drupa 2012 from today’s standpoint?

Schreier—Megatrends only ever provide a rough guide. They answer the question of where the general direction is heading. What they don’t tell us is specifically what to do in a given situation. This means that every provider in our sector must pay close attention to microtrends coming out of collaboration with their own customers and from regional and local changes in their area, and modify their offerings accordingly.

Nevertheless, it is of course possible to track megatrends that are shaping our sector and that will also characterize drupa 2012. This is clearly demonstrated by the continuing increase in the significance of digital printing. This applies not only to minimum run jobs, but also increasingly to the printing of documents, books and labels.

Another megatrend, that will also be reflected at Drupa, is the combination of digital and offset printing, because both technologies are innovative and complement one another perfectly, providing profitable applications for everyone involved. Here I’m thinking, for example, of one-to-one customer personalization using digital printing technology at a quality level previously only possible with offset printing.

Providers combining digital and offset printing can also profit disproportionately from an ongoing megatrend, namely Web to-print. This is because print houses that can handle everything from one-off small orders through to complex print jobs as a one-stop shop have the greatest opportunities here.

A fourth megatrend remains automation as print shops are still having to steel themselves against sinking margins in the light of increasing price pressure, and in many cases companies are really suffering as a result. Consistently standardized and automated workflows can be used to achieve significant competitive advantages that has a positive effect not only on quality and profit margins, but also on winning new business.

Q—How can printers successfully exploit these trends of tomorrow for themselves and their businesses?

Schreier—To be successful in the long term, innovative products and technologies alone are just not enough. Any company wanting to offer its customers more, also needs financially optimized processes and innovative business models.

This brings us to the next megatrend—targeted training and skills development of staff. This is the way to ensure that every individual staff member can keep pace with rapid technological change and perform at their peak in the workplace. In the light of the tense economic situation and the associated innovation status, the long-term security of investment in machines, consumables and other equipment also counts.

There are two subjects that I have yet to mention, but that clearly form part of the megatrends. One is finishing work and special applications with which printshops can clearly differentiate themselves. The other is the environmentally friendly production of print media that increasing numbers of print buyers naturally demand when choosing their service providers.

Print shops that base their business development on these megatrends will ensure they fully equipped for the current challenges presented by a tough market place. This is particularly the case when traditional print media are successfully integrated into the crossmedia communication concepts of today and tomorrow.

Q—Still, it is eBooks, tablet PCs, Facebook, etc. that are hitting the headlines. The good old book, the traditional newspaper, now appear “old fashioned” at best. And yet the talk is still increasingly of cross-media campaigns. Where do you think the opportunities and potential for print are in the publishing sector?

Schreier—It is true to say that the digital revolution is dominating the headlines. However, what is emerging is a pattern that may surprise some people: this is that despite eBooks, tablet PCs, Facebook, etc., the volume of printed material is continually increasing worldwide. Today, more is being printed than ever before. Unfortunately, not everyone is profiting from this positive development.

Printed daily newspapers, especially, must be asking themselves more and more what added value they give their readers when all the essential news can already be read beforehand online in the evening. If the traditional daily newspaper is already yesterday’s news, what is needed is new ideas that exploit the high level of believability of this medium, and I am confident that publishing houses will be able to cope with this structural change successfully. But here as in other sectors of the print market, we are tracing the same development that will play out in the ongoing combination of printed and electronic media. This is where the future lies.

Companies wanting a glimpse into the future should visit the Drupa innovation park 2012 in Hall 7. Here, both young and established companies will be exhibiting new solutions for the entire sector. In addition to applications in the field of lenticular printing, we are also seeing solutions that provide an impressive demonstration of just what print can do when combined with mobile terminals. And these are just two of many interesting examples that simply shouldn’t be missed.

An excellent example for me is the visitor marketing campaign for Drupa itself. Under the slogan of “Your link to print.”, the campaign is combining augmented reality content in a very targeted way with the individual print elements, such as the visitor brochure, the advert images and direct mailings. And, in my opinion, in an exceptionally effective way.

Q—From energy efficiency to the choice of “green” consumables and printed materials through to climate-neutral printing, the topic of sustainability is playing an increasingly important role. Is this just a temporary trend, or will this topic continue to be significant in the future as well? Are there relevant offerings for visitors from around the world at drupa 2012?

Schreier—As we already mentioned, green printing is a megatrend which will be unavoidable both now and in the future. All large firms and countless smaller companies all around the world are focussed on the environmental safety guidelines that extend across the entire value added chain. Service providers that do not meet the relevant requirements have virtually no chance in the medium-term. In this respect, print shops in countries with high environmental standards have the task of implementing holistic solutions that bring together ecological and financial objectives.

The options available for sustainable print production today can be found in the “Green Printing” world as part of the drupa innovation park or the special MediaMundo@drupa display. And naturally, printing machine manufacturers will present information on how to avoid waste using modern machines and environmentally-friendly consumables, reduce energy consumption and minimize CO2 and alcohol emissions.

Q—To what extent do the latest developments in the sector impact Drupa 2012; have they affected its structure and size?

Schreier—With over 1,800 exhibitors on 170,000 square meters of exhibition space, Drupa 2012 is once again fully booked this year. All 19 halls in the show ground are booked solid. Anyone visiting drupa can therefore be rest assured that he or she will get to see virtually everything the world market has to offer.

There have been minor changes, however. For example, providers of integrated solutions from the prepress, software, digital printing and Web-to-print sectors have a greater significance this time than at Drupa 2008. As such, visitors to halls 4, 5, 8a, 8b, 9 and to some extent, hall 10 can expect a full range of offerings relating to prepress and premedia.

The field of processing, that is gaining additional impetus thanks to digital printing, has had considerably more space dedicated to it this time. In comparison to the last Drupa, some exhibitors have booked double the space. From a regional point of view, China in particular is showing a clear rise in registrations and its participation has grown significantly with around 11,000 square meters taken.

Q—Not least due to the difficult economic environment, the position of the printer has changed significantly since Drupa 2008. From pure service providers, they are increasingly becoming active partners in the production chain overall. What do service providers need to take into account if they want to remain successful?

Schreier—In my opinion, they increasingly need to position themselves as consultants to their clients. Punctuality, quality, good prices—all this is simply not enough for printers to differentiate themselves consistently and distinctly from their competitors. This is what everyone offers; or at least, what they promise.

Printers can only ever make themselves indispensable in the medium and long term when they advise print buyers comprehensibly and reliably from the start—if they demonstrate what the options and alternatives really are, where they can save money without losing quality and how they can reach their objectives more easily. Print shops that have the necessary experience and the required expertise here have a very important advantage: they offer their customers clear added value and are less vulnerable to price negotiations. They are successful because they produce what makes makes them successful: win/win situations where everybody gains.

Q—Every competitive definition requires a clear distinction: either a cost leader, a quality leader or a niche supplier. The print buyer is playing an ever more important role, not just for print service providers. Marketing decision-makers, publishing houses as well as creative and web agencies are an important target group for the supply industry as well. The drupacube is aimed specifically at this highly heterogeneous target group. What is the program awaiting visitors to the forthcoming Drupa show?

Schreier—With the premiere of the drupacube 2008, Drupa has initiated a critical change in perspective that is groundbreaking for the sector: pure technology is being overtaken by the application. This developmental stage in particular makes Drupa of vital interest to new target groups such as the print buyers.

This target group is not only highly heterogeneous in terms of needs and interests, they are hard to understand. In this context, a specific program of talks and events was developed in 2008 together with collaboration partners from the print-based communication and media industry overall. This basic idea was therefore developed as a result for the forthcoming drupa show. For example, each day there is a special program of talks, developed in close collaboration with partners at home and abroad. This program of talks is aimed specifically at target groups from book publishers, magazines and newspaper publishers, as well as from dialogue marketing and the packaging industry.

Q—The nickname of the last Drupa was Inkjet Drupa. What will Drupa 2012 go down as in history from your current standpoint

Schreier—I don’t think it will be possible to describe Drupa 2012 with one single word. Naturally, this time there will once again be many technical innovations on show to delight and surprise visitors. Environmental aspects will also be given important significance, and this is as it should be.

Nevertheless, above all there are questions that extend far beyond key technical aspects, such as:
  • What business models will be successful in the long-term?
  • Which are the new ideas and strategies that will earn money in the future?

I am convinced that Drupa will answer these questions, even if the answer is different for every user. This is because the ability to tackle these or similar questions seriously demands objective analyses of all important KPIs where the individual opportunities and risks can be calculated. This means consulting services that permit sustainable business or investment decisions are appropriate. They can also help to implement all strategically relevant ideas and impulses in close collaboration with a specific strategy for positioning themselves successfully as cost leaders, quality leaders or niche suppliers. How and what tools are required to achieve this will be demonstrated to visitors at the “Drupa of successful business models” – I am sure of it. PI




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 emerging changes — the changes that are shaping the printing industry of today and tomorrow. 

Use the research, analysis, and forecasts in this book to: 
• Assess the changes taking place
• Understand the changes
• Design a plan to deal with the changes

Topics include: 
• Economic forces, life cycle, and competitive position
• Place in the national and global economies
• Industry structure, cost structure, and profitability trends
• Emerging market spaces--ancillary and print management services
• Competitive strategies, tactics, and business models
• Key practices of SuperPrinters
• Combating foreign competition
• Social network usage
• A ten-step process to survive and thrive Competing for Print’s Thriving Future

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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