Print Will Stay Afloat During Turbulent Storm —Michelson

A STOCK market stuck on a wild roller-coaster ride. Wall Street heavyweights announcing billion-dollar writedowns due to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and weak credit markets. Consumers reeling from plummeting housing valuations, overextended credit card debt and budget-busting gas prices.

With the U.S. economy already in, or heading toward, a recession, printers are feeling the pinch like everyone else. But, as much as we in the graphic arts seem to suffer from an inferiority complex when comparing ourselves to other media, the overall outlook for the printing industry doesn’t look so bad—especially when compared to the current challenges facing financial services providers, home builders, retailers and mortgage lenders, to name just a few.

Printers still face a skilled labor shortage, vs. some other industries that are laying off workers by the thousands. We’re still a domestic business for the most part, vs. other once-powerful manufacturing sectors that have been decimated by overseas competition employing cheap labor. We continue to respond to changing dynamics by diversifying beyond traditional ink on paper into other value-added offerings, vs. the plight of those industries facing limited options to broaden their service offerings.

We’ve built stable printing enterprises with the realization that net profit margins typically fall in the 1-3 percent range, vs. once high-flying sectors that have seen their valuations—and standings among Wall Street analysts—evaporate. During the good economic times, smart printing executives were already embracing automation to reduce their overheads, vs. consumer-driven industries with bloated workforces that lost sight of financial and operational controls. We’ve already gone through shakeouts of failed printing establishments that were unwilling, or unable, to remain competitive through digital workflow efficiencies. Print is portable, tactile; no Internet hookup required!

Even our standing against other media is cause for some optimism. Just as radio stations are still proliferating and profitable, long after radio’s predicted demise with the advent of television, printed communications seems to have taken on a newfound aura in a world awash with electronic information overload. As we all know, there’s still nothing more powerful than holding a colorful, well-designed printed piece in your hands in comparison to the user experience of peering at a computer monitor, e-reader or PDA. Buyers of our services in different market segments all seem to agree. Catalogers still see the business value of targeted printed catalogs, including their ability to drive eyeballs to a Website. Niche magazines remain popular, even among the video game generation that shuns reading. Transpromotional printing, which marries personalized marketing messages with printed bills and statements, is predicted to grow exponentially. Savvy marketers also realize the intrinsic value of a print component in successful cross-media campaigns.

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