Study: Print Products Most Threatened by Digital Media

PITTSBURGH—Ron Davis, Printing Industries of America vice president and chief economist, has released a financial report focusing on the long-term future of print and print markets. The report explores how leveraging multiple functions of print can increase the longevity and viability of a printer’s success in the marketplace.

The report breaks down print products and services into three different categories:

• Print intended to inform or communicate factual and editorial information such as magazines, newspapers, books and reports.

• Print providing product logistics to manufactured products—packaging, labels, wrappers and product user manuals.

• Print intended to market, promote or sell various products, services, political candidates, positions or ideas—catalogs, direct mail and brochures.

Of the three functions, only one—print logistics—is not subject to competition and substitution by digital media. Conversely, print’s “inform or communicate” function is subject to the highest risk of substitution from digital media. Print as a marketing, promotion and sales media appears to be in the middle.

In the future, based on projections from the last 10 years, while the number of printing plants is reduced, surviving facilities in the marketing and logistics function will see substantial growth in shipments, while surviving plants specializing in the information experience sales declines.

“The key conclusion…there can be a very positive future for print and printers,” Davis said. “Today’s printers that are aware of the emerging industry environment and crucial business strategies and tactics have a very bright future. Even if a pessimistic scenario were to unfold, on a per-plant basis, the surviving firms would still experience sales growth in two of the three major functional categories.”

For a copy of the financial report, contact Ed Gleeson at