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The 2002 Printing Impressions 400 From Behind the Scenes --Mic

December 2002
Just like the general public has no, or very little, understanding about the many production steps necessary in preparing, printing and finishing a printed document, I'm sure our 83,000-plus subscribers don't know what our editorial staff went through to compile the 2002 Printing Impressions 400—our 19th annual listing of the largest printers in the United States and Canada ranked by annual sales.

We start the project in late summer, mailing out printed forms incorporating variable data to be updated. Some companies respond quickly, providing their previous and most recent fiscal year sales, revenues broken down by various print market segments, as well as information such as number of manufacturing sites, total of sheetfed and web offset press units, principal officers and more. After the response deadline passes, our entire editorial staff starts making follow-up calls and fax requests to the non-responders. It's a tedious, grind-it-out process where we often get caught in "voice-mail hell" or encounter snippy receptionists and secretaries who wrongly assume we're dreaded telemarketers trying to sell something to their company president or chief financial officer.

Compiling this year's ranking was easily our most difficult in recent years. Because most printers were reporting 2001 sales as their most recent fiscal year and year 2000 revenues as the previous year, I understand why executives weren't exactly jumping up and down to reveal their recession-hindered revenues for the past two years. And, since so many printing establishments are privately held, we rely on these executives' cooperation as the only available information source.

What does alarm me, however, is the overall sense of apathy that seems to be permeating our society and, consequently, the graphic arts industry. Maybe it's the recession that just won't seem to go away; or perhaps it's post-September 11 trauma and the war on terrorism that is taking its toll on our psyches. Even during past recessions, when printers also reported sales declines, there still was a burning desire to be recognized as one of the 400 largest printers. By now I think everyone has heard the mantra about the importance of promoting, nurturing and showing enthusiasm for one's business—especially during the hard times. Making the 400 list may not be big news for Quebecor World, Donnelley or Quad, but it does bring recognition to the privately owned, often single-plant operations that are the backbone of the industry.

Inclusion on the PI 400 creates additional benefits, as well. Although our publication is not distributed to print buyers, I'm amazed how often Printing Impressions—and especially our special December PI 400 issue—makes its way into the hands of printers' customers and prospects, as well as to Wall Street and other types of industry analysts. Anyone who has been involved in the graphic arts for any period of time would also confirm my disbelief of just how little statistical and informative research is available about what is touted as the third largest manufacturing industry in America.

I also can't begin to tell you how many times over the years that printing executives have called, enraged why their companies did not appear on our list, only to be told how many times we earnestly contacted them for the necessary information. And their calls are often precipitated by customers who inquire of them whether they are still solvent or are really as big of companies as they claim to be. Some calls have even come in response to competitors who used a qualifying printer's absence from the list as a marketing advantage or, even uglier, to spread unfounded rumors.

If you're perusing this issue and your company's annual sales qualified your operation to make our venerable list, congratulations. If you should have made the rankings, but were never contacted by Printing Impressions, please be sure to let us know for the 2003 list. But if you elected not to participate, you missed a chance for some positive publicity and national recognition for your printing establishment.

MARK MICHELSON
 

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