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The Simple Life? Not for Printers! --Waldman

April 2003
Robert comfortably sat in the easy-chair on his porch looking out at the ocean, held up his drink and gave his usual toast to the simple life. It is a vision ingrained in my mind because I have seen him do it throughout the years whether I visit him at his oceanside house on the Jersey shore or his oceanside house in Florida.

The simple life that Robert likes is great, but there's one complex problem—it takes money—and Robert is a millionaire many times over. He got rich the easy way; he inherited it. Unfortunately, for most of us we are not going to toast the simple life that Robert enjoys unless we could solve the complex problem of choosing the right parents. But I will lift one glass in envy—to the simple life—no worries, nothing complex.

In GATF's technology forecast for 2003, Vince Naselli of TrendWatch Graphic Arts, points out that the top challenge printers feel they face are economic conditions. What's more, pricing has jumped from fifth to third on that same list.

Replacing jobs lost to the Internet or non-print publishing (commonly called electronic media) is a challenge cited by an astonishingly dismal 3 percent of printers responding to a fall 2002 print market survey.

Since the economy historically goes through up-and-down cycles, when it cycles back, the majority of printers think they will be able to once again lift their glass and toast to the simple life. Business is back, pricing is great. Have a few more glasses and, in your mind, you can envision that you're on Robert's ocean-side porch with no worries, nothing complex.

Complex Issues

But business isn't simple. It is very complex. If you have been reading my columns you know where I stand on this, as I strongly believe that meeting the challenges facing print are more complex than anytime in history. Ironically much of this came about because of simplicity. Our great craft has been simplified.

The complexity of typesetting and page makeup were simplified by desktop publishing, ending a whole subset of the printing industry—typographers. Need I go on about color separators, stripping departments, the lost printing of flyers due to the ease, cost efficiency and speed of broadcast e-mail, and so on.

Looking at Vince's report and talking with printers in the field further convinced me that printers were burying themselves under Robert's porch or more likely under their own. OK, maybe you have been hammered by hearing the big picture, the challenge of electronic media, from too many industry pundits. You're bored and perhaps I am getting too repetitive. So I thought I would give you the tiny picture.


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