PODi Forum in Vegas Flush With VDP Applications
LAS VEGAS—The numbers five and 10 would seem to be lucky for PODi, the Digital Printing Initiative. As the organization marks its 10th anniversary, the 2006 PODi Applications Forum recently drew some 300 attendees to this fifth in the series of annual conferences dedicated to digital printing, with an emphasis on variable data.
This year, the forum was expanded to include four tracks—Small Business, Marketing Best Practices, Advanced Business Strategies, and Operations & Processes. Pricing strategies, ROI, good data-bases and effective marketing were common themes across the tracks.
One of the first sessions featured the presentation of the PODi Best Practices Award winners for 2006. This annual awards program recognizes outstanding innovations and results achieved using digital printing technology. A winner was named in each of four application categories.
One to One Gulfcoast teamed up with Out-of-Door Academy to produce a personalized fundraising postcard for the school that was judged tops among the Small Business entries. The mailing was done to prime parents for a telephone solicitation campaign, which realized a 42 percent increase in donations compared to the previous year.
In the Direct Marketing category, Inter-State Studio was recognized for the personalized school photo flyer with a built-in ordering envelope that it developed to sell prints of the student photos it takes twice in a school year. This effort led the studio’s parent company to create a new Convertible Brands division that offers pre-converted roll stocks (with adhesives, perfs, etc.) and templates that can be used to produce digitally printed specialty items, such as pocket folders.
MFS Investment Management worked with Bowne Marketing & Business Communications to deploy a Web-to-print solution for producing customized 401(k) sales proposals that earned top honors in Collateral Management. Bowne was able to charge the client a fee to develop the system, along with an ongoing monthly management fee and per-page charge.
Lastly, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union redesigned its account statements to be much more user-friendly, customized documents with the help of Cathedral Corp.
An in-depth review of the winning applications along with dozens of new case studies will be published in PODi’s “Best Practices in Digital Print 6th Edition” report. Due out this month, the report is free to PODi members and available for a fee to non-members at www.podi.org.
Thought provoking ideas were dealt out in nearly 30 regular sessions and seven pre-conference intensives.
In his keynote address, PODi President Rab Govil outlined two approaches—low-cost producer and value-added service provider—to building a successful business. He characterized this as a choice between two rights.
Being a low-cost producer requires focusing on operational efficiency, building a workforce that is more process oriented and selling mostly to agencies that will deliver the complete solution, Govil asserts. To be a value-added service provider, a company must focus on customer intimacy, develop a workforce of service-oriented people with business experience and sell directly to the enterprise in most cases, he adds.
Day two kicked off with a general session detailing how electronics retailer Best Buy teamed up with the Rapp Collins Worldwide direct marketing firm to launch a major customer rewards campaign. The presenters cautioned attendees against being lured by the siren song of versioning, noting that “just because you can doesn’t mean you should use versioning.” Analysis paralysis is another danger, they said, since “data doesn’t equal information and information doesn’t equal actionable insights.”
Revenue, in various form, was a subject that kept coming up regardless of the session topic. Getting away from thinking in terms of price per page was the underlying message. Attendees were advised that consultations with customers, creative services and program development work should all be billable, with charging clients retainers or flat fees suggested as possible mechanisms.
“Adopt the image (and business approach) of an ad agency, not a printer,” is how the basic concept was summed up by Scott Mallen, president of Spectrum Creative Solutions & Services in Poughkeepsie, NY.
The price per page issue was touched on from a different perspective in the only vendor panel at the forum. The representatives from leading hardware manufacturers seemed to agree there is potential for further cost improvements with both electro-photographic and ink-jet technologies.
However, an argument was made that variable data, higher response rates and faster turnaround change the competitive equation. Cost per page is the wrong focus, given that the line item is dwarfed by mailing costs, concluded John Schloff, Pitney Bowes vice president.
Adobe Revs Its PDF Engine
SAN JOSE, CA—Taking the next step toward making PDF the native language of print production, Adobe Systems is introducing the Adobe PDF Print Engine technology. It is positioning this “next-generation printing platform” as a complement to, rather than replacement for, PostScript in the big picture.
The print engine does enable native, direct printing of PDF data, thereby eliminating PDF to PostScript conversions and implementing a common PDF rendering across workflows. Transparency is rendered without flattening and jobs are maintained in a device-independent state to allow for late-stage content changes in PDF and greater production flexibility.
Adobe considers the technology a printing platform, not just a RIP, because it plans to include tools for previewing and soft proofing. The system implements JDF and a native ICC color managed workflow in a scalable architecture for concurrent processing. OEMs who adopt the technology will be able to differentiate their implementations with custom color technology, screening/halftoning techniques and other add-ons.
One of the central goals is to synchronize the capabilities of production systems with those offered in design tools, rather than forcing service providers to compensate for the growing differences, according to Mathias Siegel, senior product manager at Adobe.
In doing so, the company is addressing issues such as processing unpredictability, ad-hoc file fixing and transparency, with the intent of improving the profitability of printing operations, he adds.
While any plans for introducing workflow solutions based on the PDF Print Engine will be up to its OEM partners, Adobe says it expects product rollouts to begin in 2006 and continue into 2007.
M4D Seminar Series Gets Launched
SEWICKLEY, PA—PIA/GATF’s Digital Printing Council (DPC) has officially kicked off its 2006 Marketing 4 Digital (M4D) educational program. This series of seminars is based on a market research project designed to give digital and conventional printers the information and insight they need to sell their services to 24 specific vertical market segments.
“The M4D program consists of detailed reports that will help printers market to specific industries,” says Frank Romano, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology School of Print Media.
“PIA/GATF is helping members apply this information through an extensive road show that will present the program to most of the PIA affiliates throughout the United States,” he adds.
Currently, the seminars are presenting the first set of eight vertical market reports, including advertising agencies, healthcare (HMOs, hospitals), cruise industry (hospitality and tourism), department stores (retail trade), gambling and wagering (casinos), automotive industry (manufacturers and dealers), insurance and real estate (brokerages).
All DPC members will receive the entire series of 24 reports as a benefit of membership. Otherwise, the three sets of eight reports will be priced at $199 each for PIA/GATF members, and $500 for non-PIA/GATF members. Or, the complete 24-part series can be purchased for $499 (members)/$1,200 (non-members) through the PIA/GATF Bookstore at www.gain.net.
More information on M4D and a schedule for the educational seminars is available at www.digitalprintingcouncil.com.
SWOP Board Seeks Its Visual Match
ALEXANDRIA, VA—The advisory board of SWOP (Specifications for Web Offset Publications) recently voted to accept a set of new specifications based on spectral data to achieve a close visual match.
The paper specifications include both a No. 5 grade groundwood publication paper (Monterey Gloss) and a new No. 3 grade paper (Fortune Gloss) favored by many as a proofing stock for monthly publications.
SWOP, working with the IDEAlliance Print Properties Committee, is now initiating a series of press runs on web presses to develop an idealized characterization data set for both papers.
Data from these press runs will be used to derive ideal target neutral print density curves for three-color gray and black that will be published as the new SWOP 11 specification later in 2006.
The press runs will follow the G7 calibration and process control method that makes use of spectrophotometry and computer-to-plate production to enable printers to quickly and accurately replicate visual appearance on any press or proofing system. G7 will be published by IDEAlliance as a Best Practice in early 2006.