Hamilton--Print - It's Not Dead Yet!
Finally, the public is just waking up to the whole privacy issue, and it will likely turn into a political hot potato. During a Congressional hearing on privacy, Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy told people to "get over it," but I don't think they will. Already, companies such as DoubleClick are restricting the types of information they sell.
Where does printing stand in this brave new world? Actually, in pretty good stead. Smearing ink on smashed trees will continue to deliver value, but it will require a new approach, and the Web is a critical part of this. Fortunately, the enabling technologies are now maturing. In particular, digital printing engines with variable data front ends are now commercially viable, which means they actually work well enough that you can make money using them. Databases are ubiquitous, but the missing link—a reliable means of importing and exporting information among different companies—is now beginning to take hold in the form of XML.
The answer, for anyone in the direct sales channel, is to use voluntary participation—or pull-based marketing. While this already exists in the online arena, it is equally applicable to the print world. So, by using the Web to pull and print to push, companies can provide the right information to people who want to see it, when they want to see it. The companies that leverage the strengths of both print and the Web will have a significant competitive advantage over those that spurn one for the other.
Like rebellious teen-agers, Web aficionados seem intent on setting their medium apart from others, and especially from print. However, as their industry matures—and Wall Street looks for profits—I expect to see a more symbiotic relationship.
About the Author
Alex Hamilton, a former technical editor with Printing Impressions, is president of Computers & Communications Consulting, which specializes in digital technologies for printing and publishing. He can be reached at (215) 247-3461 or by e-mail at email@example.com.