The Internet's rapid adoption as a vehicle for business communication broke new ground in '99 with the emergence of a variety of e-commerce services targeting commercial printers. With 2000 in sight, it is imperative to know the Internet players that want to know YOU.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
Interested in using the Internet for winning print bids and for collaborative discussions with print buyers? Curious about using the Web to get the best prices on paper, or to take part in an equipment auction? If so, there are suddenly, it seems, an aggressive variety of e-commerce companies positioning to be the shopping platform of choice for the printing industry—everything from print buying to buying supplies to get the printing done.
Forget the telephone. Never mind leaving voicemails for paper or ink suppliers, or answering voicemails from anxious print buyers calling for quotes, job status or reprint orders. Forget entirely the mundane sound of another human voice, as it applies to print procurement, print production and print fulfillment protocol. (Hey, it's the price of progress!)
At present, there are an impressive variety of new, Internet-based, business-to-business technology providers. Make no mistake, with sights set on the commercial printer, these companies mean big business—or rather, e-business.
To get a handle on the current field of Internet players aiming their Web links at the, like it or not, (dot)com-mercial printer, Printing Impressions offers this checklist of e-companies, e-services and, more astutely, their respective e-significance to the craft that remains putting ink on paper—for profit, with or without the Internet.
Ten years ago, Robert Hu, formerly president of Menlo Park, CA-based A&a Printers & Lithographers, started voicing his thoughts on industry trends—from emerging prepress technologies to pressroom practices to the Internet. In 1997, Hu decided to focus on his Internet intentions, specifically as they applied to print procurement.
The result: Collabria, a company, headed by Hu and his brother, Alan, a former IBM executive. Collabria's PrintCommerce model reportedly makes it easy for commercial printers to use e-commerce technology to strengthen customer relationships and streamline operations. PrintCommerce enables commercial printers to deliver a complete procurement package to print buyers—an on-line, digital catalog of corporate-standard print materials.
Through PrintCommerce, print buyers can modify, proof, procure and track all printed products, ordering in a matter of minutes and easily updating or personalizing their purchases.
Significance: For the printer, Collabria delivers its Internet brand of print procurement—PrintCommerce—on a purely subscription basis. Collabria wants to give printers a tool to strengthen relationships with the print buying community. Print bids do not happen on Collabria's PrintCommerce network. PrintCommerce sets up individual, private channels between printer and print buyer that accelerate the process of exclusive print procurement. For Collabria, security is the key with PrintCommerce.
Impresse, a private company founded in 1997 and headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA, is an Internet-based service provider with the flagship network,
Impresse.com—a business-to-business Internet service that targets the printing, publishing and graphic arts communities, connecting Fortune 1000 companies to commercial printers.
The service automates all business interactions between print buyers and print vendors—reducing the time required in most bid-to-print processes. Print buyers can access Impresse.com from any Internet browser, select from a set of approved vendors, then request, receive and compare different types of estimates and quotes from commercial printers.
Significance: Features for both print buyers and commercial printers on Impresse.com include new project specification, reprint ordering, quote request, quote comparison and negotiation, production tracking, project management, buyer and vendor management, and report compilation and generation.
The latter is most interesting—as it results in the generation of management reports about print projects, order and print buying trends, which, when delivered via the Internet to the commercial printer, may aid in future marketing and print bidding endeavors.
Good news: Impresse.com service is free for commercial printers, who are pulled onto the Impresse.com backbone by print buyers that subscribe.
Formed in 1998, Noosh is a Palo Alto, CA-based Internet startup offering Noosh.com, a business-to-business print management network. Using Noosh's Live Jobs technology, Noosh.com allows print buyers, brokers, as well as commercial printers and creative agencies, to create, store and manage all documentation pertaining to print jobs, including job specifications, estimates and change requests. On the Noosh.com network, print jobs can be created, submitted by buyers and quoted on-line by printers—locally or anywhere in the world.
The print buyers decides which and how many printers can bid on any given print job. Job specifications, including revisions, are managed consistently, enabling print buyers and printers to share common formats that describe requirements.
Significance: Noosh.com uses the Internet to eliminate some of the communication mayhem typical between print buyers, print brokers, commercial printers and creative agencies.
Noosh.com provides a collaborative, Web-based workbench from which all elements of the print life cycle can be managed. By providing a single source of information accessible to all parties, Noosh.com promises to help shrink the print cycle time.
With Noosh.com, there is no software or hardware to buy, install or maintain—the Noosh community members simply need a Web browser and Internet access to start. Users of Noosh print buying, selling and management pay a nominal fee per job.
In October, 58k.com went live. What is it? 58k.com is an Internet-based auction site designed to serve the U.S. commercial printing market specifically by opening up all print jobs to all commercial printers on the service. A standardized electronic spec sheet on 58k.com allows print buyers to post a request for quotation (RFQ) to all commercial printers on the site.
Significance: Talk about your competitive print bidding environments! Not for the weak of heart, 58k.com promises to provide a safe, confidential platform for commercial printers and their current and prospective clients to use for on-demand print bidding.
The site, headquartered at the New York, NY, base of 58k.com, reaches print buyers around the globe on a 24/7 basis. Unique to 58k.com, commercial printers can actually see their competitor's job quotes. More information can be gained by visiting www.58k.com—but beware, it might be too tempting not to put in a quote!
Get ready to shop at an Internet superstore for the graphic arts community—PrintNation.com. PrintNation.com is a newly launched e-commerce superstore that intends to position itself as the one-stop shop for buyers of graphic arts equipment and supplies. The service is a state-of-the-art, e-commerce site where a graphic arts professional can shop for prepress devices, consumables, service contracts and more—all thanks to a convenient electronic shopping cart, the Internet.
Significance: PrintNation.com is well worth a visit. The site has over 1,300 manufacturers represented, with more than 100,000 graphic arts products available, many with discounted prices.
PrintNation.com sports a sophisticated auction system, through which manufacturers wishing to sell equipment can submit individual product descriptions. Images of the equipment for sale can be uploaded onto the site.
Bottom line: PrintNation.com is setting out to become a one-source, on-line store for everything from a bucket of ink to a flatbed scanner to an imagesetter to a perfect binder to a cutter. The site even sports an impressive sampling of digital cameras for sale.
With a wide database of products already on the service, and the site still in its infancy, it is probable that PrintNation.com may, in fact, be the graphic arts site of the future—today.
Chambersbrug, PA-based e-LYNXX has brought to the e-market printLYNXX, a fully integrated print procurement e-commerce system engineered specifically for print buyers. Located at www.printlynxx.com, print-
LYNXX permits print buyers to establish and control their own vendor pools, to communicate directly with their own series of pre-qualified and approved printing vendors, to write customized specifications and obtain estimates, to issue solicitations, receive confidential competitive bids and, ultimately, to award print jobs.
The site also allows the print buyer to maintain an Internet dialogue with its vendors, as well as oversee, via the Internet, production changes.
Significance: While the print buyer is in the driver's seat, printLYNXX still empowers the commercial printer to place rapid bids and communicate more effectively, via the Internet, with existing clients linked to printLYNXX.
Commercial printers, too, can benefit from printLYNXX's ability to allow print buyers to modify orders at any time and automate payments. The system offers both commercial printers and print buyers the opportunity to enhance the strengths already present during the print procurement and print production processes.
On a happy note, for the commercial printer, there is no hardware or software to buy and the service is free—commercial printers, like with the Impresse and Noosh systems, are linked with printLYNXX by print buyers who foot the bill. Competitive bids can be seen on the printLYNXX network—so be mindful of bidding wars.
Liveprint.com, launched last July, is marketing itself as the premier destination on the Web to satisfy the marketing communications needs of millions of individuals in the small business market who collectively spend an estimated $8 billion to $12 billion each year on printing. As a small business partner, liveprint.com provides customers the tools and advice needed to start, grow and promote their business. Its innovative, proprietary technology enables customers to develop coordinated suites of identity items—such as business cards, newsletters and letterhead.
Significance: Certainly, the new business prospect offered by the auction aspect of liveprint.com is intriguing for the high-quality commercial printer. Still, the site is largely for the do-it-yourselfer creative.
Founded by Bill Rollinson, former CEO of the Internet Shopping Network, MediaFlex.com develops e-
commerce front- and back-end solutions for the digital printer. Its Online Print Center handles many of the daily tasks that print-on-demand customers need. Customers can place their own orders on-line, choose from a wide selection of media and finishing options, specify payment options, upload digital files and designate shipping destinations. The Online Print Center then manages the support functions for the print shop owner. It will validate credit cards, check orders for errors, and confirm order and job information.
Significance: MediaFlex.com is a savvy Website for the on-demand digital printing market, which, from its inception, had to claw its way in areas of marketing—just ask some of the pioneer digital press buyers.
Printable.com's mission is to help printers succeed in the new on-line economy. Printable.com provides a full range of e-commerce services for printers, including Website hosting and enhancement, on-line supply procurement, and access to timely and relevant industry information.
For example, PrintServ is a suite of hosted services that e-commerce enable printer Websites and help printers aggressively compete on-line. PrintPass is a neutral marketplace that helps printers and their suppliers do business more quickly and efficiently.
Significance: Printable.com is poised to be an asset for commercial printers. Through unique features such as inventory prediction and low-friction reordering, PrintPass helps strengthen existing trading relationships. And through a complete, real-time product and price comparison, Printable.com helps buyers and sellers reduce operating costs and create a more efficient marketplace. www.printable.com is a destination that provides content and community to help printers make better business decisions—a very good thing.
An Internet portal services for the graphic arts industry. This is GraphicsResourceCenter.com—an Internet communications media and e-commerce opportunity targeting the commercial printing industry. The totality of this portal services concentrates on the delivery of information resources and providing the communications tools to bring members together using advanced Internet technologies, including live video.
The entire model offers manufacturers, publishers, printers, industry associations, trade show companies and educational institutions several unique communication platforms to manage and deliver content from GraphicsResourceCenter.com—or from their own sites using a sophisticated broadcast network.
Significance: GraphicsResourceCenter.com offers unique Internet portal services—enabling new twists for information gathering and sharing for the graphic arts. This site features Best in Class products and technologies from manufacturers, on-line purchasing from suppliers, a Knowledge Network for problem solving with industry experts, and live Webcasts of events. Well worth a visit, this site is proactive and informative—and tailored for the graphic arts.
Sellers Beware! PrinterAlliance.com Is on the Net
PrinterAlliance.com is a group of independent commercial printers joined together with the goal of remaining profitable—and independent—in an age of consolidation. Printeralliance.com is the Internet embodiment of independent printers, banded together to ensure collective buying power over the cost of consumables. For more information on PrinterAlliance.com, visit the site at www.printeralliance.com or call (888) 738-9399.