Internet Service Providers--Speed of Light
BY CAROLINE MILLER
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." —a Western Union internal memo, circa 1876.
Sound vaguely familiar?
There are many in the graphic arts industry who have said the same thing about the promise of the Internet. But, in reality, the Internet is becoming intertwined in the commercial printing industry. One area that has seen the most change is the way printers communicate, not only with their customers, but with their employees. By integrating the Internet into their overall business strategies, printers will see a savings in time and money, as well as faster turnaround times and better customer service. This month, Printing Impressions takes a look at three Internet-based solutions that streamline communication.
The Graphic Arts Broadcast Network (GABNet.net) offers users the ability to hold live or taped interactive Webcasts for events such as internal meetings, sales calls and educational seminars. GABNet is the first streaming multimedia communication Application Service Provider (ASP) for the graphic arts industry, explains David Hawkins, president of GABNet.net.
Printers can integrate GABNet into their overall Web strategy by offering their clients access to events such as live and recorded demonstrations, online customer meetings and customer educational events. Busy clients can log onto a printer's Website at their leisure and access a printer's seminar or product demonstration. GABNet also offers clients behind-the-scenes technical help, such as video encoding services, video transmission feeds, Website integration, video hosting and delivery, and videotaping and production services.
While GABNet can be a powerful customer service tool, it can also be used internally as a way to lower costs, says Hawkins. GABNet offers users the ability to host meetings over the Internet in real-time. Multiple participants can interact with each other from their workstations no matter where they are in the country. "One user told me that he saved between $12,000 and $15,000 in expenses by hosting his sales meeting on GabNet, Hawkins reveals.
The GABNet technology is also utilized at the GraphicsResourceCenter.com Website. GraphicsResourceCenter, which owns GABNet, is an industry portal that offers news, job postings, virtual trade shows and a host of Webcast demonstrations, trade show seminars and news conferences. It also provides access to industry experts and a large online library of research, case studies and white papers, according to Hawkins.
One GABNet user is the Research & Engineering Council of the Graphic Arts Industry. The R&E Council has been using GABNet to increase its membership reach by recording its annual binding, finishing and distribution seminars. Now, members who cannot attend the workshop have the ability to access the seminar by logging onto the R&E Council's Website and downloading it to their computers, says Ron Mihills, R&E Council managing director. "Our membership response has been very positive," remarks Mihills. "In today's business environment, it's becoming more and more difficult to find the time to travel to seminars. Really, our biggest competitor is time. By putting these presentations on the Website, we increase our reach—because members can view them at their leisure."
Printers looking to "e-enable" their businesses should look no further than httprint.com, says httprint President and Ceo Mark Porter. httprint enables the customer to manage the entire print-buying process of bidding, checking proofs, reordering and managing schedules. These core services are combined with a number of additional services, such as industry news feeds, design center and job postings.
httprint provides a branded offering called Private Labels that enables printers to take httprint.com's tools and add them to their existing Website. "The Private Label sites really give printers the ability to take charge of what's going on in the industry. Many printers are upset that Internet software companies are invading the industry and changing all the rules."
However, Porter says that httprint differs from its competitors in the sense that they do not step into existing relationships. "What we're trying to do is put some power back in their hands, and let them go out and deal with their customers as they've always have," Porter says.
While httprint offers customers a way to improve their relationships with existing customers, it also opens up the opportunity to create new relationships with httprint's open marketplace offering, according to Porter. The open marketplace is an opportunity for printers to connect with new customers. A buyer simply logs on to the open marketplace and searches for a printer. "We are seeing printers selling outside of the local region as a result of the new business they've acquired through the open market. This kind of traffic is a first for a lot of these guys," he reveals.
While the ability to find new customers is an added bonus for Moses Abu Ghosh, owner of San Francisco-based Smartbags, what really impresses him is how he is better able to communicate with his clients. He reports that he has been able to knock an average of five days off the order process. "It's just a click to place the order. The clients can drop the artwork in a folder and off it goes into httprint. It makes my life and the clients' lives so much easier."
But what is most important to Abu Ghosh is his ability to better service his customers, which he says he has been able to do since adding httprint to his business strategy. "My clients don't want to deal with Federal Express. They don't want to deal with a million phone calls. They want to type it in and send it. After that, they don't want to have to worry about it. And they don't."
After 26 years in the printing industry, Western Laser Graphics President and COO Alan Darling is not easily impressed. So when Darling recommends RealTimeProof.com, it's worth taking note. "It's a slick piece of technology," he remarks.
RealTimeProof.com is a one-stop, online soft and remote hard proofing service, which offers real-time collaboration. Through a digital workflow, large prepress graphic files are transferred and streamed over a standard dial-up Internet connection. The system enables users to view files without quality degradation, and collectively make annotations. While RealTimeProof.com can be used at the design stage to review preliminary rounds of designs, its real power becomes evident during the final production stage. RealTimeProof offers users 1:1 pixel zooming and a densitometer tool that allows clients to inspect traps and bleeds. It also provides ICC profile calibration using Apple's ColorSync and the P3 drag-and-drop desktop queues internally encrypts, tracks and transfers files. Once the revisions are complete, customers can use RealTimeProof to print to a remote digital proofer.
Western Laser Graphics is utilizing RealTimeProof as a way to save time, according to Darling. Customers no longer have to rely on Federal Express and numerous phone calls to finish a job.
"With RealTimeProof and the judicious use of its swatch matching system that is built into the product, we're able to have our clients look at a proof that is very close to a contract proof. It will save an enormous amount of time for our clients. And it allows us to expand our geographic area. It enables us to be more responsive to our clients, and gives them the potential to get their proofs faster and cheaper."