Web Offset: Shorter Runs, Technology Innovations Enable Competitiveness in a New Print World
In a world of short run lengths, personalization, and fast turnaround, can the industry’s traditional behemoths, commercial and newspaper web presses, continue to compete?
Absolutely, according to industry leaders. Companies like Goss International, MAN Roland, and other web press makers are pursuing innovations that can enable web printers not merely to stay viable but to compete vigorously for more kinds of business than ever before. While most web press print production is advertising-driven, changing trends in the marketplace are reshaping the business model.
Traditionally, web presses offer significant advantages. They’re extremely fast and productive, and paper cost for a web run can be as much as 20 percent less than that of cut sheets. Moreover, web presses deliver finished 16- or 32-page signatures, or larger, accommodating an enormous range of publishing and advertising needs. Yet vendors and printers alike recognize that business revisioning and technical enhancements are vital if webs are to compete, domestically and internationally, for their share of a hugely and increasingly diverse marketing communications “spend.”
While a host of new media tools are rapidly emerging to compete for advertising budgets, a recently completed study by the Print Industries Market Information and Research Organization (PRIMIR) found that print run lengths in many important segments are not declining much. In such areas as mass circulation magazines, special interest magazines, newspapers, commercial printing, packaging and catalogs, overall run lengths are expected to remain fairly stable through 2011.
Still, PRIMIR saw an “explosion” in short run printing, brought about largely by clients’ realization that it has become economical to print in run lengths that were never realistic before. Handling shorter run lengths economically will enable printers to attract their share of these new jobs, which can include more customized and personalized work than in the past. And this trend is extending into the web offset world. One need only look toward the book business and other industry sectors where shorter, targeted, and versioned runs are coming into play more than in the past.