WEB OFFSET SPECIAL REPORT -- Breaks and Splices Ahead
The War on Waste, so long waged by the Web Offset Association, has also been won in the process. Getting up to color takes only about three times the passes as most sheetfeds, but with lower costs of rolls vs. sheets and tighter trims, the real difference is minimal. Running lighter weights than sheetfeds is an additional attraction for buyers. As the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) incredibly raises rates to compensate for reduced volumes that, in part, are the result of increased rates, our medium needs not only to lose weight, but also to eliminate wrong destinations.
Here, the web offset community and the industries it serves must come together to develop a 21st Century information and alternative-delivery infrastructure. The USPS appears unable and unwilling to face the future, and web printers, especially the independents, should not depend on piggy-backing with the major printers (Donnelley Logistics and the like), or wait for them to do the job. In so paranoid of a business as printing, the notion of having the largest players delivering to the customers of others is nerve-racking.
Direct response singles and marriage mail—post-Anthrax scare—are slow to recover at half-web and mini-web demanders. Units and weights remain stagnant, and insertion into clear polybags is preferred over paper carriers. The bindery and lettershop/mailing house of the future may have to be a cleanroom with collator-sterilizers and antiseptic workers. The latter isn't a bad idea.
A bad break for direct mail printers is coming from the latest generation of digital four-color duplexers, many with into-the-mail delivery. While unit costs to the sponsors exceed six times that of web printing, the impressive response rates so far rationalize it. On-the-run versioning plus personalization also permit different messages (and even jobs) to co-mingle in carrier route sequence; obviously impossible in web printing.