Where Is Print Going?
One question people often ask me is: Where is Print going? I think we can all see the influence of digital technology within our industry, the proliferation of online tools and the evolution of consumer preferences — and wonder how will this all play out? Will we see print disappear in a complete technology shift, like the VCR? Or, will we see it continue to be relevant, evolving and morphing into new segments?
When I’m trying to understand if new solutions will fully replace existing technologies versus turning into something complementary — or how quickly a shift in the market might take place — I typically look at these key differentiators:
- Does the new technology achieve 100% of the features and benefits of the current technology?
- How fast does the current technology churn? (e.g. consumer still film cameras were replaced approximately every four years, making that technology transition easier)
- How much infrastructure is dedicated to supporting the current technology?
- How fast can the required investment be recovered?
- Will the customer be able to choose, or will the industry dictate?
While certain new technologies do end up replacing their predecessors, most of the time technologies evolve such that they become complementary and work together. Of course, market dynamics also inevitably shift, often impacting the consumption model for current technologies. For example, while people still listen to the radio, today they no longer gather together in the living room to listen to radio programming. Trains are now primarily used for transporting cargo in the US — and near and dear to our own hearts at Kodak — film has shifted from being used by consumers to capture their precious memories to professional and commercial applications.
Change is certainly occurring in the print industry. And, when change happens there are both tremendous risks, as well as great opportunities for incumbent suppliers and new, disruptive competition. The truth is that real growth, and the ability to drive significant change, is only achieved when a market undergoes disintermediation.
While volumes in certain segments of the print industry are down, print is still a very cost-effective way to distribute content, and it remains differentiated as a communications medium. For example, according to WIRED magazine, people retain information better when reading from a hard-copy print versus e-reading. In the art publishing market, the visceral experience of a printed book is one reason why galleries continue to launch ambitious publishing programs. There are also market segments that are growing like Digital Printing; Packaging; Printed Electronics; and 3D Printing.
Our job isn’t to sit by and watch change happen, or to follow ‘where Print is going,’ but rather to enable the industry to build a new future and to redefine Print. In my opinion, the traditional markets where Print will remain a vital medium are book printing, direct mail, UV Commercial print, digital printing, and packaging.
- Although traditional book publishing declined initially with e-readers, this category has stabilized as the print medium has proven to increase retention and reduce fatigue compared to digital viewing.
- Direct mail has shown to be a powerful combination in tandem with digital, possessing the ability to reach every home physically and drive consumers to websites for e-commerce.
- UV Commercial print’s capacity to place ink on paper, which is then instantly dried by ultraviolet light adds benefits like a high gloss finish to business cards, postcards, flyers and other materials; a shorter wait time to ship; and the capability to print on a wider variety of substrates.
- The Digital Printing segment continues to grow, as the demand for variable data and very short run lengths expands. And, packaging, which represents so much opportunity as a method for containing, protecting, preserving, transporting and selling products, while informing consumers around the world.
But, it’s not just about where it’s going in these conventional spaces. As an industry, we must also focus on changing the public’s general perception of print. In particular, the rapidly expanding 3D printing space provides an opportunity for us to merge traditional print technology into 3D printing equipment, especially high-speed production devices.
Beyond that, significant opportunity exists in the printing of electronic circuits — depositing conductive inks on substrates for applications from batteries and solar panels to antennas, capacitors, and more. This will one day empower print customers to expand into the printing of conductive inks, helping them grow into new markets while becoming more profitable through the ability to deliver new customer value.
As change transforms our industry, we need to continue to invest and develop the technologies that will redefine and power this new future of print. But it’s not just about new technology. It’s also about becoming an even better steward, advocate, and partner to the industry.
So, where IS Print going? It’s my belief that the future is bright. See for yourself fascinating stories of printers that are making the world a better place through print. Click here to watch the PRESS ON video from Kodak.