WOA 50th ANNIVERSARY -- Web's Balancing Act
"It's worth keeping in mind that the printing press was invented 500 years ago, and the industry is still going strong," he adds. "Our industry has a proud legacy and a bright future."
If one expands the pool to others who have a stake in the future of web offset, there still seems to be a consensus of opinion that print will survive, even as it faces new challenges.
"The world of printed information is under attack by a potpourri of more timely, functional and cost-effective alternative electronic media—most of which have or will have the capability of targeting individuals with personalized messages," asserts William Lamparter, president of PrintCom Consulting Group in Charlotte, NC. "These emerging, powerful information media will not kill print, but they will diminish its superiority and, in many cases, alter where, when and how print is produced. This competitive thrust is one of the drivers that will move mainstream print into the variable imaging arena.
"The 50-year-out profit leaders are likely to be those printers that have morphed into broader businesses handling content so as to 'reproduce it' in any media that a customer desires," Lamparter continues. "By 2050, there will be a few printers that are expert high volume, fixed image commodity producers, and those with different shades of skill and IT capability that produce mass customized or one-off, targeted and personalized variable printed materials."
Print is already supposed to be dead, reminds Richard McKrell, corporate vice president of R&D at Heidelberg Web Systems in Dover, NH.
"There have been significant developments over the last 20 years that many thought would reduce the need for ink-on-paper, but demand continues to increase. This does not appear to be a zero-sum game. The more ways we have to communicate, the more we spend on all methods of communication. The overall pie gets bigger, so the printing piece will continue to be significant," McKrell says.