Is the Printing Industry Old School or New-Tech Cool? – August 2013 M&A Activity
Old school buys new school. In an interesting twist, printing companies continue to buy leading edge technology companies that may have at first been perceived as threats, but have evolved into complementary services that satisfy the same market need. All-State Legal, which produces that most mundane of printed products, business cards and stationery, purchased the totally cool new-tech company Vizability, which provides online templates for electronic business cards. The electronic cards exist in the cloud and can be delivered electronically to multiple platforms through links, taps, codes and touches. There has been a proliferation of mobile business card apps, with many variations on how the personal contact information is linked to other devices and networks. Vizability’s strategy was to enlist printers of traditional paper stationary products as resellers of its electronic identity system. All-State was reportedly its largest reseller, and is now the owner of the service. It’s a good bet that people will still want printed business cards for years to come, but also will want a sophisticated mobile app that enables easy sharing of information between mobile devices. While the deal itself appears to be small, it’s indicative of a real change. With this acquisition, All-State Legal has moved from a defensive posture as a printer of legacy products to become a leading edge provider of mobile personal identity services. Reminds me of the acquisition by Brown Printing of Nellymoser, and Quad’s launch of its Actable augmented reality app, both of which we described in our review of March ’13 deals. It may be back-to-school for printers, and it appears that some companies are taking all the right classes.
Commercial printers are now fully engaged in the wide format business, exerting pressure on companies that specialized in printing only wide and grand format materials. Pazazz, a printing company in Montreal, Quebec, (and producer of the infamous and viral “Printing’s Alive” videos), acquired Contact Image, also of Montreal. Another commercial printing company, K&M Printing of Schaumberg, Illinois, acquired National GraphX and Imaging. In the past, wide format services could be a real and important differentiator for a commercial printer; wide format now appears to be a “must have” for many in the commercial sector.