We need to lead

New communication technology has been born.

RSS, or really simple syndication, was created specifically for the purpose of syndicating news. The creators knew that email newsletters were archaic and push-oriented, and that the day would come when nobody would travel to dozens of sites to see what was new and the world would need something better.

They were right, and RSS has grown rapidly. Scoble says no RSS feed is a marker of a lame site. Given how easy it is to keep up with a pretty large number (say, more than 50, Scoble claims he tracks over 1000) of sources using a news reader and RSS, I agree with him.

The Graphics Industry should be leading.

The news outlets that serve the graphics industry – you know, ink on paper, which is doing just fine thank you – are lagging. But we shouldn’t be lagging, we should be leading. After all, our business is about communication.

Here’s a list of the popular news outlets who don’t have RSS:

  • Newspapers and Technology
    – They are sharp enough to toss a few Adsense ads at the bottom of the page, however.
  • IFRA
  • Graphic Arts Monthly
  • High Volume Printer – They don’t really even have a website – but they do have archives on-line.
  • Printing World, aka www.dotprint.com – They have a list of news links on their main page.
  • Gravure Magazine – They do have an index for the current issue available as a .pdf file.
  • Graphics Communication World, aka “The Green Sheet” – This one stumps me – no advertising, no graphics, not much layout. It’s basically a printed blog with a hefty subscription fee. With RSS they could integrate ads and probably reach a wider audience – at $300/year, it’s a tough sell for everyone but the brass. Would ads in the feeds combined with a much larger audience be a better deal for them?
  • WorldofPrint.com – Another page full of new links, but no feed.
  • WhatTheyThink.com – Another hefty-fee news+analysis site, although their tag-line is “Competitive Intelligence for Printing Executives”. Lots and lots and lots of ads though.
  • PrintWeek
  • GAIN – Graphic Arts Information Network

I’m pretty sure I missed more than a few. Now, to those who are more enlightened:

  • PrintOnDemand.com
  • PrintingTalk.com
  • Dr. Joe’s Printing Industry Blog – Of course he gets it, he’s a blogger. Actually, really the only serious graphics industry blogger out of the two out there – three if you count me.
  • Commerical Printing News – A default/stock WordPress blog being run as a news aggregator, had RSS by default.

Here we have an industry that at its root is about communication, but it isn’t using or promoting the latest technology. Worse yet, the press manufacturers and even controls manufacturers like QuadTech aren’t either. The technology in this industry is cutting edge in so many areas, yet many manufacturers barely update their sites.

Our audience deserves better.

It doesn’t seem right to me that someone deciding whether to spend $250 on a Roomba vacuum cleaner can choose from dozens of blogs, newsgroups and other websites to gather information, but someone deciding whether to spend $250,000 on graphics equipment seems to have much less to choose from. Ditto on new work flows, techniques and just news in general.

When I tell people I work for a printing company, more than half the time the conversation quickly finds its way to how quickly the Internet is having an effect on print. My answer is that my employer, QuadGraphics, is the fastest growing printer around. Harry Quadracci always said that the Internet had increased our business. I still get paper magazines for lots of reasons.

Perhaps the publishers listed above feel some need to not be seen to embrace the Internet too closely. Maybe there’s a feeling that if they make their content too convenient on the web, folks won’t desire the printed edition, although anyone who’s read Newspaper Techniques or Gravure knows how silly that is. Maybe they don’t want to insult their readership, which makes some sense I guess.

Whatever effect the Internet is going to have on print, it’s coming whether we like it or not.

By not leveraging emerging technology, we’re showing a lack of leadership in the fundamental purpose of our industry. If we’re going to be on the web, then let’s leverage all the technology we can to reach our audience. Especially since implementing RSS is basically free. Microsoft announced at Gnomedex that they are going to integrate support for RSS in future products, and once that happens the last barriers to common-man-in-the-street usage of RSS will fall.

Let’s be the communication leaders on the Internet that we are off the Internet.

One thought on “We need to lead

  1. You’ve hit it right on the dime. Every time I’m at WTT or any of the other print media news sites I curse at the lack of syndication format support.

    Graphic Communications World follows an old school model and I’m not sure if they will survive with their current format and business model. I’ve read GCW a number of times (when I find them laying around campus or given out at a conference), but I would never pay $300.00 for a subscription. GCW uses an ‘old brass’ format and is probably enjoyed by many, but information travels too fast nowadays and GCW news is no longer news when it arrives in the mail box. I see the up and coming industry leaders relying on internet channels to get their information. Right now I get more industry news and regurgitated press releases by subscribing to PrintOnDemand.com, Printingtalk.com, Packaging & Converting Essentials, the small number of print blogs and Google News Keyword feeds than GCW can provide in a years worth of issues.

    “By not leveraging emerging technology, we’re showing a lack of leadership in the fundamental purpose of our industry.” — So true.

    It’s also time for graphic communications product and services providers (the vendors) to start using blogs to communicate product and service offerings. I only know of one vendor that uses a blog: ColorMetrix Technologies at http://www.JimRaffel.com to talk about their offerings. The tech industry is great example of companies adopting blogging as a way to communication with customers (new and old), the media and competitors.

    By the way, you can add me to the enlightened list. 😉


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