Good swift kick in the behind

Dr. Joe Webb, ever the ray of sunshine regarding the printing business, raises an interesting point in a recent post: PIA/GATF recently commented on the SEC’s proposed rules change that would allow companies to get away without PRINTING various reports, proxies, etc. Naturally the comments were the predictable siren song of people clinging to their cheese: Do not move the cheese! Printing these reports is important to us, and making us stop will do Bad Things and our suppliers.

The good doctor states:

Our industry sounds like a barrier to progress, protecting decidedly outmoded means of communications, when it actually needs a good swift kick in the behind. We’re already being referred to as “offline media” and reference to us as “legacy media” has been common in recent years. I’d rather be putting out a story about how our companies are already on top of this issue. After all, EDGAR, the electronic reporting service of the SEC has been around for about 20 years.

This reminds me of something Guy Kawasaki explained in his video How to drive your competition crazy (which is very good by the way). He told the story of how once upon a time we kept things cold with ice that as mined from mountain lakes. Folks used to go up to the mountain, take a saw and cut out chunks of ice and haul them away. They actually warehoused the stuff, and even shipped it around the world.

That is until somebody invented machines that made ice. Do you think it was the mountain lake ice miners? Hell no – it was someone else, and that was Guy’s point. It’s really, really difficult to be a “curve jumper” – the guy who comes up with the replacement for existing technology – but if you don’t learn to do it someone else will and you lose. What do you suppose the ice miners were doing as the ice machines were being promoted? I’m guessing they were writing letters to the government complaining that that the use of ice making machines will do Bad Things to the ice mining industry and it’s suppliers, and the FDA should ban them or something.

Printing will never completely go away, but large parts of it will. To whom all that new business goes will depend on who comes up with these new forms of media. The printing companies should be in an excellent position to do this, if they can secure the vision to do it. It’s making me miss Harry more than ever.

The printing industry needs to be looking at how its value could be displaced and learn these technologies better than anyone else before anyone else does. The printing industry should have been the one offering to automate the reports, and it should be doing the same with everything else it prints. Someone else will if we don’t. If they can’t learn on their own, they need to make the right acquisitions. What kind of printing opportunities might have come out of owning Flickr, or Blogger, or Wikipedia?

Printing and the Internet CAN go together. Will the printing companies create these opportunities? Or will they wait for the web companies to do it?

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