On the future of print

I joined PrintPlanet.com today, and saw a post from Hlynur Gudlaugsson who asked:

Hello guys…

What is the future of printing regarding all the technoligy around us?
Is the print industry going to die in coming years or will it just take
another turn to adjust to new thinking and consumer ways?

The internet is one of the most potent advertising media you can use
regarding information to consumer. Is it going to effect the industry
in that sense that people will loose jobs or will this create new
barriers for us to overcome or will the “black art” die as we know it?

Would be nice to get your tought´s on this one:-)

Regards from Iceland.

A great question, and one that I think all of us in the print industry ask each other pretty frequently. I’d say it almost rivals the weather as topic of conversation.

Here’s my prediction on the future of print

First, a few observations:

  1. The Internet is NOT the most potent advertising medium anyone can use. At least, the advertising I respond to most frequently is on a magazine page, not a web page. Internet advertising is by FAR the most accessible advertising medium anyone can use. With many providers (i.e. Adwords) you can be advertising anything worldwide in multiple languages in less than half an hour for $5 or so. Try that with print.
  2. I haven’t yet replaced the magazine rack in my bathroom with a computer, despite there being room and an unused laptop in the house. We have about 4 magazines that we get, along with various catalogs we hang onto. With a small house and two small kids, the bathroom doubles as the reading room ;-).
  3. I do not like paperless statements. Anything advertised on a statement is blackballed immediately.
  4. I don’t hang onto but one catalog from a company. Land’s End – you send me a new catalog about every other week. As an employee of QuadGraphics, I think you profusely. As a customer, I need only the Men’s version, and only when you offer something really new.
  5. The printed material I get that is personalized is increasing in quality, or at the least is holding in quality. Meaning the quality of the paper, special features like embossing, etc.
  6. The printed material I get that is not personalized is generally decreasing in quality, with the exception of Men’s Health magazine, which is becoming a few flimsy Ed. pages slipped in between massive thick fragrance, fashion and car ads.

I think some kinds of print are going to die, but some new kinds of print will be created. The net effect will be more printing of items that can be personalized and that benefit from the nature of print (the permanence, readability, etc.) to carry an unwritten message. There will be less of those items that just work much better on the ‘net. Like classified ads, many kinds of reference material, some of the market for books & catalogs, and most newsletters.

When I worked in engineering I started at a company that still used drafting boards, and currently work for a company that’s pretty much paperless in terms of drawings. At least, we don’t have much use for large format plotter/printers anymore. The trend seemed to be that the volume of paper on an engineer’s desk skyrocketed as the company adopted CAD, but then as the automation was fully internalized the engineer’s need for a paper copy (for reviewing, proofing, etc) quickly went away and those piles disappeared very quickly.

I think print markets will mirror that. Following a surge of printing in some markets driven by the internet  we’ll see a decline as new generations not addicted to paper for every application filter out those applications where printing really adds value. I think this will happen pretty quickly in a given region, but the world being diverse as it is it will be slow globally speaking.

The printing that’s left over will be either very low quality/low cost in applications where printing’s the only solution (direct mail advertising works better than direct email advertising), or high quality/high personalization/high value added because it is a piece of a larger communication offering.

For example, consider what’s happening to magazines. Thinner paper, smaller trim sizes, etc.  – they’re moving to low cost because the print version magazine competes with the internet offering. Now imagine that we have full variable data printing, and the magazine can now be personalized to contain the stuff the reader wants and adds a lot more value. Now the subscriber is buying the paper version because it’s paper, and will want more of the qualities that paper has to offer and will be willing to pay for them.

Same with brochures. When they’re a high-volume give-away they need to be cheaper to produce. When they can carry more value, they can cost more.

So to summarize, print’s always going to be around. There will be less of it, and it will be either a lot more efficient or a lot more innovative than it is now.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s