There has much that has and is being written on the state of the print industry. Newspapers, magazines and other print media have taken a hit over the years with the introduction of the Internet in the mid-1990s. The people that still read newspapers are 50 years and older. As newspapers shorten their content, their online versions are gaining a greater audience than their printed versions.
So what has happened? The print industry has witnessed a big transformation beyond just the introduction of the Internet. Digital printing has transformed the industry by adding greater efficiency into operations. The industry has seen its ranks shrink from a high of 50,000 printers down to the current 30,000 and shrinking. Specialists of business development strategies will attribute such a decrease in any industry to bad business planning and no strategic plan.
According to a recent study done by Graphic Communication Institute at Cal Poly CalPoly, strategic planning is one piece a part of many that are contributing to an industry decline:
“This is indicative of the printing industry over the past half century, with several profound examples, including, but not limited to, a failure to foresee the replacement of linotype operating with phototypesetting (the 1960s); not anticipating the elimination of the need for image assemblers, commonly known as “strippers,” by integrated systems technology leaders of the time, such as Scitex, Crosfield, Hell, etc. (1970s); and not preparing for the elimination of traditional copy preparation and prepress by desktop publishing (1980s).
These examples within the printing industry did not reduce the need for print but vastly reduced the need for operators and practitioners within the field, which resulted in a tremendous reduction in the workforce.
More devastating to the industry, however, was the failure to anticipate and prepare for the replacement of print with non-print digital imaging (the Internet and World Wide Web) and, therefore, the elimination of entire printing companies. This did not have to happen. The foresight to “reinvent” the industry and the services it provides could have prevented this. However, commercial printers, accustomed to short-term planning, have had “blinders” on for decades and don’t see more than a few days ahead. They are typically unaware of competing industries emerging to capture market share that traditionally belonged to the printing industry.”
This has not been a problem for the printing industry only. How could anyone have anticipated the rapid change the Internet, Desktop and Personal Digital Devices would have on our society. The challenge is finding where paper still has value.
Here is a way to think about it.
A paper is still a much better medium for the eyes. While people will scan information on their electronic devices, people still read on paper documents. So, binding machines and binding supplies will still be an important part of a business for those customers that are writing reports and legal briefs. Wide format printing of posters, banners and signs will still be a part of the printing landscape. Like all business, the challenge is having a magic crystal ball to see into the future and understand how print and digital can converge.
It’s always a challenge to keep up. Bu with change, there is always opportunity.