Commentary & Analysis
Talking with Jacob
By Carro Ford Weston November 22,
By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: November 22, 2005
By Carro Ford Weston November 22, 2005 -- I recently had the chance to pick the brain of one of the best brains in digital publishing technology, Jacob Aizikowitz, Ph.D., CTO, Chairman, and founder of XMPie Software for variable data publishing. Aizikowitz is an expert in digital printing, personalization and computing for graphic arts. Besides having a Ph.D. in computer science from Cornell, he's held some pretty heavyweight jobs with the likes of Scitex, IBM and EFI. Here he shares views and insights on today's digital publishing marketplace. ODJ: What market factors are influencing the digital publishing world today and how? JA: There are two market factors influencing digital publishing today: Cost efficiencies of marketing efforts and campaign effectiveness. Today, a digital publishing solution is expected to handle sophisticated targeting, customization and personalization, while enabling the marketing executive to address prospects across all media channels, from print and e-mail to web-based communication. The market is starting to expect that the message and the campaign be relevant to the individual, meaning that the message, content, timing and the media through which it is delivered is all based on the individual's preferences. The market is starting to expect that the message and the campaign be relevant to the individual With the plethora of options available for the end user, information alone does not cut it. One needs to excel in presentation and appeal of every message, where use of the full spectrum of media channels is expected. Dynamic publishing must close the loop and make relevancy marketing a practical reality. ODJ: What do you think are the biggest opportunities for print service providers (PSPs) in the coming year, and how can PSPs prepare for them? JA: The biggest opportunities for PSPs lie in becoming sophisticated, multi-dimensional service providers with the ability to deliver the cutting edge of publishing technologies. This means developing services that will make VDP efforts a recurring business and not a one-time effort. Services could include information technology, asset management, VDP campaign creation, cross media, and campaign management. The biggest opportunities for PSPs lie in becoming sophisticated, multi-dimensional service providers Sometimes PSPs need to become marketing services providers to their clients, where print is just an output element, but not the main theme. Other times, they must know how to serve a customer with the customer's advertising agency. In such cases, the PSPs must be able to show that they have mastered state-of-the-art technologies --in print, cross-media, and software-- to deliver the breakthrough campaigns and results their customers want. ODJ: What are some of the innovative campaigns and strategies your customers are doing? JA: Most of our customers are PSPs that are marketing service providers to their clients. Our technology has enabled them to delivery innovative campaigns such as: Personalized fulfillment packages for cellular phone and service buyers, where each receives a customized personalized booklet tailored to their specific phone device and service plan. Customized children's books and web-to-print order fulfillment. An online store automates production and printing of personalized children's books, where the child and friends beat their favorite soccer team in the World Cup. Dynamic maps for a retail campaign. A direct mail piece containing a customized map showing the route from each recipient's home to the nearest store location. ODJ: How well are print service providers doing at acquiring the skills needed to support their customers' marketing campaigns and strategies? What we see emerging clearly as the hottest of all needs is a comprehensive publishing platform for VDP. JA: Most cope pretty well, and they are acquiring the needed skills on the marketing/sales side of their organization, or are partnering with agencies or service providers that excel in these disciplines, as well as in the IT, design, and VDP production areas. ODJ: What technologies do you see making the biggest impact today? JA: There are two highly visible hot areas: image personalization and web-to-print. However, what we see emerging clearly as the hottest of all needs is a comprehensive publishing platform for VDP. Customers realize that image personalization without a streamlined integration into the mainline VDP activity is catchy, but can put a burden on operations because of timeliness and costs. Similarly, a web-to-print system that does not support VDP campaigns and their full capability and power of personalization will not impact higher value services. A VDP solution must be as simple and powerful as the regular publishing solutions in use today. A VDP solution must be as simple and powerful as the regular publishing solutions in use today. When a customer uses Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc.) as their publishing solution, they extend its capabilities to almost everything they do in publishing, from marketing-centric postcards or product brochures, through newsletters or reports, to HMO plans, etc. They expect the same from their VDP solutions; they don't want a tool for every niche of VDP, which leads to silos, waste of human resources, and an abundance of experts who must be consulted. ODJ: Describe the most successful business model for a PSP today. JA: The full-service provider with an emphasis on retention, i.e. repeat business, is the most successful business model for PSPs today. This is, in a way, a replication of the classical model of PSPs -- amortizing initial investments in sales and pre-press over long-run print jobs. The repeat jobs in VDP and the extension of the project into cross-media are like the "long-run" of the classical model. ODJ: In your opinion, what qualities do the most successful PSPs share? JA: Marketing innovations, technological savvy, and service innovations. ODJ: What are the things that keep PSP management up at night? JA: Two things in particular come to mind: How can they shift their business models and workflow disciplines to be efficient at integrating digital printing technologies. And, how to bring in high-margin and long-life value projects, rather than just one-off short-run jobs. Repeat jobs in VDP and the extension of the project into cross-media are like the "long-run" of the classical model. ODJ: What is the next breakthrough for digital publishing? What kinds of capabilities do your customers crave that aren't available yet? JA: The next breakthrough for digital publishing will be the ability to modify components like images, illustrations and movie snippets dynamically and not just the documents that "host" them. Also the integration of most modern web technologies with most modern VDP for print technologies will help to create a continuum of content and publishing. You can always reach Carro Ford Weston at her new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.