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Industry Insight

PIA: NAPL Rejects Our "Olive Branch"


By Patrick Henry
Published: September 15, 2009

Updated: 9/16 6PM to include statement from NAPL CEO Joe Truncale. Today, PIA sent its members the following message about a consolidation proposal it has made to NAPL. We'd like members of both organizations, as well as those who aren't affiliated with either one, to discuss whether the printing industry should be—or even can be—represented by one national organization.

Dear Member: As you no doubt are aware, there have been calls for consolidations within the print association community for some time. For years printer and vendor members of Printing Industries of America have suggested that the two largest associations in the industry get together - namely Printing Industries of America and NAPL. Recently, with the full blessing of the national board of directors of Printing Industries of America, Chairman Ken Kaufman formally extended an olive branch to NAPL to consider consolidation discussions. I regret to report that NAPL has rejected this offer. While open to potential "collaborative projects" with Printing Industries of America and other trade associations, NAPL has indicated it would like to maintain its independence and autonomy, focusing on a business model centered around its consulting practice. Printing Industries of America is certainly more than willing to explore how we can cooperate with NAPL and other organizations going forward and will continue to provide an outstanding array of products and services designed to help our members weather this economic storm and be profitable. We are grateful for your continued support. Sincerely, Michael Makin, MBA President & CEO Printing Industries of America
NAPL CEO Joe Truncale issued a statement to WhatTheyThink:
As we indicated in our earlier statement on this subject last spring, NAPL continues to favor deeper, more substantive discussion with our industry partners to better identify and understand the changing needs of our industry and how we can address these needs collectively and cooperatively while deploying our resources in the most responsible way. These discussions will pave the way for a number of options and will likely lead to a productive outcome for all stakeholders.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Michael Marcian on Sep 15, 2009

I thought that the purpose of a Trade Association was to serve the needs of the Members. Every Printer and Printing Industry supplier that I have talked to supports the merging of PIA and NAPL. The Industry can no longer support two Competing Organizations. Look at the declining meeting attendance for proof. With this in mind, who is NAPL serving...The Members or the Leadership?


By Dr Joe Webb on Sep 16, 2009

There is no reason for a merger, and there never has been. Print businesses need a choice: support the organization that serves their interests best. To have one organization only would be bad for print businesses. We should remember, you can't really be a member of PIA. You join a local affiliate, and by doing so you become a national member. You have to join NAPL outright to become a member. In this way there is more pressure on NAPL to consistently delight its members to earn another year's dues through its services. PIA's model is far more muddled, and the value of membership is through the effectiveness of the local affiliate, and we have seen significant contraction in those over the years with a few notable exceptions. Many affiliates are struggling or consolidating. NAPL made a significant change to its structure a few years ago to adapt to a changed marketplace. Perhaps now is the time for PIA to do so to rather than to write a "Bob Burton"-like letter that makes NAPL look like the uncooperative one.


By Chuck on Sep 16, 2009

It's not like the two associations are at war-- so the PIA use of the term "Olive Branch" seems exemplary of its leadership's lack of a business approach to "collaboration" and "service to the industry". The two associations are more complementary to one another than they are competitive, and there are many ways they could collaborate that would save money for both of them and allow them to serve the industry better, without an all out merger. Mergers in the industry (and of our industry associations) have tended to be non-optimal.


By Kerry on Sep 16, 2009

The long running historical differences in the business models and approaches to membership of PIA and NAPL are well known. While I respectfully disagree with Dr. Joe Webb about PIA's model being "far more muddled" and the value of a merger between NAPL and PIA, I do appreciate that the value proposition for associations and affiliates has changed. In the case of the printing industry's two national trade associations, it has now come to mean duplicative products & services and redundant expense for an industry already under significant financial pressure and facing serious marketplace erosion. One needn't look far for visionary examples of well crafted industry association mergers and consolidations that worked well and were engineered to ultimately benefit those who are being asked to pay the freight--namely, the membership of both organizations. Collaboration is nice, but consolidation would make a lot more sense.


By samuel h shaffer on Sep 16, 2009

Why would NAPL reject the "olive Branch"? Maybe because he who extends the "Olive Branch" first wants the control? I suggest NAPL extends the "Olive Branch" and see what PIA does.


By Harvey on Sep 16, 2009

People, it's like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. You've got PSDA, IAPHC, PIA, NAPL, PODi, what's left of DICE and how many other little groups all trying to survive and they can't on membership alone. They need vendors to help them. From the vendors side, they are not getting the ROI they need to continue. This vicious spiral around the drain is creating a shake out that will ultimately determine who will be around and how this industry will go forward. Those that learn to share will be there. The one's that go it alone may not be.


By Bob on Sep 16, 2009

Years ago GATF had a thriving comnsulting business that provided a much needed service to the industry. This consulting service is needed even more today as Standardization becomes necessary in the industry. PIA's (and to a great extent GATF's) inability and/or refusal to be the printers advocate where it comes to Standards has allowed other groups to force feed targets and methodologies onto the printer. The absence leadership of PIA/GATF in this area has led to the marginalization of their credibility as the technical resource to printers looking for direction. This has in turn led to the downsizing and all but disappearance of their consulting offering. This absence has now created a lopsided representation (a virtual monopoly) on the creation of Printing Specifications. This in turn has allowed the very groups who are developing the Specifications to impose methodologies (developed during the creation of the specifications) on the printing community. To support this machine there have been over 200 "Consultants" created to promote and implement these methodologies, and Print Buyers have been convinced (by the same group) that they should require their printers to be Qualified in these methodolgies. With no options available, the groups who own and develop specifications are free to create and impose their own "requirements" on to the printing community. This is not good for the printing industry as a whole. This has also created a HUGE vacuum and an urgent need for a "neutral" printers advocate. PIA's inability to recognize what the printer actually needs (on a technical level) or the refusal to enter the debate in a leadership role (at the Standards Level)is the very reason why a merger of these two groups would not be a good idea at all. Now PIA has offered an "Olive Branch" to a competing organization that has modeled it's offerings around consulting? Where will the printer go for an un-biased assesment. Who will be the voice to offer printers a choice? Where is the neutral arbitrator between Manufacturer and Printer? Kudos to NAPL for standing on principle.


By Brian Regan on Sep 16, 2009

I think that a merger at this time makes sense. The PIA and affiliate structure has a lot of value and reach across the country. The excellent services, content and functions of NAPL combined with PIA services and reach would not detract, but enhance the offering to members and certainly add new appeal for potential members. I certainly would like to see something happen here.


By Gene on Sep 16, 2009

NAQP, DICE, GATF, NAPL, PODi, D-Scoop, PIA and many I have missed. membership continues to drop as mergers and shop closings take place. As Harvey states with the continued reduction in the number of printing companies, consolidation of vendors and suppliers and the reduced margins of both printers and vendors there is not the question of will there be farther consolidation of the printing industry and it's organizations but only of when. How many local hardware stores, drug stores, lumber yards, clothing stores, appliance stores, office supply stores etc do you see today as compared to 30 or 40 years ago ? We may not want to admit but the printing industry will slowly(maybe not so slowly when you factor in the web to print firms) follow this trend.


By kurt kroening on Sep 16, 2009

I fail to see the importance of a merger between these two organizations.Let them differentiate themselves and or compete to see who offers the most value ! That's the American way !


By Paul Reilly on Sep 16, 2009

To fellow printers: I applaud those pursing and supporting the efforts to consolidate our printing organizations. NAPL and PIA are too great organizations whose value can be enhanced by merger and at the same time save cost. NAPL has a great member base and a world class consulting arm. PIA has a world class research arm and a strategic strength in its grass roots local affiliate network. By acting now to save cost, we can insure that these member services remain available to all printers and their suppliers.


By Dr Joe Webb on Sep 16, 2009

It's amazing that no one has suggested that the two associations compete for the printer's association dollars. If they offer similar services, then printers can decide which one of the associations they want to support. Why merge and create a whole new range of costs and the problems of inefficiencies of a transition? If the associations are not differentiate and offer similar services, then shame on them for a lack of creativity and differentiation. Why not instead suggest that one of them close up shop for the good of the industry? Why not suggest that one of them create a leap forward in innovative services instead? The merger thing is quite a crutch and no printer would recommend it for their own business unless they wanted to cash out their ownership. Merger would not do anything to create new, differentiated innovative services for printers. Let them fight for our industry's dollars instead.


By Brian Regan on Sep 16, 2009

Valid points in each direction. But in areas like lobbying, if you have two competing entities it seems like $$ better spend seeking appropriate lobbying is going to waste. I am sure there are many other areas where a combined entity can achieve the greater good for the industry.


By Kerry on Sep 16, 2009

Associations have one product---knowledge. Unlike printing company mergers or "cash-outs" if you prefer, the two associations in question lack the incentives enjoyed by printing company owners in these circumstances. The real benefit of a merger between not-for-profit organizations reveals itself in a strengthened industry knowledge base and streamlined operations accompanied by a reduction in operating overhead. Given the infrastructure is funded by the membership it seems sensible to combine the resources to deliver the maximum benefit at the lowest cost to the members. Sure, as Dr. Webb suggests (in jest?) you could ask Printing Industries of America or NAPL to close up shop, but why waste the longtime knowledge investment? In the knowledge arena 1+1 truly does equal 3.


By John Berthelsen on Sep 16, 2009

It is dissapointing to see that the two largest associations cannot at least explore the possibility of combining together to better serve our industry and their membership. We are all faced with changing our business models and associations are no different. It makes no sense to continue to duplicate such offerings as Top Management and President's Conferences, along with other gatherings, seminars and the like. It is not beneficial to have two sets of economic surveys and studies of trends competing with each other for resources and participation. Duplication of similar staff, reporting, and resources could be eliminated. Where there is no overlap, such as lobbying, the valued contribution would continue. While the local affiliates of PIA are a great resource and a great strength of the organization, they are also a great cost. Can it continue to fund 27 local director/presidents and staff? At some point (as has already begun to happen) there will have to be consolidation and combination. The vendors and members have continued to ask for this combination to be considered. Sadly, the intrenched staff does not seem to be listening.


By Dr Joe Webb on Sep 17, 2009

Over the past three decades, this topic has always come up, and in my recollection, and I may be wrong, so it is only in my recollection, it has almost always been from the PIA side. With the number of affiliates dropping, and the industry contracting, is there little wonder? NPES, PIA, and NAPL have gotten significant funding from trade shows, mainly GraphExpo and Print. That funding has been decreasing because of the technology trends that reduce the size and scope of our vendor base (I, too, long for the days of the big film and plate businesses of Kodak, 3M, DuPont, Agfa, GAF/Anitec, Enco, and that little company Chemco that I used to work for, and yeah, that Fuji stuff sold through Roberts & Porter will never really amount to anything...) Is PIA's business model what's really on the ropes here? Is there a long term there there any more in terms of affiliate revenues and show revenues? And why did they need an olive branch? Was there a war going on? I thought they just competed. As far as duplicate services, both organizations have been very good at creating and dispensing business advice for their members over the years. Companies should focus on their profitability, go to where growth markets would be, and stop doing unprofitable things. As long as those duplicate services produce a profit for each (often because of vendor sponsorships), they can keep doing them. Perhaps one of the answers is to actually stop doing unprofitable things. As far as those vendor sponsorships go, which is the essence of trade show profit sharing, and the financial underpinnings of many trade association services, those are part of the media market, just like everything else. The rest of media is re-inventing itself, and it is a painful process. So? Lead the way and reinvent yourself, just like so many of the industry reports and seminars that have been staged and funded by the associations themselves have said. Take your own advice. Offer compelling services that make people want to join and participate. Stimulate the industry with ideas. Do something counterintuitive. Problem with offshore printing? Help printers invest in emerging markets where there is significant growth. E-commerce killing demand for print? Test applications in a GATF lab. Software industry driving you nuts with their 90% market shares and anti-printing alliances? Support the open source software movement. Prepare members for the chaotic marketplace ahead. This decades old olive branch is a sign of the inability of one association to adjust to vastly different times. Printers vote with their wallets. If you can't get them to vote the way you want them to, perhaps that is the message of the marketplace. It's not pretty, but it's the way markets and companies reinvent themselves. Merger is the easy way out, and would not result in any new inspiration for the services the industry needs. It would be more of a drag on resources with the same business model, just perpetuating the past. I have no vote, but if I did, I would vote no.


By Greg Imhoff on Sep 17, 2009

Are there justifications for consolidation? Of course yet here in print I agree with Joe. The marketplace and even free governments want and encourage market competition. There are conditions where some seek to capture or marginalize competition as an advantage. This may be due to market conditions or may even driven for financial (Gordon Gecko type model)for short term gains. Wall Street and or our recent Bank Bailouts are examples. Consolidation of a market can and is frequently justified. If the driver is argued mainly as financial we all see the end result. Market consoltidation normally defeats the desired best interests and end results as once comeptitors are eleimated the goal of "cornering a market" is then to extract the payoff. This then is less = more. Less choices less people less work higher service fees etc. In some cases marginal players may fill a void. Consolidating market competition morphs into a Oligopoly when left unchecked morphs into a Monoploy. A wider question might be what happended to the North America PRINT demand? - Is this due to our Wall Street debacle leading to a loss of advertising dollars or, is this possibly linked to off-shoring? Where did the PRINT Jobs (pun intended) of North America go? Might this be a micro net result of consolidation forces, in action? Just wondering. Greg Imhoff gimhoff@gripdigital.com


By Gene on Sep 17, 2009

In regard to Dr Joe Webb's lenghtly and numerous posts on the subject of consolidation: "Me thinks he doth protest too much"


By Clint Bolte on Sep 17, 2009

From many general commercial printers perspective, and particularly the <$6MM in sales entities, their frustrations with both national litho-minded associations is and has been the lack of breadth of appropriate technical and business information as the GCPs have added more value added services, e.g., wide format, fulfillment, and mailing services. For the most part PIA & NAPL have tried to align themselves with consultants knowledgeable in those areas. This solution is the tip of the iceberg of what any company really needs to be successful in these complimentary business initiatives. The GCPs have been forced to join several other stand alone associations. In the case of wide format perhaps it was the special interest group of PMAI. For mailing and fulfillment expertise most turned to MFSA. For the in-plants it has been IPMA or the other dozen fractured interest groups. Printers must get this specialized information but don't have the time nor money to invest in all of these associations who can't see the advantage of collaboration for the benefit of their members. So from my view a merger of NAPL/PIA does not really suggest a different business model for the independent general commercial printers and in-plant printers.


By Dr Joe Webb on Sep 17, 2009

I protest too much? I guess I should let the morning cup of tea wear off a little bit before I touch a keyboard :) As far as Greg's questions you may want to see this post that shows the shift of jobs to content creation positions http://members.whattheythink.com/allsearch/articleerc.cfm?id=35205 As far as imports, they have remained the same % of shipments for years. What's really happened is that the shipments from Canada have been displaced by shipments from China. Recently, our exports have risen, probably from the weak dollar. Total imports have dropped. Lately, the undermining of advertising-supported print has been the strongest weight pushing shipments down. Consumer ad pages are down 33% over the last 2 years, and B2B pages are down about 40% this year. Those pages are not coming back. Sorry if you have heard the following elsewhere-- I've mentioned these a lot lately: There was no iPhone until June07 -- now there are 30mm users. Facebook has 250mm users, and 65mm of them accessed it on mobile devices last month. 15mm people used Twitter last month. Just today, Twitter was valued @ $1B The media biz is really shifting, and we're in the undertow. I talked about a lot of this on Monday. I have the slides up on Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/drjoewebb/dr-joe-091409-final-print09 And Gene... I'll be having caffeine-free Pepsi @ lunch :) Thanks for keeping me in line,


By Noel Ward on Sep 17, 2009

Maybe I just don't get it, but why wouldn't a shrinking industry benefit by having a single voice? I don't see many good reasons why NAPL and PIA can't join forces, other than illusions of control, egos, fiefdoms, illusions of control, and each organizations' perception that they are the only ones who are right. Did I mention illusions of control? How about both are (mostly) right? PIA serves one set of needs, NAPL another. Why can't some smart people in these organizations figure out a way to integrate both business models into one and have it serve the needs of their respective constituencies? Last time I checked, that was kinda the reason trade organizations exist.


By George on Sep 17, 2009

We used to be a member of GATF when they offered something of value. They merged with PIA and then PIA would only accept memberships through local affiliates. Our local affiliate PIAG is worthless. They have become an out of touch self serving non profit. Several years ago we chose to become members of NAPL because they offered something of value. We have recently dropped NAPL membership as they ceased to provide anything of value as well. These organizations need to wake up and serve the industry and provide something of value. That will inturn increase their value and membership. Reading the outrages that the two organizations merge is incredible. Competition is healthy and brings about innovation. Combing a failing organization with a healthy one benefits only the weak. Does any of this sound familiar?


By Bob Diehl on Sep 17, 2009

I will take the liberty of throwing some additional thoughts into the mix for your consideration on this spirited topic. The greatest business accomplishment of both of these associations has been their foresight in forming the Graphic Arts Show Company to create an industry premier event and share the revenue from that event to fund their futures. The GASC concept is a proven business model that has preserved the independence and identity of both organizations. Why can't the GASC model be considered as a going forward model to consolidate programs, increase initiative effectiveness and bring greater value to an industry that needs a single, stronger voice on multiple issues and deserves more effective programs? With the current level of vendor sponsorship dollars in question wouldn't it be reasonable for the associations to jointly determine the future of the vendor revenue landscape and select the initiatives that merit industry focus and funding? If programs or initiatives of perceived value to the individual member bases were unfunded, it should be relatively easy to solicit funding from the members that value those unfunded initiatives. If vendor revenues determined industry initiatives and member revenues determined member services both would be better served and the associations would "right size" in the same way the members are "right sizing". A GASC for important industry initiatives (there are many candidates but environmental information, education and postal costs are high on the list) would make it easy for the industry to create alliances with other associations (paper, direct mail, etc.) on issues of a greater magnitude in order to increase the impact of our position. Consolidation and bankruptcy are financial plays that have no place in the non-profit arena. The United Way/GASC model has proven successful in funding important initiatives. Let PIA and NAPL both get their financial houses and delivery mechanisms in order but it falls to the vendors and members of the printing industry to develop a structure that does not compromise important industry initiatives while that process is occurring.


By Gerald on Sep 17, 2009

Olive Branch or Red Herring? The PIA/GATF overture isn't an "olive branch." That's the wrong metaphor. Rather, it is a Red Herring -- a deliberate attempt to divert attention. The backstory is important here. PIA/GATF is the hollow shell of what once was. The remnant of GATF is a vestige at best. With the loss / consolidation of affiliates, PIA is shrinking toward extinction, and that trajectory appears unstoppable. It's unlikely that PIA would exist now if not for the infusion of cash from the sale of it's Alexandria VA headquarters ... a resurrection strategy it actually pursued twice, if memory serves. The disaffection of the affiliates that developed over time, particularly after Ray Roper's retirement, is widely known and not worth recounting. Meanwhile, PIA's value offering has continued to shrink as it shed or lost highly valuable but highly compensated leaders, Ben Cooper being the most recent example. Anyone close to PIA/GAFT can tell you that the organization is highly politicized and has a sad and sick organizational culture. Meanwhile, NAPL has focused on delivering value directly to its members. It's done so consistently, and largely without fanfare. By and large, it has done a good job. Some of the regional PIA affiliates have done just as good a job, and with little help from HQ in Sewickley. The Southern California affiliate is a good example, where Bob Lindgren created a business model tying the trade association to a self-funded heath insurance plan that's been vital to his members for decades. The handwriting is on the wall and making it clear that PIA/GATF cannot and will not continue to exist without another rescue of some kind. All of the activity surrounding merger talks would effectively distract attention from PIA/GATF's decline and ineffectiveness at creating real value for member companies. It worked before, with the absorption of GATF into PIA. And there's little to debate about how well that worked. The fate of PIA/GATF is one of Makin's making, and NAPL would be foolish and foolhardy to entertain Makin's "olive branch." I suspect that they saw the red herring for just what it was and responded graciously, giving Makin the opportunity to save face. Unfortunately, he didn't recognize that opportunity for what it was.


By Greg Imhoff on Sep 17, 2009

Competition is often about efficiency for a profit. It is also about obviously filling a need. Print entrepreneurs find new ways to satisfy client needs for making better business in part by listening to client needs. We are (NPES or PIA etc.) essentially about building better businesses for all. Large format offset printers are assumed (painting with a broad brush) to doing better financially. At the other end of the spectrum may be newspapers both single and double wide. Single wide publishers may be considered relatively healthy whereas, double wide profit issues are well known. I learned form listening and reading a NPES report and talking to those who know all true... So remains true a distinction between Single and Double wide presses is a issue so is this mainly due to the loss of advertising revenues or is this "just in big cities?" If so why and would it not behoove the double wide publisher to then seek new ways to satisfy advertising clients with their known subscriber databases? Value remains in our trade both here and overseas where portable info technology has also reached the masses. I think newspaper subscriptions and run lengths "over there" however may be growing. Does the financial debacle of Wall Street then have a farther reaching effect to the NA print community? Is the ripple effect that huge? Our system works well when we cooperate together if seeking to solve new client needs. Technology helps to fill needs when buyers seek an advantage. Capitalism works best with bankers lending and in advertisers seeing value in print (with other tools) and, in printers helping their clients, to find their new customers...


By Larry Bauer on Sep 18, 2009

Whether merger is good or bad for the industry, or if one model is better than the other, or if both should be improved, I think the economic reality is that an industry in long-term decline cannot support as many trade associations as it has now. I haven't seen either be particularly innovative, so it's not likely that merger would make them better as a combination. The whole proposition seems more like Sears merging with Kmart.


By Michael Jahn on Sep 21, 2009

@ Gerald I share your sentiment exactly. Just look at all the talent that has moved to NAPL - Raymond J. Prince, Howie Fenton - and others who simply struck out on their own. @ Gene NAQP, DICE, PODi, D-Scoop are special interest associations - they are nothing like NAPL. @ Dr. Joe I agree, no need to merge as I can see


By Michael J on Sep 21, 2009

Interesting discussion. As with most things I tend to agree with Dr Joe. But Early on someone said "Associations have one product—knowledge" Given the web, social media, open source, there must be a business model based on knowledge that is free to the Printers who need it. So maybe the issue is not whether to merge or not to merge. Maybe the real issue is to be or not to be.


By Michael J on Sep 21, 2009

I apologize for two in a run... But what might happen if the associations whose product should be knowledge (not lobbying) took a run at the education business. With only one or two exceptions the community colleges and many of the CTE programs in the country are in deep trouble and don't serve their students or the industry as well as they could. Maybe the associations could organize online courses with videos and the best experts we have to better train our next generation. The highest margin business in the States is selling certificates. I know from experience that it's not the instructors who are getting the money. I would think there would be enough possible revenue to support three or four trade associations. But as educational


By Gene on Sep 28, 2009

Michael, no matter what the letters and the changes to their meaning over the years they all compete for my money and more importantly my time. If a special interest group better serves my needs than a broad based organization such as the NAPL and PIA.....then I'll choose the special interest group if I must make a choice.


By Janet on Oct 13, 2009

I'm just happy to see that people are finally talking about all of this publicly. In side conversations it has always been a topic of discussion but maybe now something will finally happen to change a horribly run PIA "ship". It has nothing to do with the members or what the members what. It all has to do with what one person wants and in no way should it be that way in a trade association. Come on everybody; ask yourself, why do you belong?? What do you actually get? Are you pressured to belong? That seems to be happening more and more lately. God forbid that you cross that certain someone, you are an outcast forever!! No way to get back in the PIA dynasty, you might as well close shop and disappear because they will make sure you disappear. Nobody should have that much power in a board run association. Come on PIA Board of Directors wake up and do something about it, the people have spoken.


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