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Commentary & Analysis

Requiem for a Heavyweight: The On Demand Printing & Publishing Exposition & Conference

Charlie Corr of mimeo.com looks at some of the history surrounding the On Demand Show

By Charlie Corr
Published: July 27, 2012

I can still remember the excitement of the first conference in the basement of the Javits. It was a chance to meet with other digital pioneers and a validation of a concept. Print On Demand was going to change the Graphic Arts market!  From inception until this year I attended, presented, and keynoted. I worked on the conference program for many years while I was at CAPV/InfoTrends. I spent many hours recruiting and preparing speakers, developing data and working on other conference related details.

Despite the event returning to the Javits, which is near my office in New York, I did not attend this year. The focus of the event has changed and a requiem seems in order.

In the early years, the fact that there was such an event that would draw thousands was exciting for a digital “real” printing pioneer. Graph Expo and other events were still dominated by traditional approaches. Digital printing was deemed “copying” and many industry pundits dismissed the event and the concept. One memorable quote was, “just because there is a conference, a magazine and an event doesn’t mean Print On Demand will change the industry.”  POD was seeking legitimacy and The On Demand event provided it. For many years Charlie Pesko’s “State of The Industry Report” not only defined the market annually but also provided advice on where the market was going and how to succeed in a new printing environment.

Here are a few highlights:

1996 -  I was still at Harvard University Printing & Publication Services.  I was flown to the event on a Xerox private jet from Boston. Those were heady days for Xerox and this new event.

1998 – The .com boom was rising. Royal Farros, CEO of iPrint delivered a keynote on Internet printing. The bubble didn’t last long, but the ride was a very exciting one. Remember ImageX, Collabria or Impresse?  At CAPV we started talking about the migration not just from analog to digital printing but to digital only documents.

2000 – Xerox CEO Rick Thoman delivered a keynote looking back at the first decade of POD. Rick talked of the “new business of printing” where digital was primary and offset a compliment. What became of Rick?  I chaired a keynote panel on digital color with Alfons Buts, President & COO of Xeikon; Anshoo Gupta, President of Production Printing at Xerox; Benny Landa, Chairman & CEO of Indigo; Wolfgang Pfizenmaier, President and CEO of Heidelberg Digital. An impressive panel just as production color was gaining significant market share.

2002 – The Bill & Benny Show. Bill McGlynn, VP and GM of Digital Publishing Solutions at HP, and Benny Landa, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Indigo, spoke on the merger of the two companies and “Transforming the Printing Industry.” In his State of the Industry report, Charlie Pesko spoke about “Reinventing the Printing & Publishing Industry.”

2003 – EFI celebrates its Millionth Fiery as Guy Gecht, EFI CEO presented the Fiery to Kinko’s at the opening of the conference.  


2004 – Anne Mulcahy, Chairman & CEO of Xerox opened the conference. The topic was again “The New Business of Print” and the role Xerox plays in the industry. Xerox hired a production company that we had to work with for other keynotes. The “producer” was rude to one of our InfoTrends staff members and the shop steward at the Javits asked us if we wanted him to “maybe lose some of his stuff.”

2005 –  A great year. The State of the Industry Keynote by Charlie Pesko was on Industry Transformation. Well in advance of the recession it outlined a classic transformation of the printing industry in which typically half the vendors and providers disappear. Once again InfoTrends correctly predicted the future of the industry years before this message was popular. The Keynote slides were printed on an inkjet device. Among the other keynotes was Gary Kusin, CEO of FedEx Kinko’s; Clayton Christensen, Harvard University; and Daniel Carp, CEO of Eastman Kodak.

The keynote the following day was on Leveraging Industry Transformation for Success and the panel included Quincy Allen, President, Production Systems Group at Xerox; Bill McGlynn, Vice President, Digital Publishing Initiative at HP; and Barb Pellow who was the Chief Marketing Officer of the Graphic Communications Group at Kodak at the time.  On a $100 bet from Andy Gordon I sang “The Best is Yet to Come” during the final keynote panel. I surprised the panelists (including Garet Hil, CEO of Rapid Solutions) and many in the audience. Andy paid in $1.00 bills.  A preshow Tutorial on Innovation debated technology limits and had great insights from panelists including Peter Crean, Senior Fellow at Xerox and Mike Piatt, Chief Scientist at Kodak Versamark.

2006 – I chaired a panel titled “The Evolving Digital Color On Demand Printing Opportunity...the Future is so Bright, You Have to Wear Shades” that outlined a digital color tornado that Charlie Pesko addressed in his Keynote leveraging G. Moore’s Inside the Tornado. We used the song in the intro and close. Jim Firestone of Xerox played along and wore some cool shades. Another great Tutorial addressing “Print 2010: Planning for Future Business Success” with panelists including the late John Windle, of State Street Consultants. We discussed the future impact of inkjet, the limits of the various technologies and the critical importance of “super-efficiency.”

2007 – Charlie Pesko addressed our fragmented industry structure, new opportunities in marketing communications and the decline in monochrome printing. My Keynote Panel was titled, “Is Inkjet the Technology Story for 2007?”  The show had moved to Boston and was never quite the same.  Adam Slutsky, the CEO of Mimeo, offered me my current job at the conference and this was my last On Demand show while working at InfoTrends.

2011 - The show was changing focus beyond POD and was held in D.C. The show floor was missing many major vendors.  I had the privilege of Keynoting and addressed both print and publishing opportunities. Mimeo was privileged to win the Business Transformation Award based on our providing solutions to our clients. 

In 1997 and 1998 there was an On Demand West conference. For many years there was an On Demand Japan. Other Keynote speakers included Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Chairman & Publisher of the New York Times; Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes; Pat Buchanan, political analyst, former advisor to three U.S. Presidents, and two-time Republican Presidential candidate; and Bruce Chizen Adobe CEO.

On Demand provided me with insight, inspiration and the opportunity to work with a great group of people. It is impossible to list them all. It was all enabled by my colleagues at InfoTrends including Charlie Pesko, Jeff Hayes, Barb Pellow, Cary Sherburne, Jim Hamilton, Ron Gilboa, Holly Muscolino and the entire staff that worked on the event; as well as those at Questex including Kerry Gumas, CEO. It included industry luminaries including Jan Daley, Tony Federico, Don Goldman, Don & Rich Lowe, Jeff Hayzlett, Tod Pike, George Promis,  Frank Romano, Homi Shamir, Steve Sherman, Frank Steenburgh, Bob Tapella, Tom Wetjen as well as the many listed above and the many others who presented and attended.

I wish Questex the best moving forward as they focus on content and information, instead of the technologies, products and promise of POD, but I will miss what was and hope that excitement can be generated in other venues.



By Peter Crean on Jul 27, 2012


Great summary - and the years cover a great arc in graphics arts that is humbling and instructive to review in hindsight. On Demand started with the purpose to validate DocuTech as a "real printer business" and recorded the wild ride in technology and business: - it was realy about the business and message was customer-customer and customer-supplier with a dash of hardware on the side. On Demand lived on the digital side of the gap between digital and offset printing that is pretty much closed now. I have a lot of fond On Demand memories from Javitts, Boston and Philly


By Chuck Gehman on Jul 27, 2012

Nice piece of history, Charlie, thank you. I attended and exhibited at several On Demands in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and DC.

Over the many years I learned a tremendous amount, made a lot of great friends. Launched several new products. Acquired many wonderful, long lasting customer relationships.

I would like to thank Charlie Pesko for his vision. He is truly a hero of our industry, and he played an incredibly important role in advancing digital and software for the industry.


By Noel Ward on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks so much for this great summation of this fine annual event. I was at all of them except for the last two and every one was a terrific experience.

At the first OD show I was the new editorial director of Print on Demand Business magazine, the flagship publication of the nascent digital printing industry. Then, and at each successive show, it was exciting and energizing to watch and report on the dynamic changes that began then and are still taking place today.

A big toast is in order to Charlie Pesko, his leadership, vision, and his team in creating this event and the level of interaction it created in the industry.


By Patrick Henry on Jul 27, 2012

Somewhat sadly, I can offer this report as a fill-in for Charlie's absence from On Demand 2012: http://metrographicsreporter.com/mgrblog/2012/06/17/on-demand/

I remember a joke told about the Seybold San Francisco events. A vendor was overheard to say that he'd been bringing his young son along to the dazzling displays at the Moscone Center ever since he was a baby. "The kid was 12 years old," the vendor said, "before he finally figured out that I wasn't taking him to Disneyland."

At their zenith, the On Demand shows delivered the same kind of excitement. Charlie's elegy reminds us vividly of what drew us to them--and poignantly of what we won’t see at them again.


By charles pesko on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks for the memories !
It's great to look back and remind us how our industry has changed so it only 15 years. I remember so well the first OD show in the basement of the Javits. Everyone thought we were crazy to start a digital print show, and today you are crazy if you have not adopted digital technology in your print shop.
You were a digital printing pioneer back at Harvard and Infotrends/CAPV, and now at Mimio.
Keep up the great work.



By Andrew Gordon on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks Charlie and Charlie! OD was at the nexus of our industry transformation. It's now front and center at Graph, Drupa and the other major shows. Judging the impact digital print is having on the industry, I'd say that OD was a resounding success. Now we have to figure out the next niche that will evolve into the next great show and opportunity for our industry? ... and Charlie, it was a pleasure paying you the $100 in $1 bills. I didn't believe you'd do it and was thrilled that you did! Next career?


By Paul White on Jul 27, 2012

Thanks for the wonderful compilation of ODS history. Those were the days that will provide fodder for those great summer porch conversations with the grandkids! As you mentioned, we did have a magazine that was focused on the business of on demand printing. Charlie Pesko was a visionary and a great believer in disseminating information, and he created “Print On Demand Business” magazine, and I was the publisher. Many thought we were crazy to have a magazine that focused on this new technology. However, we didn’t focus on the technology alone, we focused on how to use the new technology and run a more profitable business. We focused on what this new technology could produce; we focused on the “cost of making a sale”, not on the “cost of a single piece of printing”. It’s interesting to see that some printers are still grappling with understanding the difference between being a printer and being a solutions provider. I have fun going through my collection of original issues of “Print On Demand Business”, and see how some of those topics are still in active discussion.

The inclusion of AIIM within the ODS show always seemed a natural association to me. Storage and content management, after all, are integral parts of the digital document, and they seem to compliment one another. But then hybrid textbooks made up of several authors and printed as needed, also made great sense to me. Alas, the synergy of these concepts has not yet succeeded.


By Cary Sherburne on Jul 30, 2012

I remember On Demand 2008, I think, in Philly, where AIIM and On Demand shared the floor. Looking down at the floor from the escalator during an election year, it was strange to see one side with red carpet and the other with blue. Like our politicians in the States, it seems that red and blue are separate forever, and never the twain shall meet or cooperate. A missed opportunity.

Both On Demand and Seybold (and Xplor in the old days) were not only harbingers of the future, they were a great place to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I feel honored to have been able to experience those times, and also want to add my thanks to Charlie Pesko (and Jonathan Seybold) for the vision and courage to take the risk, one that paid off for their respective companies and for the industry.


By David Pesko on Aug 02, 2012

Great summary Charlie. Nice work! Charlie Pesko, Charlie Corr, and many of you who posted had the vision that POD was going to be big and not just a flash in the pan. The OD show was a great ride.

Charlie's State of Industry presentation was always well received and set the stage...people loved it. Looking back I would say the event went downhill once Charlie stopped giving that industry address!


By Cary Sherburne on Aug 02, 2012

But then, David, you are a little biased :-)


By Eddy Hagen on Aug 03, 2012

Conferences usually cover emerging technologies/markets/stuff or hypes or they are very niche oriented. Once an emerging technology becomes mainstream, the demand for a conference on the topic disappears. Digital printing, on demand printing has become mainstream, therefore the demand for a large scale conference has disappeared.

However, I don't agree with my observation: even for a mainstream topic we still need conferences, information sharing, gatherings. But the reality is that (top) management often looks at conferences etc the wrong way: they do not look at how much new information they got (the real ROI of a conference), but at the amount of information that they already knew ('been there, done that', a fake ROI measurement). And that's a sign of the times: every nanosecond has to be productive. Which might be true for a production environment, but it is absolutely NOT true for management, for strategic planning. When they are occupied the whole time with being productive, they don't have time for fresh ideas. You can't plan to generate fresh ideas on Tuesday morning between 10.30 and 11. Your brain doesn't work that way. To get fresh ideas, to get a better insight in difficult stuff, you need time off. You need to be away from your daily business. I get my best ideas in the morning in the shower, or during hiking trips in the mountains. Not at my desk. But in a society where every minute has to be accounted for, taking the time for thinking, searching, ... is being regarded as unproductive and therefor we can't afford it. Which is wrong. Mid to long term strategic planning demands a very different approach then production and trouble shooting. You need time (and budget) for that.

In 2012 we of course have the Internet and you can find all the information on the Internet, e.g. on dicussion groups, on LinkedIn. But it's not the same: on the Internet your attention span is extremely short. You can indeed find a lot of information, but probably you have already forgotten it by the end of the day... other more urgent stuff needed your attention. Being 'locked up' in a conference room the whole day, gives you the time to digest all the information you get, giving it a more lasting impression and really do something with it. The Internet will not be a substitute for real life conferences.

I've attended almost all OnDemand conferences since 1999 or 2000. Over the past ten years I've attended also many other conferences. All of them were worth while. In many cases half or even three quarters of the sessions didn't bring anything new to me. But the other sessions that did bring something new, they were very, very valuable. They gave me new, fresh ideas, they gave the investment a positive ROI. And that's were many people see the ROI of a conference in the wrong way, they think of the 'time wasted', not of the valuable ideas: if a conference would bring you just one good business idea, that would transform your business, would that be a positive ROI? Just that one good idea? Think about it. But probably you don't have the time to think about it... your day to day job needs every minute of your time...


By Pete Basiliere on Aug 06, 2012

I am honored to have been part of the On Demand family as a presenter, consultant, analyst and buyer.

Times change but the memories remain - Kudos to Charlie Pesko and everyone else who was involved with On Demand at every level for putting on a consistently meaningful and game-changing conference and exhibition.

Well done!


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