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Economics & Research Blog

If Marketing Services Does Not Include Apps, then It's Not Really Marketing Services

Any printer not getting involved in understanding “apps,

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: April 23, 2012

Any printer not getting involved in understanding “apps,” or those little programs that make owning iPhones and iPads and various Android devices so compelling, is missing out on grand opportunities. That's especially true for those printers who are, or claim to be, “marketing service providers.” If a business has a web site, it's hard to think of them not having an app as well. One of the reasons why I am greatly concerned about our industry shipments in Q3 and Q4 of this year is the sheer number of handheld and tablet devices that are accumulating in the marketplace. Apple alone is selling in the range of 12 million iPhones a month and 4 million iPads. I heard an interview recently on Bloomberg with a retail analyst who claimed that Best Buy is selling at the rate of about $800 per year per square foot of store space and Apple is selling at a rate ten times that. Amazing, huh? Apps are part of the “everywhere at once” aspect of today's communications that all businesses, small to multinational, that all businesses find bewildering, and that printers should find dripping with opportunity. Forbes had a marvelous article (hat-tip to BoSacks for leading me to it) “Are Apps The Future of Book Publishing?” It's loaded with great examples of what's going on with e-books, and is not one of those “scary statistics” article. What I got from the article is not stated there. I believe that the important take-away reminder is that the typical concepts of content management and repurposing only go so far. We can always pour wine into different bottles: big deal. Even though we can be skilled at re-arranging content and design orientations to maximize viewability for each, each new format has aspects of content implementation that can be made into unique advantages specific to that format. (If you're still skeptical about the whole “e-book thing” a recent report from Pew explains how libraries are starting to deal with the issue and provide new services for their patrons.) But getting back to apps, this headline from Bloomberg seemed a bit odd: “U.S. Wireless Seen Contracting After IPhone Binge.” The key paragraphs were:
 Sales of wireless contracts, the most lucrative segment of the business because it locks in monthly payments over long periods, may have shrunk for the first time ever in the first quarter. One big reason for the sharp reversal: Soaring iPhone sales in late 2011 may have satiated consumers’ appetites for wireless plans... This is a milestone,” Sharma said. “What you’ll see in a saturated market are the forces of consolidation and price pressure. Margins in the U.S. have already been shrinking at a faster rate than any other time in the wireless industry.”
While the wireless providers may be crying uncle, this is probably great news for consumers who will be seeing lower prices and more robust plans coming in their direction. Since most plans usually last about two years, there are still cell phone contracts that have never had significant data components. As those users switch to smartphones, their data use, and their data connectivity dependence, will increase. Remember, young users have no media loyalties to purposely abandon, they know only of a world with rampant communications. Older users are drawn by the convenience and immediacy of the latest media. They may express loyalties to older formats, yet their use of those media is in obvious decline. The newfound dependence on constantly connected handheld computer devices is yet another opportunity for print organizations to become advisors to their clients as they deploy their content in interesting ways. If you contend that your business is in “communications” or “marketing services” and not printing, it has to become a key offering to your clients.

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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