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Commentary & Analysis

It’s Not Just Birds That Migrate—Printers Do, Too

According to a new survey, printers are doing more than adding new products and services. They are migrating into fundamentally new lines of business...and doing it in large numbers.

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: April 10, 2019

Do you hear it? There is something in the air. It’s the sound of migration. But it’s not birds making a cross-country trek. It’s the activity of printers either already migrating or planning a migration from one area of business to another.

New research from NAPCO Media finds that 33% of commercial printers have already expanded into new areas, such as packaging, graphics and signage, and garment decoration. Either this, or they are taking active steps to expand into one of them. Another 39% are actively researching the opportunity.

According to the study “Convergence in the Print Industry: Understanding Growth Opportunities and Competition”:

  • 66% of printers think the industry is expanding “some” beyond their primary business; 27% think it is expanding significantly.
  • 81% believe the rate of expansion will accelerate over the next five years; 28% feel that the expansion will be significant.

NAPCO created a chart showing which segments (commercial, graphics, label, folding carton, etc.) are actively migrating or considering migrating into new segments, and if they are, which segments they are targeting. For commercial printers, the migration is as follows:

Segments Considering and/or Researching





Folding cartons


Flexible packaging








We are used to thinking about the industry’s evolution in terms of technology and workflow, and if printers are expanding into new markets, those markets being kissing cousins to their existing core capabilities. But what we see here is a more radical migration into markets that require more than new technology. They require entirely new business models, sales models, and employee skill sets. They are fundamentally new businesses. It’s no wonder that 19% of commercial printers expect their migration to occur through M&A activity. Why build it yourself when someone else has already done it for you?

This is not the printing industry we are used to. These migrations, as they continue to take place, have the potential to change the industry in more fundamental ways than even the change from offset to digital. They change what printers are.  

If you are considering migration, which segments are of most interest to you?

Heidi Tolliver-Walker Heidi is an industry analyst specializing in digital, one-to-one, personalized URL, and Web-to-print applications. Her Marketer’s Primer Series, availalbe through Digital Printing Reports, includes “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” 1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” and “Web-to-Print: Transforming Document Management and Marketing.”


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