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Commentary & Analysis

10 Industry Changes That Make Me Grateful

Looking back, the industry has changed considerably in 20+ years. Here is a list of 10 changes for which I am grateful. How about you?

By Heidi Tolliver-Walker
Published: December 18, 2019

In this season of gratitude and giving, I’ve been thinking about things in this industry for which I’m grateful. I started in the printing industry in 1995, and like many of you, I’ve seen a lot of change. Here is a high-level (and sometimes low-level) look at some of the really neat things I’ve gotten to be part of. Please add your own in the comments!

  1. Industry never stops changing. It’s hard to get bored in an industry changing as quickly as this one. When I started, it was all ink and iron. Now a print shop can have offset, toner, high-speed inkjet, digital wide-format, and dimensional printing all in the same shop. It just makes you sit back and say, “Wow!”
  2. Processes keep getting better. Remember those days when the big discussion was whether toner-based printing was of sufficient quality to move beyond “pleasing color”? Or we couldn’t “distribute and print” because technology, workflows, and color standards couldn’t provide the consistency and predictability required? Today, we get excited about finding places to make incremental changes because the basics are, well, just that good.
  3. Smaller phone bills. Just the other day, I ran across a box with my tax prep documents from the mid 1990s. My phone bill looked like an old J. C. Penney catalog, and the bottom line number? Ouch! Good riddance to paying by the minute. Don’t miss those days at all.
  4. Email instead of fax machines. Sure, we still need fax machines for some things, but another thing I don’t miss is the brrrrrrr-wweeet! of an incoming fax waking me up at 3 a.m. This isn’t an issue for the average print shop, but for those of us working in home offices, it’s a welcome change.
  5. Mail is more interesting. With full, glossy color, variable data, more interesting substrates, interactive elements, and print-to-mobile tools, it’s more fun to go to the mailbox than it used to be.
  6. You aren’t tied to the office. Nearly everything we need to do for work, many of us can do from our phones. Yes, that means I get to work on my vacation, too, but the visibility into everything from sales to production management in a mobile environment also provides a level of flexibility none of us had “back when.” This has a lot of benefits, but for me, it means that it is easier to maintain my work-home balance.
  7. More creativity. With the vast array of channels and marketing tools, marketers have unbelievable creativity at their fingertips. Stunningly beautiful and creative pieces campaigns have been produced for years, but they were prohibitively expensive. Even 10 years ago, who thought you would be able to go online and buy pop-up pieces with interactive elements for super short runs cost-effectively? Or produce marketing pieces with dimensional printing in which a leaf feels like a leaf and a football feels like a football?
  8. Accessible education. The vast library of information available to every one of us at any moment of the day is astounding. Whether it’s a webinar, detailed market research, a case study library, or free templates for creating customer personas, whatever resource you need, it’s probably available free or low-cost somewhere. Just the amount of free market research alone is a sea change.
  9. The industry is getting younger. There has long been a concern about the aging of the industry, but with printing become a high-tech sport, along with the integration of things like digital and social media channels, augmented reality, and retargeting, it’s becoming more attractive to a younger generation. This brings new energy and new creativity to the industry, as well.
  10. The industry is getting greener. Not only is the production technology inherently cleaner, but “green” processes are easier, too. Whether it’s the use of alternative energy or green design, we are seeing printing companies leading the way to a more sustainable and earth-friendly business and production models.

That gets us started. Now, over to you. What are you grateful for?

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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