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Recent Commentary & Analysis

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Ubermarketer Vistaprint Makes Course Correction (Premium Content)

Many in the investment community view Vistaprint as an extremely successful and profitable printing company. Printers across North America point to the company as a model: “If I could just be another Vistaprint.” If you look a little more closely, you’ll see that Vistaprint is not “just another printer,” it’s a sophisticated marketing company that sells marketing products and services to consumers and small/micro businesses. They just happen to print those products.


Augmented Reality…It’s More than Hype! (Premium Content)

As we look back at 2009, a technology milestone for the printing industry, marketing communications, education, and the media world may be the rise of augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) is a field of computer science that involves combining the physical world with an interactive, three-dimensional virtual world.


FedEx Office and UPS Face Off with Online Offerings (Premium Content)

We recently spoke with The UPS Store's Christa Martin (VP of Product Development & Management) and FedEx Offices Anthony Norris (VP of Digital Access Marketing) about their businesses and competitive positioning in the marketplace.


Change In Number Of Employees For Commerical Printing & Services (Premium Content)


Consolidated Graphics’ Jim Cohen on the State of the Industry and CGX

As this recession drags on, WhatTheyThink is reaching out to various companies to see how they are doing, and what they are doing to survive and thrive.  We had the pleasure of speaking recently with Jim Cohen, Executive Vice President of Mergers and Acquisitions at Consolidated Graphics.  He had some very interesting insights to share.


Getting a grip on mission-critical “soft” skills: 5 simple steps (Premium Content)

Effective hiring and staff management aim to maximize the return from your company's human-capital investment and minimize the related financial risks. But obviously, you can’t hope to achieve these goals without at least a basic ability to assess the potential of people. In fact, people assessment is as essential a prerequisite for conducting performance reviews, promotions, and succession planning with your existing staff as it is for establishing benchmarks for new hires.


Protect Intangibles to Preserve Company Value (Premium Content)

A company's general intangibles have a very tangible impact on a company's valuation. Intangibles that are perceived as attractive can greatly enhance a company's value while negative or negligible intangibles can drag it down. To safeguard the worth of their businesses, NAPL Senior Vice President and Consultant John Hyde believes that graphic communications company owners should take proactive steps to protect their intangibles.


How Valuable Are You in the Marketing Supply Chain? (Premium Content)

I recently read two reports issued by the CMO Council that are definitely a must-read for anyone in our industry. Taken together, the two will arm innovative print service providers (dare I say marketing services providers??) with much of the ammunition they need to start a conversation at the highest levels in customer marketing organizations. Here are a few highlights, and some of them are pretty scary!


Look to 2010—Because You Really Have No Choice

This week, WhatTheyThink published our latest graphic communications industry forecast report, cleverly titled Print and Creative Forecast 2010, a look back at the year that was and, naturally, a look ahead at the year that will be. I worked on it with Dr. Joe Webb, whose Economic and Research Center data provided good chart-fodder for our quantitative analysis and forecast.


Tuck In, Luck Out: A Guide to an M&A Opportunity Built for Two

There’s strength in numbers, goes the old adage, but there’s also strength in the power of one—a cumulative strength that printing companies can achieve by undertaking the kind of merger known as a “tuck-in.”


Print Service Providers: Making the Connection (Premium Content)

In today’s economy, print service providers face the same challenges as any other marketers. They must be creative and challenge themselves to push beyond the boundaries of their minds—they must think outside the box for innovative ways of reaching customers and prospects. This requires an effective communications strategy that builds awareness while educating prospects and clients about the capabilities you offer.


Behind the Agfa Acquisition of Gandinnovations (Premium Content)

We may call this “the week that was” when looking back at the stories for 2009 in our year-end review! The Monday news opened a few eyes over morning coffee. While the Canon acquisition of Océ grabbed the day’s headlines; the second story – Agfa’s acquisiton of Gandinnovations – was just as interesting.


Canon and Océ, Can They Become Number One? (Premium Content)

Yesterday’s announcement that Canon is to acquire all the shares of Océ is obviously of great interest. Canon and Océ aim to create the overall No. 1 presence in the printing industry building on an enhanced scale and a combined history of innovation and excellent client servicing. The combination of the two companies is designed to capitalize on excellent complementary fit in the product range, channel mix, R&D and business lines.


Canon's Acquisition of Océ: The Details (Premium Content)

Following Canon’s announcement that it would acquire Océ, WhatTheyThink spoke with a number of sources to get more detail on this significant acquisition and continued sign of industry consolidation. While Canon proposes to purchase Océ at a 70% premium on the stock value, it works out to about 50% of Océ’s annual revenues. The press release is fairly detailed about the terms and conditions.


Following the Prinergy Saga (Premium Content)

There was quite a firestorm of online activity following a post at Prepress Pilgrim indicating that Kodak was moving its Prinergy development efforts to Israel and laying off everyone at the Willingdon Avenue plant in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. This started rumors that Kodak was shutting down development of Prinergy.  PrintCEO blog posted a Kodak statement with the company’s assurances that Prinergy is alive and well, and fully supported by Kodak.  WhatTheyThink contacted Jon Bracken, Kodak’s General Manager, Unified Workflow Solutions, in the Burnaby location to get more details on the company’s move.


Let's Be Strategically Social (Premium Content)

Where did Dr. Joe go when he was stumped about social media? Amazingly, he used social media. Social media is not one big online cocktail party or teenagers arranging to meet up at the mall. It's real business that requires a strategy, and it's more like broadcasting than it is a one-time project. The rules for social media are still being written through trial and error every day, and it's brought new focus to public relations professionals. Dr. Joe recommends some resources to take a decisive step into this critical new area of business and social communications.


Canada's Printing Industry as a Percentage of GDP (Premium Content)


1995 and all that (Premium Content)

Events converged in 1995 to change the printing world. Before that, it was the old printing industry. After that it would be the new printing industry. That year, paper, the Internet, the portable document format, the CD, and the PC converged to create a new paradigm. The number of printing companies would reach 62,000 in 1995 and it would be the highest number of printers ever.


Speaking of Networking...

Last Saturday was the twice-yearly Toastmasters District 53 Conference. I had been one of the two “co-chairs”—i.e., organizers—of the event, which was a long, nine-month process that was not unlike giving birth. The planning process generated seemingly terabytes of e-mails, an endless stream of phone calls (curse you, cellular technology!), and several reams of notes and other hard-copy documents.


Lessons From the Field I: Take Appropriate Action (Premium Content)

Commercial printers often turn to consultants to help them learn how to tackle tough challenges, but many of the industry’s most experienced consultants know that they can learn quite a bit from their printer clients as well.


Moving Inkjet Technology into the Future (Premium Content)

I have just attended the IMI European Ink Jet Printing conference in Barcelona. One tends to think that inkjet printing is something new but this was the 17th annual conference on this subject. One tends to forget just how long the inkjet technology has been around and also just how long it has been used in the graphic arts markets.


That Was the Economic Week That Was (Premium Content)

The talking heads were shocked that unemployment hit 10.2%, but had they read the news all week, it would have been no surprise. There was news that almost seemed good in the report, but despite—or perhaps because of—their shock, the talking heads missed it. The Federal Reserve is doing its best Nero imitation as the dollar weakens, and they keep mistaking credit for capital. Don't tell the paper companies, but instead of wasting time complaining about China, they should be focusing on helping their customers deal with competition from digital media. Are they taking Nero lessons from Ben Bernanke?


September 2009 Commercial Printing Shipments (Premium Content)


Chaos in Control

There is no shortage of books on the market about the sea change in media, as the world continues its inexorable march from offline to online, a topic that, bookwise, is perhaps rivaled only by the supposedly imminent destruction of the world on December 21, 2012. (I wouldn’t expect that to be a particularly brisk Christmas shopping season.) But while 2012 will not be the end of the world as we know it (however fine we may feel), the changing media landscape is the end of the world—the end of the old world of mass media and mass marketing, and of a time when marketers could dictate the message.


Talking to the CMO… A New Language in 2010 (Premium Content)

Today’s marketers are operating under a new set of rules. They must respond to a range of new challenges related to new media, changes in consumer behavior, a difficult market environment, and global expansion. With the rules changing, businesses are seeking new ways to market to, communicate with, and reach consumers. The implications of the fundamental shifts in consumer behavior are having a profound impact on marketing organizations and how they are spending their budgets.


A New Role for the Magazine Publisher (Premium Content)

The traditional role for the magazine publisher in the graphic arts market has been to publish news and articles about the industry, provide a medium for advertisers to get their messages across to readers, and in some cases provide seminars and tutorials, and for some publishers to run prestigious printing award events. What we are now seeing that some of these publishers are successfully extending their role to providing this information via the web as well as by printed means, and in certain cases this can be on a daily basis.


Duoyuan Printing, Printing Equipment Manufacturer Goes Public (Premium Content)

How long has it been since an equipment manufacturer filed for a public offering – an initial public offering (IPO) – in the printing industry? Fiscal year 2008, regardless of where it begins and ends on the calendar, was a particularly tough time for vendors, and income/loss over revenue ranged from -20.2% (EFI) to 9.7% (Punch Graphix).


An Action-Packed Week Ahead, If You Love Economic Data (Premium Content)

Economy geeks just love weeks like this. The beginning of the month has some of the most incredible data from the Institute for Supply Management, the Commerce Department, and especially, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All of the data are highly charged politically, and it's hard to see through the fog to assess what's right. But these macroeconomic data don't really matter when you're running a business. It's important to keep them in the right perspective.


Use of Social Media Services by Commercial Printers by employee size (Premium Content)

Use of Social Media Services by Commercial Printers by employee size


At Next Week’s Print Buyers Conference, Necessity is the Mother of Reinvention

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual Print Buyers Conference, which I found a compelling and enlightening mix of educational sessions, exhibitors representing printers across all markets and categories, and networking opportunities. Today’s installment of the Creative Corner will provide a preview of the 4th Annual Print Buyers Conference, and feature a chat with Margie Dana, guru (guress?) of print buyers, head of Print Buyers International, and the tireless organizer of the show.


Smart Public Relations Drives Business! (Premium Content)

When a satisfied customer tells a friend or business acquaintance about your products and services, you have an immediate “in” with those prospects. The same is true when a publication prints a story about how your business communications services have delivered a return on a customer’s marketing investment or reduced a client’s costs through improved supply chain management. The major difference between the two is that the readership of the publication is likely in the thousands or hundreds of thousands, and this number is hard to achieve through word of mouth.


Donnelley Says “You’re Fired!” (Premium Content)

In real life “do overs” can get expensive. In late September, R.R. Donnelley (NasdaqGS: RRD) filed an SEC form 8-K announcing that the company had terminated a contract with a “critical customer” and it would incur charges between $123 million to $130 million under the agreement. The termination would “end their contractual relationship allowing [Donnelley] to exit from certain unprofitable operations.”


Lessons from the Field II: Explore Your Options (Premium Content)

One thing was clear from the experiences of several National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) business consultants and other experts during their front-line field work over the past year or so: Harsh business conditions demand looking beyond business as usual, crafting solutions that might not ever have been considered in the past. The following are among the lessons learned from those who were keeping every option open.


Felt and Wire: Mohawk Creates Buzz in the Designer Community (Premium Content)

Mohawk Paper Mills Create Buzz in the Designer Community Do a Google search for “felt and wire” and most of the hits on the first two pages refer to Mohawk’s recently launched Felt and Wire blog, and even more recently launched Felt and Wire Shop.


A Flood of E-Books? (Premium Content)

E-books are not books, they're e-commerce sites that let you read books. Small businesses are cutting their ad budgets but increasing their digital spending. What the government statisticians giveth one week, they taketh away the next week. The Road Warrior thinks you shouldn't buy Windows 7, but buy a new computer instead, unless you're a Linux geek like he is. You know you're getting old when Patty Duke is making Social Security commercials and you can remember a time when the price of a color scanner had a comma, and there were five zeroes in the price.


Use of Social Media Services by U.S. Commercial Printers (Premium Content)


From ampersands to interrobangs (Premium Content)

In the 3rd century B.C. Aristophanes of Byzantium invented a system of single dots that separated verses and indicated the amount of breath needed to read each fragment of text aloud. The different lengths were signified by a dot at the bottom, middle, or top of the line. For a short passage (a komma), a dot was placed mid-level. The name came to be used for the mark itself instead of the clause it separated.


Graphic Design Goes Mobile? iPhone Apps for Creatives

Whilst a primary component of the Creative Corner will be hardware and software reviews, I need to say a word or two at the outset about star ratings. It’s common in just about any review you read to see a product’s quality expressed as some number of stars, computer mice, or some other appropriate icon—or perhaps even an upward- or downward-pointing thumb, for those who like their ratings decidedly binary. (I always liked the San Francisco Chronicle’s movie review ratings which feature a cartoon viewer either falling out of his chair agog with enthusiasm, falling asleep bored, or something in between.)


Implementing Lean Manufacturing into Newspaper Production Operations - Part B

Newspapers are a dynamic medium, and the development of newspaper products is continuously changing. The paper has been around for centuries, but today there are a myriad of alternatives for reading the news. In addition to changes in circulation, demand for quality, volume, price, and distribution has changed considerably. The newspaper as a medium must change to meet these demands.


“Recession, Schmecession,” says EFI’s Guy Gecht (Premium Content)

At the EFI press conference at Print 09, CEO Guy Gecht took a very different approach, using the “Recession, Schmecession” theme and tying a top ten attributes for success into the value of various EFI products. While we won’t be talking about the products specifically here, we thought his top ten attributes for success were worth delving into and took the opportunity to speak to Guy directly, hoping he would share his thoughts with our readers. Herewith the results!


Not Every Day is Easy When You're in Recovery (Premium Content)

The bumpy bottom is just that. When things improve, how do we know it's for real? If we just consult our lucky numbers, we may feel good. But we have to look past the attractiveness and take an objective look at what these lucky numbers really mean. If lucky numbers aren't lucky, then the real numbers should be better. Real numbers can be just as murky, especially when they deal with employment. Could Dr. Joe be wrong about stagflation? He takes a new look and explains it all.


Federal Reserve NAICS 323 Capacity Utilization Data (Premium Content)


Forget Doing "More With Less":  Older Workers Help Companies Accomplish "More with More" (Premium Content)

Among the clichés that have been touted throughout our recent economic decline is the demand that people learn to “do more with less”. On the contrary, with the following article PrintLink would like to demonstrate the advantages of “doing more with more” when it comes to hiring older employees.


Heidelberg & manroland – What’s Happening?


Introducing the Creative Corner

Welcome to the first installment of WhatTheyThink’s “Creative Corner,” a weekly feature/column targeted toward graphic designers (print, Web, and beyond) and other creative professionals. In this space each week, I’ll be presenting business tips, hardware and software reviews, sales and marketing strategies, emerging technologies, and graphic communications and media trends.


Mobile-to-Print: It’s Time for Print Service Providers to Figure it Out! (Premium Content)

Mobile devices are the one electronic device that most of us carry at all times. These devices are with their owners for more hours of the day than personal computers, TV sets, magazines, or radios. A recent Synovate survey provided clear evidence of how much people depend on their phones. Three-quarters of total survey respondents—including 82% of Americans—never leave home without their phones, and 36% of people around the world (42% of Americans) go as far as to say that they can’t live without their cell phone.


The Rise and Fall of Mallard Press Part 2 (Premium Content)

The recent closure of Mallard Press caught our eye. While I don’t know Bob Gay or the company personally, a review of its web site revealed a company that appeared to be on the right track and making the right investments for the future. Bob Gay was kind enough to speak frankly with us about the factors that led to the demise of the company.


Xerox iGen4 Update: Advances made in Packaging and Photo Markets (Premium Content)

Last year at drupa Xerox Corporation introduced a number of new products, two of which I want to cover in this article. The first is the Xerox iGen4 press and the second is the Xerox Automated Packaging Solution for the digital printing and production of folding cartons for packaging. Today, these two products make up the Xerox Automated Packaging Solution powered by Stora Enso Gallop. The automated digital system can print a variety of personalized packages in multiple languages. The packaging system can quickly switch from one job to the next, providing the flexibility needed in today's global and rapidly changing marketplace.  


The Rise and Fall of Mallard Press (Premium Content)

The recent closure of Mallard Press caught our eye. While I don’t know Bob Gay or the company personally, a review of its web site revealed a company that appeared to be on the right track and making the right investments for the future. Bob Gay was kind enough to speak frankly with us about the factors that led to the demise of the company. Perhaps there are lessons here for others in the industry who may be teetering on the edge or worried about the future.


Planning Often Gets in the Way of Running Business Well (Premium Content)

I finally got to one of those books in my “to read when I find some time” pile, Strategy Bites Back, published in early 2005. The principal author is Henry Mintzberg, whose Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, published in 1994, skewered, barbecued, and devoured the strategic planning process quite mightily. This newer book does so in a far more entertaining manner. It is a collection of short articles and excerpts craftily assembled for one purpose only: to make one think. I recommend reading it, and here’s why.


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