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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).
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
The reaction to the first article, both at Print CEO and personal communication, has been overwhelming. Editors, consultants, affiliate managers and staff, educators, and, most of all, printers support merging the two commercial printing associations. There has been no word from NAPL or PIA. Why am I expressing these opinions? Because no one else will.
For the past 3-4 years, I have talked about the emergence of the Marketing Service Provider (MSP). This year, the market will see the convergence of three realities that have been building in strength over the past decade. First, today’s consumers are “always on”—they enjoy more connectivity and control than ever before. Second, the media environment has become more complex than any marketer could have imagined a mere 10 years ago. Third, these economic times have created an intense demand to demonstrate ROI. All three of these factors create a perfect storm for MSPs… and the boat is rocking!
Océ has for a long-time been a company that had excellent communication with its clients. For many years it has run an annual event, the Océ OpenHouse. This was a multi-day event at which Océ’s customers and prospects were invited to attend, plus a large number of analysts and press also attended. It was claimed that this was the largest digital printing fair in Europe.
Friday's unemployment report was very discouraging, but news reports weren't discouraging enough. That doesn't mean there isn't good news: recent manufacturing data have some signs of encouragement. The most encouraging thing would be the acknowledgment that businesspeople taking risks is what will ultimately grow the economy, and nothing else. Chaos is good... especially if there are 30 days of it.
Percentage of Printers That Promote Themselves as Marketing Services, Communications Graphics or Media Management Businesses ()
I recently ran into Patrick White, an industry veteran I had not seen a long time. In the late 1990’s, Patrick was regarded as one of the industry’s leading prepress consultants and was the recipient of NAPL’s 1998 Technical Leadership Award. In 1995, he founded Digital Art Exchange, known as DAX, as an integrator of ISDN (remember that??) and related technologies for prepress connectivity applications.
NETWORKING is the single most powerful marketing tactic that can be used to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization. Networking is about making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship-building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another. Nielsen's Global Online Consumer Survey found that a recommendation was the most important form of advertising. In fact, 90% of the 25,000 consumers surveyed reported that they trusted recommendations from people that they knew. Networking is designed to create “fans” and “friends” that would recommend you to others.
It is not very often one comes across what could be termed industry changing or breakthrough products. I believe what I am writing about today could be such a product. One subject that has exercised the brains of many of the best technical experts in the industry is that of screening. It is also a subject that has generated a great degree of income for the patent lawyers who work with this industry’s suppliers.
VistaPrint (VRPT) provides print and marketing services to more than 20 million customers, who spend an average of $33 per order. The company, recently ranked number 16 on the Fortune 100 Fastest Growing Companies list, has manufacturing facilities in Windsor, Ontario, and Venlo, Netherlands.
Expectations often shape the perception of what are supposedly good data, and sometimes good data just are not what they are cracked up to be. Bad selling from memorized scripts could be handled by automatons. In some cases, that might be an improvement. Up-selling, when poorly done, is probably one of the aspects of sales that undermines confidence of buyers, especially first-time customers, making them unlikely to become second-time clients.
Theodore De Vinne and less than 20 large American printers formed the United Typothetae of America in the late 1800s to provide a united front against the Typographical Unions’ demand for an 8-hour work day. UTA was formally organized in 1887 at a convention in Chicago attended by 68 delegates representing 18 master printer’s associations and 22 cities. Its purpose was “to develop a community of interests and a fraternal spirit among the master printers of the United States and Dominion of Canada and for the purpose of exchanging information and assisting each other when necessary.” The United Typothetae of America would become Printing Industries of America.
Last week, Barb Pellow wrote an article on WhatTheyThink about Print 09 emphasizing that people came to the event with a purpose, and much of that revolved around education. She highlighted Executive Outlook and the conference sessions, as well as WhatTheyThink’s first-ever in-person educational event, the Print CEO Forum, along with the significant networking opportunities attending a show like Print 09 offers. I wanted to add to that perspective. I think many of the exhibitors also did an excellent job of providing in-booth educational opportunities. Of course, they were there to sell products and services, but they also put forth extraordinary efforts to emphasize the educational element.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a field of computer science that involves combining the physical world with an interactive, three-dimensional virtual world. This may be a new term to some of you, but augmented reality makes print the ultimate in interactive media. It is perhaps the coolest use of paper I’ve seen in my lifetime, linking print with the technology that most people have on their desks. This might sound like science fiction, but augmented reality is here today.
Print’09 has now taken place. Unfortunately I was unable to be there but I have followed the event and comments about the event on a wide range of media. From this I have come to a number of conclusions, however I’m sure many attendees will not agree with what I concluded about the event.
As it happens, and as reported below, both KBA and AccessGroup fared rather well as exhibitors at Print 09. But, like every other exhibitor, they have no illusions about the fact that because their customers are struggling, they too will continue to struggle against a recession from which printing could be one of the last industrial sectors to emerge. That lingering economic drag was evident throughout the show, even when interest in its many technological advancements was keenest.
The matrix, not of the movie kind, puts it all together. The New Printer has New Opportunities, but requires the insights of the entrepreneur to dive into this confusing, changing, and ultimately rewarding marketplace.
"Unscientific" has to be the word for our selection of exhibitors to write about in the aftermath of Print 09. Some are on the follow-up list because of pre-booked editorial appointments; others because of what we heard at media briefings during the show; and, in a couple of cases, because we were buttonholed by pouncing p.r. people as we moved past the booths, never intending to stop. But, at a show like Print 09, any reason for spending time with a vendor usually turns out to be a good one in terms of knowledge gained.
Almost every guide to “going green” starts with paper. Use the right paper, use recycled paper, use both sides – in printing, it almost always starts with the paper. Several paper manufacturers (Mohawk Fine Papers, Neenah Paper and NewPage) and a number of paper merchants (including xpedx, Pitman, Eagle Ridge Paper, and others) had stands at Print09, and a representative of Appleton Coated caught me in the aisles.
Like many of you who are reading this column, I just returned home from PRINT 09. While there was discussion about less traffic and participation on the show floor, my perspective is that people came to this year’s PRINT 09 event with a purpose. Justifying attendance in a difficult economy is challenging. I interviewed several individuals that participated in this year’s show. Unlike past years, these individuals came to the show with very explicit objectives.
To state the more or less obvious: Print 09 is an offset litho show. The rise of digital presses and a decline in the number of offset presses seen at the last three Graph Expos may have lowered the profile of conventional printing at the Graphic Arts Show Company (GASC) events somewhat, but it’s plain to see that the traditional ink-on-paper process is back in full force this year.
Bernhard Schreier has seen five economic crises since he joined Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG in 1975, the first of them being the one brought on by the oil embargo that threw businesses around the world into a tailspin. He also recalls the stock market meltdown that the printing industry was only starting to recover from on September 11, 2001, before the awful events of that day threw it and the rest of the U.S. economy back into a state of shock.