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Marco Boer Highlights New PRIMIR Study

Published on November 28, 2011

Cary Sherburne and Vice President of IT Strategies Marco Boer highlight some of the key findings in the latest PRIMIR study, Impact of Electronic Technologies on Print.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi.  I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com, and I'm here with Marco Boer from IT Strategies.  And you just completed yet another PRIMIR mega-study, and PRIMIR being the Industry Research Association, and that’s titled—this one is the Impact of Electronic Technologies on Print.  And I’m sure that a lot of our listeners out there are very interested in getting maybe some highlights on what you found so far.  And it’s not quite complete yet but you’ve got some preliminary findings you can share with us?

Marco Boer:  Right.  So this study is really a follow-on to the study that we did last year about the transition of offset pages to digital print.

Cary Sherburne:  Okay.  

Marco Boer:  And I think what we found is that at that time many of the offset pages just disappeared.  Digital printing is growing very nicely, but offset is declining much faster.

Cary Sherburne:  So it’s not really transfer, it’s just new applications or shorter runs.

Marco Boer:  That’s right.  And so that led the PRIMIR Study Committee to say well, what’s happening to all those pages.  Is it electronic printing that’s really impacting it?  So we set out to interview for 12 applications, document-related from books to newspapers, magazines, what the impact of electronic technologies has been and will be on print.  And what we’re finding is frankly a bit sobering, because it’s not so much that electronic tablets and readers and so forth are really changing the world, that’s almost like a side effect.  What’s happening is that as the Internet and electronic technologies have enabled different types of content creation, it has allowed the business models of publishers to change and evolve.  

So in other words, print has always been very cost-effective and usable and so forth, but in the case of book publishing, universities, in particular, they’re saying, you know, we’ve lost control of our book sales through the book stores.  Because it used to be we got some of their used book sales, now the publishers have moved to rental models and we’ve been cut out.  So guess what we’re doing?  We’re going to go and have all our students go to Tablet PCs because it’s green, but what’s really happening underneath it is that if we give them Tablet PCs we control the access in the on ramp to that information.  And guess what, the publishers are going to have to cut us in if they want to sell.

Cary Sherburne:  So they renew that revenue stream.

Marco Boer:  So it becomes a new revenue stream.  And you’re going to see that in a lot of different applications where it’s not necessarily that people want to proactively get rid of print, but what they want to do is they want to find new ways to capture more of that value stream, and so electronic technologies are enabling them to do this.  The good news is is that for the print that remains and that’s still extremely valuable, it has to become more automated and more efficient.  And so if you listen to Bernard Sharah, he basically, in not so many words, said look, we’ve lost 20 percent of print volumes, they’re not going to come back; anything that can go online will go online but oh, by the way, what’s left is going to be extremely, you know, important in terms of making that more efficient, so we’re going to sell more automated equipment and so forth.  

And he’s not incorrect, but what I think is lurking underneath it is that it’s not just about becoming more efficient with print, it’s about adding more value.  And so these things about variable data printing and customization that have been talked about for years and years that haven’t really happened, all of a sudden are becoming more important.  And it’s not that the volumes are huge, it’s just that their revenue and what you can charge per page is enormous, because you’re now shifting the conversation you have with your customer about what can I charge you for this page to what can I charge you for the value I’m creating.  

And so the upside for digital printer manufacturers, in particular, I think is very, very strong.  The not so good news is on the analog side a lot of commercial printers probably won’t survive because they can’t automate quickly enough.  And in a way, you know, we were always afraid from a commercial printer perspective that digital printing was the enemy, right, to offset printing.

Cary Sherburne:  Right.

Marco Boer:  And it turns out that I think that’s not right.  Digital printing ultimately is going to be the savior, I think, of many commercial printers.  It’s not the enemy, it’s the savior.

Cary Sherburne:  Well, I have heard a lot of printers say I’ve bought my last offset press.

Marco Boer:  And in many cases that’s correct, yes.  So it’s not a good story.  What it ultimately means for the digital print—or not just digital, but the analog and supplies manufacturers—is that if they’re going to survive and help their customers survive they really have to start taking some bold moves.  They can’t be incremental refinements or slightly faster, slightly more efficient.  I mean it really has to take quantum leaps.

Cary Sherburne:  Well, it’s interesting because you see, you know, especially now you’re seeing all these announcements of, you know for example, Heidelberg getting back into digital with partnerships with Ricoh and EFI-VUTEk.  And, you know, Canon and Oce partnering with, you know, MAN Roland.  And actually, [Kamore] KBA partnering with Donnelley, you know, for inkjet.  

Marco Boer:  That’s right.

Cary Sherburne:  So you’re seeing—you’re seeing more of a hybrid approach even among the manufacturers.

Marco Boer:  But that may be a move of desperation rather than a true strategic move, right.  So I think what we’re finding is that because the rate of change now is being so compressed, you know, it’s not like we move in ten-year cycles any more or even five-year cycles.  You’ve got to take bolder decisions and if you don’t you’re at great risk of finding yourself basically becoming obsolete.

Cary Sherburne:  Obsolete.  So this report will be published in the December timeframe?

Marco Boer:  Right.  

Cary Sherburne:  And what we’d like to do is, you know, check back with you after it’s been published and get maybe a little more detailed discussion we can do in a written article on WhatTheyThink to get a—because I think, you know, I mean it sounds like it’s very important that people actually acquire this report; if they’re not a member of PRIMIR that they consider either becoming a member or purchasing the report.  But we’d also like to just have the opportunity to give them a summary of your actual final findings.

Marco Boer:  Yes.  I think the most interesting findings you’ll find is that it’s the business models that are causing this change.  It’s not anything else.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.  Well great, this has been very interesting.  Thank you.

Marco Boer:  Thank you, Cary.

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