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Frank on Industry Predictions from the 90s

Published on August 30, 2019

Frank talks about two studies from the 1990s that attempted to predict the future of the printing industry. He predicts that predicting the future is not easy.

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By Cary Sherburne on Aug 30, 2019

Great recap, Frank! Your story about the Spontane was right on the mark. Going back even further, the same thing happened with the Xerox DocuTech ... printers said their customers would never accept the quality, yet it ultimately decimated b&w offset, especially in tech doc at the time. Lessons learned! Take heed!


By Frank Romano on Aug 30, 2019

Thank you and Happy Birthday


By Werner Rebsamen on Aug 30, 2019

Frank - great comments! 1978, you and I predicted the POD future, yet nobody did listen to us. That particular year, I presented such a prediction to a Binders convention in Colonial Williamsburg. The next year, 1979, the president of that organization said my prediction did not come along!
1982, I bought my first Apple computer with 48K - at that time, the state of the art technology! We have come a long way. Printing and binding one book at a time are today such exiting endeavors.


By Bryan Gordon on Aug 30, 2019

Frank, you are right, if you only use information from printing trade associations, you may not want to make big capital investments in your printing company. Talking to end users, possibly the marketing folks at larger companies that consume printed products would be good balance.

I have a lot of letterpress artifacts in my garage that my kids have no idea what they are good for. I wonder I my grandkids will recognize a litho plate someday? Will Nanography and ink jet have most of the market share in 2030? Whoa, it is hard to predict the future in printing.


By Raymond Prince on Aug 30, 2019

Predicting in this industry it difficult as it is in most industries. Keeping your eye on the pulse is easy. Talking with customers and attending the major trade shows and prowling all those little booths can open your eyes to what may be coming. Good piece Frank.


By Dennis Mason on Aug 30, 2019

Yogi Berra said it all: "It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."


By Graham Judd on Aug 30, 2019

I remember around 1967, the foreman of our printing company (in New Zealand) saying "one day in the future you will take a pile of paper, zap it somehow from the top and it will print the whole pile right through from top to bottom". Looking back I think he was quite prophetic in his thinking, this could happen one day, in our lifetime!


By Muhd Yusuf on Aug 31, 2019

"...to look beyond where we are" (Romano, 2019)


By Eddy Hagen on Sep 01, 2019

Very valid points Frank.

The biggest influences (or often: dangers) come from outside the industry. You correctly mentioned the internet, mobile internet (on a userfriendly handheld device) was even more disruptive.

Predicting where the industry as a whole will go to is already difficult, predicting 'numbers' (think: CAGR and market shares for different technologies) is even more difficult. And tricky. I've seen comparisons that are just invalid. E.g. the cross over between different technologies (yes: digital vs offset). For over a decade I saw the same graph, as if offset wasn't changing. When the first version of that graph was created, the time needed for a job change on an offset press was 45 minutes to 1 hour. The last time I saw that graph, it was only a few minutes. But the figures for offset in that graph hadn't changed... Making it completely unreliable. And very deceptive.

It will always be very difficult to predict the future. The only way to have something a bit reliable is, like you and others already said, to go outside the industry (whether it is printing or any other industry) and listen to customers, see what people in general are doing and what their concerns are, see what kids are doing and what they like doing. But even then, it could go in a completely different direction…

CEOs, VPs, managers should make it a part of their schedule to keep up with developments, both market and technology. Not once ever few years, but on a regular basis.


By David Avery on Sep 17, 2019

I think I need to re-read my copy of Print 2020!!!!


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