“A Stroke of Genius”

The joint venture between the Association for PRINT Technologies (APTech) and WhatTheyThink, in my opinion, is a “stroke of genius” and an example of how an association and a media organization can combine intellectual resources for the greater good of the graphic communication/printing industry. 

At a time when professional associations in our field are in retraction and/or consolidation, APTech and WhatTheyThink created an expansion by combining the resources of an association and a media organization. This has the potential of reintroducing services that in past decades supported and influenced the growth and development of the printing industry through the work of three associations. My congratulations goes to Thayer Long, APTech president and to the entire APTech team, as well as to Eric Vessels, WhatTheyThink president, Adam Dewitz, COO, and Vice President Kelley Holmes and to the creative team of WhatTheyThink writers and other contributors, for this extraordinary development.

This announcement was made on June 15, 2022. However, I needed a few days to reflect on this development and on what it could mean going forward for our industry. Here is my assessment. 

“The Big Three”

I’m reminded of the days impacted by the associations that I call, “The Big Three,” namely the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF), Printing Industries of America (PIA), and the National Association of Printers and Lithographers (later to become the National Association of Printing Leadership (NAPL). GATF focused on research, testing, consulting, and publishing. PIA focused on providing representation, advocacy, training, and labor relationships for the printing industry. NAPL focused on programs for business management enhancement, industry economics, and related areas.

These organizations had an active press reporting on the initiatives of each organization, as well as on news relevant to the printing industry in general. I sense that the APTech and WhatTheyThink joint venture has the opportunity for reigniting the types of services that were so instrumental by “The Big Three.” I am not suggesting the reintroduction of expensive, capital-intensive labs, staffing, and facilities previously required. Business is no longer conducted this way with the growing popularity of remote services. However, the industry still needs access to sources for research, testing, consulting, representation and advocacy, training, labor relations, business management enhancements, industry economics…and publishing! I see the APTechand WhatTheyThink partnership becoming the resource for “one-stop shopping” for access to these services.

Expositions and the Industry Press

Of great importance is that other industry associations and publications are maintaining their relevance in continuing their specialized role in supporting the industry’s present and future development. For example, PRINTING United Alliance picked up the need for important industry expositions that no longer exist, such as Graph Expo and The Print Show. The industry segment-specific news publications such as, for example, those serving in-plants, packaging, publishing, digital imaging, as well as the all-purpose Printing Impressions, American Printer, Seybold/The Joss Group, Printing News (Acquired by WhatTheyThink in 2018), Output Links, and many others, are crucial to continue informing the industry as independent sources for news, op-eds, and special features. The industry press is vital in informing its constituencies with information helpful in planning, decision-making, and in being kept abreast of overall industry issues and direction.

The APTech and WhatTheyThink alliance demonstrates how an association and media organization can work together in supporting the importance of all associations, publications, and of the entire industry.