One of the questions running around the industry these days is what to expect for attendance at On Demand. Given the economy, war and nagging thoughts of terrorism, there are certainly many who won't venture to Gotham and the Javits Center. But if last year's print shows are any indication, the annual spring gathering of the purveyors, producers, and consumers of digital print will likely be a busy, but not overly crowded show. Co-located with AIIM, expect On Demand 2003 to be populated with people from who believe the way out of the moribund economy and fear of the uncontrollable is to find ways to work smarter. They'll be at On Demand asking questions and looking for solutions that give them a competitive advantage.

I was talking with the president of Chicago-area firm last week that does all kinds of digital printing but does not describe himself as a printer. His company does highly customized and targeted marketing communications, some call-center-driven, some web-enabled, much of it digital color printing. The color helps sell it , but it's his apps that drive it. He's focused on bringing in more business with a unique package of goods and services that his competitors cannot easily replicate. His eye is on customer needs and how he can help his customers work smarter, save money and build more business. He is using on-demand printing technology as a competitive weapon and he is being successful. His shop is refined to operate efficiently whether the job is a run of one or a run of a few thousand. The value to the customer is in application development and the uniqueness of the documents; his profitability is in his internal efficiencies and the ability to leverage skill sets across his organization to match customer needs--not in clicks. Pending deals and business are keeping him from On Demand this year, but his counterparts at many other firms will be in New York thinking ahead and looking for an edge.

A look through the show web site ( or show brochures highlight the shift from technology to applications and workflows. Here's a sampling of sessions that show the key themes:

Fulfillment: Why is this the Killer App?

Best Practices for In-Plant Success

Managing a Super-Efficient Production Operation

Standards: What they mean for your Business

Content Driven Production & Value-Added Services

Cross-media: From Print to Web to Wireless

Anatomy of a Direct Mail Campaign

Pricing Strategies for POD Output & Solutions

Implementing Personalized Multi-Channel Campaigns

Why Should you Consider Color in the Data Center?

Out on the show floor, vendors I've heard from so far will be showcasing workflow strategies and application-specific tools. They'll be showing off real-world examples of how their hardware, software work to deliver real-world examples of applications companies are using today--and seeing positive results.

Look for new and strengthened alliances, too. Even the largest vendors are realizing that the synergy of ideas, creativity and innovation that comes from partnering is key to success. It's not just feeds and speeds, it's not just print quality, it's not just cost per impression. Those are important, but it's convergence of applications, databases and workflows that use the print speed, quality and lower cost per click that make the winning combination. At On Demand you'll get a fresh glimpse at what can be done and what is being done. Sure, some of it will be hype as usual, but some if it will be real, and worth a closer look. 

But if you can't make it down to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, stay tuned here, and we'll give you the pulse of the show, what people are looking for, asking about and seeing as they look to the future of their business.