By Noel Ward, Executive Editor December 20, 2004 -- Geez, I did it again! I seem to have misplaced another year! It seems to have started just a few weeks ago, but now the calendar says it's December and I don't know where 2004 went. I remember an awful lot of airplanes, hotel rooms and time zones. Then there was that drupa thingy over in Germany that involved an amazing amount of walking around, eating sausages and drinking some really good beer. Can't believe that was back in May! Anyway, here we are in the penultimate week of the year and I'm thinking back on what has gone on--and what lies ahead in 2005. Looking Forward One thing that's coming at us is a big change here at On Demand Journal. Beginning in January we will make the leap to being a daily. Instead of landing in your inbox on Tuesday with five or six columns, cases, white papers and the like, you'll receive one and eventually two articles on most days. Most of our regular columnists will still be on hand, and several others are coming on line over the next few weeks. More executives from leading vendors will be adding their knowledge and sharing their perspectives on the key issues and trends in our industry. They'll be joined by several veteran consultants, writers and analysts who will share their expertise on sales and marketing, mailing, variable data printing, hardware, software and more. We'll also be closing the loop with all of you. All of our current contributors already receive emails from readers and we'll be compiling your comments and thoughts in our new Letters Column. So when you read something on ODJ that drives you to put fingers to keyboard, be sure to let us hear from you. Another new feature will be "Sitting In," a column written by anyone who wants to share their point of view on key issues related to digital printing. Look for details on Sitting In in the weeks ahead. And finally, we'll continue to build the industry's largest free archive of white papers and case studies exclusively about digital printing. Looking Back That's what's coming up. But the future is built on the past and present, and I wanted to take a look back at 2004 and point out some of the Best of ODJ from our first full calendar year online. It just wouldn't be the same at ODJ without the inimitable Mike Chiricuzio (aka Doctor Printing). Mike has more plates in the air than just about anyone I know, but always manages to find time to share his hands-on practical knowledge with ODJ readers. I like his ironic sense of humor and while it's hard to point to any of his columns as best, one of his early this year is among my favorites. In it he reminds us that "Focus is the Missing Ingredient" in many of our business endeavors. Carro Ford is among the few professional writers in this industry who actually has a real knowledge and understanding of how the different parts of the printing business works. That's one of the reasons I love having her words land in my inbox on time each month. Anything by Carro is good and it’s great to have her words showing up here every month. To see what she brings to the party, read "Convincing Your Customers to Succeed." John Giles and I go back about a decade and have done similar things at times. We share a very similar perspective--and often frustration--regarding print providers who just don’t seem to understand that carefully integrating technology into their businesses is a good thing, and essential for survival. One of his columns this year "Do You Train Your Customers?" strikes a chord with me as it is a message John and I have presented on many times--sometimes at the same conference. No matter how sophisticated your operation may be, it is worth a read. Each month Harvey Hirsch has brought us stories, ideas and examples in his ongoing Samurai of Sales series. His columns--and the success of his business--show that thinking "outside of the envelope" and using targeted messages brings big dividends. One of my favorites was Chapter1: Using 1:1 Marketing to build relationships. If you want to grow your business--or help your customers do so--put Harvey's recommendations into action. Nancy Ingalls talked about "Data Mining for Value" in one of several columns about data, databases, and using them for marketing. Nancy's data-oriented are good to read in conjunction with some of Bob Miller's columns. Data is at the core of variable data printing and many printers--and their customers--are still grappling with the best ways to manage it. Bob Miller of the Rochester Group gave us a lot of clear thinking on how to handle recalcitrant data in a series that included "How Clean is Your Data?". For many companies the answer is, "Not very!" And Bob's articles help you fix that. Terry Nagi is another industry veteran who knows how things work. One of his best this year talked about the difference between adding value and value added. It's an important distinction to understand. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro is another of the pro writers who really understands the industry. She takes the time to put the business issues--strategic and tactical--into many of her columns which typically generate a lot of email. Her two recent columns on VDP have been excellent and if you haven't already, you should read, print and circulate. Like any good publication, we are not averse to controversy and we had a minor war of words and ideas when Frank Romano teed off on the real-world worth of JDF. Responses came from all quarters, but the most detailed hailed from James Harvey of CIP4. It was a great interchange and we look forward to similar discussions in 2005. Mike Wesner joined us for a while this year, then took a hiatus, but he will be back in 2005. Mike has sold his share of digital and variable print and comes at the business a bit more aggressively than some--and that's a good thing. His first ODJ column, Relevance: The real Key to 1:1 Marketing still resonates as does another that generated a good deal of mail in which Mike talks about Digital Printing as a Great Weapon for a Sales Hunter. One of the things that makes ODJ unique is that we have a variety of vendors contributing to our content on an ongoing basis. We believe it makes for a much richer site, as the columnists have a huge breadth and depth of knowledge and experience to share, and tend to see the big picture of the market differently than print providers or analysts. Ed Crowley brings ODJ readers the notion of Market Intelligence--a concept that print providers need to pay more attention to in our increasingly convergent market place. Knowing what your competitors are up to, and being able to act on it can be crucial these days and Ed gives some insights on what you need to be thinking about. Check out "Market Intelligence on a Budget." Chuck Gehman from EFI has had several great columns this year, always original, informative and sometimes provocative. Chuck often sends me an email that goes something like, "What would you think of (fill in the blank)?" It's always a fine idea and I'm yet to say no. One of his best was "A Different Kind of On Demand". We've also enjoyed a steady stream of columns from Presstek. I'm a fan of the company's technology and always look forward to seeing what they have to say. No matter whether CEO Ed Marino or one of his team writes the words, they are always informative and worth reading--and thinking about. I like one of their recent ones best, "The Siren Song of CIM". You can get a lot of good thinking and superb examples out of any of Barb Pellow's columns. One of the ones I liked best was on Group Global: Building a Digital Business. Barb's curiosity, experience and above all, her enthusiasm for the industry comes through in every article she writes and Barb always brings out the best in the people she talks with--and that gives us all great examples to read. Kodak's Graphic Communications Group--and ODJ--are fortunate to have Barb on their side. Bob Raus of Océ North America is a workflow guru and evangelist who has spent the year talking about how workflow is best when it addresses all the needs of the markets and environments where it is used. All Bob's columns are a good read, but one that sums his many of his points up well is "Three Traits Of Consistent Workflows." Other vendors sharing their perspectives on ODJ included Pat Taylor of Proactive Technologies. Early in the year Pat told us how Digital Printers Need Digital Infrastructures. But as a CEO, Pat also understands the business side as evidenced in columns like "The Elusive Value Proposition." Look for more from Pat in 2005. So looking back, I guess I see where 2004 went. Thanks for all your support this year. I hope 2004 was busy and successful for you and that you'll be joining us again in 2005. We'll be here and coming at you every day. Happy holidays!