The following was submitted as a comment to the post entitled, Andrew Tribute Asks: “Do We Need Graph Expo Each Year?”. The writer is Gene Gable, the former president and publisher of Publish magazine, president of Seybold Seminars, and publisher of The Seybold Report. Because of its length and relevance, we are presenting it as a post in its own right. Your comments are encouraged—Ed. I was horrified to read my friend Andy Tribute’s comments that Graph Expo may be better relegated to an every-few-years event. This is the exact wrong message to send to the industry and the world, and is the first step in taking the printing industry down the path of so many other no-longer-relevant endeavors. Andy spoke of both the Seybold Seminars events and Comdex, the once-giant computer show, both of which are no longer with us. But instead of those events reinforcing his point, they actually prove just the opposite. I ran the Seybold events from 1999 to 2002, and was a top executive for the company that produced Comdex. In both examples there is a story relevant to the current situation at GraphExpo. When I took over Seybold, all of my friends in the industry came to me and lamented that Seybold was no longer what it use to be and deplored me to somehow wave a magic wand and make the industry relevant and interesting again. This in an era when the once-giant brands like Linotype-Hell, Scitex, Agfa/Compugraphic and many others were ceding their leadership roles to upstarts such as Adobe, Quark, Macromedia and Apple. At the same time, the industry generally threw a fit when we tried to cover the growing role of the Internet in communications and balked at the thought that “new media” played an important role in what they did and the products they delivered. So rather than embrace some change, many people simple held on to technology and business practices that were no longer productive. The case of Comdex is quite different, but also holds a lesson. Comdex refused to change when computer technology became commodity products. The market for Comdex didn’t go away, it simply shifted to other venues. Today the Consumer Electronics Show is one of the largest in the world and there you will find many of the previous Comdex exhibitors, still spending huge amounts of money to showcase their products. But instead of computers being sold at specialty shops and computer retailers, they are sold at Best Buy and Amazon. So in one case you have a market that refused to change and in the other a show that refused to adapt to the changing market. I know the folks who run the Graphic Arts Show Company, and while they can’t control what happens in the marketplace, I can guarantee that they are paying attention and trying very hard to adapt the events to suit current market conditions and developments. The other mistake that Andy makes is to assume that events like Graph Expo are all about selling equipment. Yes, of course big trade shows have to make sense from a marketing perspective and have to provide exhibitors and attendees a return on their investment. But just as the auto manufacturers don’t look at auto shows as a place to directly sell cars, the graphic arts industry has to see the value in creating a showplace for the world to see the innovation and important developments that are taking place within the field. I am currently working in the venture capital business and I see all kinds of interesting developments, such as thin-film solar panels, where printing and coating technology will play huge rolls in the cost-effectiveness of manufacturing. These industries are not going to wait four years to see new technology, and neither are many of the new businesses being established around managed print services and in-house digital printing. And a big role that events such as Graph Expo play is in the continuing education and social networking of the industries they serve. Getting together for important conversations every few years, especially for an industry facing serious issues, is hardly going to generate the sort of answers and innovation that might turn a slump into new opportunities. There are clearly answers that will deliver a pay-off for exhibitors and attendees while keeping Graph Expo current and timely. But decreasing the frequency of the event is not one of them. Of the many shows I’m familiar with, Graph Expo is actually in one of the best positions to remain relevant because it is owned by the industry itself. Yes, some thing will have to change, and the industry will have to collectively decide that it is worth the effort and thoughtful consideration to make those things happen. They may include some further consolidation with other events and groups, or looking to related industries for partnership opportunities. But Andy, please don’t suggest that Graph Expo go down the fatal path of minimizing its relevance and importance. Now is the time for the industry to fight. You can’t just wish times were better or that we could go back in time and recapture the glory of days long past. You have to look forward with determination and enthusiasm, and the industry players that comprise the Graph Expo community have to make critical decisions together. That process simply has to include an annual event that showcases what is still great about the United States graphic arts industry and the promise it holds for the future.