By Noel Ward, Executive Editor October 20, 2003 -- Sometimes we have a downright interesting confluence of ideas rolling between our columns here at ODJ. While we often cover a lot of ground on any given week, we don't necessarily coordinate the efforts of the columnists around specific themes. But what comes out can be surprising. This week, for example, George Whalen gives us a second helping of his insights into where the profits are in variable data printing, citing more data from TrendWatch Graphic Arts and providing some good examples of how VDP is being used. In contrast to George's story is Chuck Gehman's very pragmatic—and in my opinion, largely accurate—perspective on what needs to be done by software application developers to really help variable data printing take off in among graphic designers and in the commercial print space. Read George's first, then Chuck's. Then see what John Giles has to say about who is in charge in prepress—and how that may be effecting how your business operates. Next, tie the three stories together to see yet another reason why variable data printing is still more of a promise than a reality for far too many printers. And ask yourself what barriers there might be in your business. And who is supporting them. To be sure, there is a deep need for ongoing market development activities on the part of vendors, but that rock is (finally) beginning to gain momentum. What continues to be interesting is that transactional service bureaus and direct mailers are quietly gaining the edge in full-color variable data printing, even tying it to Internet-based applications. As various industry experts have noted, ‘he who has the data wins,' but too many print providers just don't have sufficient access to their customers' data. If you don't have it, you'll need to find a way to get it, even if it means partnering with a company that does have access, as exemplified by the alliance of Roberts Communications and Global Document Solutions noted in WhatTheyThink.com's Graph Expo show coverage. Because, as guest columnist Ronnie Davis of GATF/PIA points out this week, direct mail accounts for some very serious dollars and there is a tremendous opportunity to get a share of that market—providing you can deliver the data-driven documents that are proven to be the most effective. There's more in store in this week between GraphExpo and Xplor, so click some links and enjoy.