What’s Keeping You Up at Night?

Jim Hamilton
Nov 17, 2009

I recently met with a group of Kodak NexPress users and I asked them, “What keeps you up at night?” They started throwing out a range of ideas and didn’t stop until we came up with a list of about twenty things like keeping up with technology, driving growth, new competition, automation, legislation, solution selling, and government regulations.

I dutifully wrote everything down and then grouped them into about eight or nine topics areas. I gave everyone three votes to apply to their top three nightmares. After the smoke cleared the top issue by far was the future of print. In short, what is the viability of print in an age of Internet, social media, and mobile communications?

I have to admit that it’s a topic that keeps me awake too. It’s particularly nagging in a year when offset print volumes are dropping off the shelf, monochrome digital print volumes have been in decline since peaking a few years back, and color digital print volumes, while still growing, have been hurt by the economic downturn.

Is it a surprise that offset print volumes are decreasing after all we have been saying? The state of the economy has simply accelerated what we were expecting all along:

  • Long-run static offset volume transfers to short run targeted digital
  • Offset-printed color shells are replaced by “white paper in, color document out” production color digital print workflows (with the double whammy of taking out color offset and monochrome digital print simultaneously)
  • Some content moves exclusively to electronic delivery
  • TransPromo combines pages from transaction and promotional documents
  • Onserts replace inserts
  • Color communicates better, allowing more concise documents with fewer pages
  • Personalized campaigns replace “spray and pray” methods
  • On-demand, no inventory production of documents like books and marketing materials is no longer a wacky, out-there concept; it’s gone mainstream

We’ve been expecting fewer pages and now we’ve gotten our wish. In the meantime print is becoming more interactive because of PURLs, dashboard campaign management, QR codes, augmented reality, print on demand, and security-enabled features using MICR or other non-CMYK capabilities.

The fact that the world no longer revolves around print is disheartening to some (particularly craft-oriented commercial printers) but this new world order also presents some fascinating new opportunities that will include print.

Why will print endure? Here are a few reasons:

  • You can hold it in your hand, fold it up, carry it around, write on it, feel it, smell it, and even taste it if you are so moved
  • It will last (short of global Armageddon someone will be able to read a printed book in a hundred years but they will probably have trouble with that 100-year-old CD)
  • You can read it without having to depend on electricity from a nuclear power plant
  • Paper is a lot easier to recycle than a Kindle and trees are a renewable resource
  • You have the ability to reach people who either don’t have computers or don’t keep them turned on all the time
  • As Shelly Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, stated at Print 09 a media plan works best when it uses multiple communication channels. This “cocktail” can draw its ingredients from television, radio, print, Internet, social media, and mobile. So print remains a key part of the marketing mix and builds off of the value of integrated multi-channel marketing campaigns and the analytical tools that drive them today. (You can see the full video at kodak.com/go/print09, look for the K-Zone Video entitled “What’s Print Got to Do with It?”)

One of the reasons why these are such exciting times is that there is change in the air. That helps explain some of the sleeplessness, but while I admit to some nervousness, at the same time I also have faith in the enduring value of print and in the imagination of the people who will transform the use of print in this digital age.

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