Death of a Tradeshow

Jeff Hayes
Jun 15, 2012

With quiet nostalgia and a sense of forlorn, on Wednesday June 13, 2012 I entered the Jacob Javits Center in New York City where the On Demand Printing & Publishing Exposition and Conference was first held 18 years ago. Back then the Javits Center was the new hot convention space and On Demand was fortunate to secure a spot at this lucrative location. As I entered the show this year, I noted the irony of the Javits Center going through a major renovation while On Demand was a shadow of itself.

Charlie Pesko and I conceived the On Demand Expo in 1993 after a meeting with Fidelity Investment’s in-plant reprographics department and data center printing department. The Fidelity people had never met before and were exchanging business cards as we sat down to discuss the implications of new digital production printing technologies. On the drive home, Charlie and I sketched out the idea of a tradeshow and conference program that would bring together and educate these audiences.  Less than one year later we had over 3,500 people come to the Javits Center to see the latest on demand printing systems and discuss the immense opportunities that were emerging.

The On Demand show continued to grow with the market for the next 10 years peaking some time in the early 2000’s. Along the way, the On Demand show was coupled with the AIIM show (now called Info360) which had its lineage in micrographics, scanning and document management. The idea was to attract the corporate document and IT audiences along with the commercial and corporate print service providers as part of a broad document technology show.

To me it always felt like an awkward pairing with the quiet IT/document management people on the blue carpet and the noisy PSP crowd on the red carpet. There was some cross-pollination, but generally the two audiences didn’t mix. For years there were separate keynotes, separate conference programs, and separate directories. This year I noticed a couple of binding and laminating companies next to Yammer and Box the cloud-based document management and workflow vendors. Very awkward.

As the digital printing industry matured, the On Demand show settled into a comfortable niche. Year after year the usual vendors showed up with new products and similar themes. POD, personalization, and distribute and print became web-to-print, transpromo and multi-channel communications. When you came to On Demand, you pretty much knew what you were going to get.

By 2006 print on demand was mainstream and the overall printing industry was stagnant. Exhibitor marketing budgets shrank and On Demand Expo and Conference attendance waned. Eventually some attempts were made to re-position the show with an eye towards cross media, publishing and content, but it was a case of “too little, too late”. When the recession hit, On Demand was on the ropes in 2009. With HP, Kodak, and Xerox already gone, the knock out punch came this year as Canon, KonicaMinolta, and Ricoh departed.

The On Demand Printing & Publishing Exposition and Conference helped educate the graphic arts industry about the tremendous opportunities of digital production printing, but its failure to transform in the face of broader industry trends ultimately led to its demise. I hope printing technology vendors and service providers can take one final lesson from the On Demand Expo about the risk of complacency and need for transformation.
Jeff Hayes
President, InfoTrends

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