This has to stop. The “Print is not Dead” campaign (sponsored by groups from the printing industry), makes printers sound like a bunch of old folks who are on their death beds, but want to convince themselves that they still have a pulse. It sounds like we are talking to ourselves, not the people who purchase printing & communications. Remember Monte Python “I’m not Dead“?

First off, an observation about printing and smaller print shops today. When I started in this business, printing was considered a craft. You know, picture the old printer looking over the printed sheet to make sure it was just right, and if it was not, we knew secrets to fix it. Then at the beginning of the digital revolution, digital technologies started to replace a lot of our old processes with software that basically took the “mystery” out of what we did. Eventually, print buyers were somewhat justified in seeing a “sameness” in a lot of shops. I feel like print is turning into a craft again,  not in the way we produce it, but the way we apply it. You can get the simple no-brainer stuff at an internet printer, but it’s our job to be creative in our ideas how to apply it, creative ways to use print and ways to make the simple stand out.

There is a very dynamic communications marketplace unfolding in new ways (we never dreamed of) every day. Printing companies must find compelling ways to offer new sets of benefits to their customers. Because response rates for all media have been declining, communicators must deal with sending the same message through more channels. The message sometimes has to be interactive as well as being printed, and it may need to be forwarded to others by the recipient. It’s an amazing challenge, and printers who choose to be can be right in the middle of this mix, as some of the more forward thinking ones are now.

Oregon Printing is fortunately is in a great place. We’ve got the equipment and systems in place to handle our traditional “Print work” as well as the new demands of Variable Data Printing and beyond. And, we are financially strong and ready to go some new places. What makes the most sense to me is to talk to our customers and find out where they want us to go. How do you want to communicate and what services could we offer that will make your life easier. I’ll be calling and talking to a lot of our customer base and I welcome any suggestions and comments.

It’s the task of Print companies like us, and the sales and marketing structures we employee, to create enticing applications for print that are appropriate and forward-looking, solve problems for our clients as well as create opportunities for them. It’s up to us to steer our businesses into offering a new, higher level craft that is very much alive. So the “Print is not dead” crowd can go to the back of the room now, as the rest of us are busy and excited about the future.

Note. Thanks to Dr. Joe Web from the What-They-Think Economics and Research Center for addressing this subject in greater detail in their June 2010 Executive Briefing.