I read an article the other day entitled “Are you ready for the Post-Recession printing industry?” and it made me think about what’s down the road. Actually, if you own a printing company you probably think a lot about what’s down the road. And while I don’t have an answer, I know things are changing quickly. Here are a few thoughts and ideas  about our changing industry.

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There seem to be people that still believe that things will return to “Normal”…in the printing industry. I think we are in the “New Normal” right now for printers (that doesn’t mean we’re not in an economic downturn, because we are; the printing industry just is’nt going back to where it was). The digital revolution has had and continues to have a huge effect on our industry, and if you embrace it (and have some guts), there’s some oppurtunities out there. I was reading a First Research industry profile on The Commercial Printing industry and this fact really stood out. “Historically, 40% of books and almost 60% of magazines were printed but not purchased. Excess copies are collected, shredded and land-filled”.   In the printing industry, it has always been true that if you order a higher quantity, your per unit cost will go down. That makes Print on Demand make more sense than ever; with digital printing platforms today, you can print just what you need (even add customization), and come back for another small quantity when you need more. This is having a huge effect on printers that have always survived on those long runs.

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Printing is transitioning to a service business. Commercial Printing has traditionally been a manufacturing industry, and while it maintains its manufacturing focus, it seems to be evolving into a service business. We are subject to shorter print runs, and customers are asking for more changes and edits later in the process and then faster turnarounds. All the growth in our industry is coming from the digital sector, and that growth seems to come from responding to customer’s changing needs. We all need to recognize this fact and act accordingly, its about listening to our customers needs and changing our business model to fit.

And what’s up with the Newspapers who seem to be pretty much in trouble all over the country. I was reading a piece in Dr. Joe Webb’s Blog (WhatTheyThink) and he pointed out that one of the papers (The Globe) had snubbed an offer to team up with Monster.com in 1995, and others missed the opportunities of starting communities like Craigslist, The Huffington Post and other success stories that have happened over the internet. It seems like there were a lot of opportunities to transition from print media to the internet, but they did not want to look outside of their comfort zone. They sure are trying to make that transition in a hurry now.

How about Social Media..I read a lot on how Social media can help our business. I’ve seen so many stories on Social Media marketing stratigies that it’s almost getting funny. Social Media is what it is, its another form of communication built around virtual communities. So I was reading an article about how printers can harness social media and make it work for them in their marketing efforts. And on this blog there were some pretty average responses about Twittering, blogging and using Facebook, and then Dr. Joe (Above) chimed in and said “it’s not that we should be using Social Media to market ourselves, but we should be teaching our customers how social media could work for them”. Now that’s thinking out of the box; it’s offering our customers a service, which is right in line with the transforming from a manufacturing industry to a service industry. With the changes taking place in this business, we should be doing anything we can to help our customers, its about them, not about us.

Thats todays thoughts. The printing industry is going through a lot of changes and we have to keep looking down the road, think pragmatically and listen to our customers. Because if we don’t follow the lead our customers are asking us to, we might just end up like the newspapers in a few years.