Archive for the ‘Offset Printing’ Category

Is Printing Injured, Maimed, or Dead?

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Don't be so quick to place the marker.

The Internet has been buzzing with reports of the demise of printing. The book industry in particular has been all aflutter about The Kindle, The Nook, and iPad. Are they right? Have electronics finally won? Is printing dead?

I am old enough to remember all of the predictions of a paperless office. Computers were supposed to eliminate the need for paper. Instead, printing flourished at a time when the era of paper was sure to be over.

It is different this time. Although I think it is too early to write off printing, I do believe that the boom we saw with the advent of computers won’t repeat. The business climate has changed, not only for now, but also for the future. There are several reasons for this:

  • Direct Mail Advertising has been wounded–not fatally, not yet.
  1. The first arrow to strike was postal charges. Unfortunately, the post office has a blind spot when it comes to pricing. They don’t understand that there is a direct correlation between rising prices and declining customers. The higher stamps cost, the more people turned away.  The US post office has been the greatest friend email could ever have.
  2. The second arrow was the Internet. Websites provide options that ink on paper can never duplicate and at incredible prices. Electronic advertising has eliminated much of the need for media. No paper. No ink. No presses.
  3. The third arrow was the recession. Companies of all sizes hunkered down behind walls of cash refusing to spend until the customers were ready to buy. The customers, of course, having lost jobs, having had salaries decreased, and in a tightening credit market find themselves unable to buy. It’s what is known as (with apologies to our neighbors south of the US) a Mexican standoff. Where were the easiest places to cut their budgets? Printing, particularly direct mail.
  4. The fourth arrow is book readers. Book readers are coming on strong. I myself, love books. I have a well-stocked home library, but there are books I can get free and others that I would like to be more portable. I, the defender of printing, will get a reader for myself. Actually I already have one in my iPhone, but every book bought electronically is a book that isn’t printed.
  • Form Printing and Envelopes have taken one to the chest.
  1. Nearly everyone uses on-line forms to pay bills, buy something, or get credit. It’s quick, user friendly, and no one has to buy a stamp or wait several days for delivery.
  2. The changes is bill paying greatly reduce the need for envelopes. From the millions upon millions of envelopes purchased by the financial industry alone to a bare trickle.
  • Catalogs, Newspapers, and Magazines are dropping dead in their tracks.
  1. Pundits warned us of the paperless office, but they didn’t tell us about the paperless home. Who could have predicted a family breakfast scene without the father figure sitting behind the daily news? Oh sure, we still have many of the same magazines, but their page counts are down to half or more. And their sell price has gone up. They raise prices and just as surely decrease buyers.
  2. Catalogs are experiencing the same problems as magazines. It costs too much to mail, so they reduce their page count. The point where catalogs split from magazines is the Internet. Newspapers and magazines have served for hundreds of years as paid information sources. Information on the Internet has been free. People expect the Internet to be free and therefore they are unwilling to pay. Catalogs never had, and never will have a paid subscriber base.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Printing has changed and many of the changes are permanent. All that being said, I’m optimistic about the future. There are innovations introduced all the time to make printing, better, cheaper, and faster. The Internet for all its puffery and bluster has been proven to be less effective than direct mail as an advertising medium. Yes, you can get a great CPM (cost per thousand) but there is such a massive overwhelm that customers have learned to tune the advertising out. If you want a buyer to pay attention to your message, put something in their hands.


Printers & Publishers Prepare to be Amazed!

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Seeking Glimpses of the Future

I have my crystal ball out. It is sitting right in front of me on my desk. I’ve been searching its depths for some clue about the future of printing, publishing, and related industries. You know what I get? Nothing.

The only thing I know for sure is that things will change. This little prophesy doesn’t mean much, except to say that time is a river and we can either find a way to float with the current, or test our strength against it. (Pretty poetic wouldn’t you say?)

I’ve spent a lifetime, so far, learning all about offset printing. I now know quite a lot, but what is that worth? What is it worth really? When I think back, I can remember people who were expert typesetters and others who were great with scanning drums for four color separations. Their hard won knowledge became irrelevant almost instantly with the changes in technology.

I used to laughingly pontificate that someday Bill Ruesch Print Broker, would consist only of an equipment filled Winnebago. Customers would provide me with art files. I would drive over to the paper merchant’s warehouse, load-in the stock, and by the time I arrived at the customer’s dock the job would be completely printed, folded, and bound.

Book in a Box

That used to be my weird vision of the future. It made me and my customers chuckle at the absurdity. It isn’t so funny anymore now that the Espresso Book Machine exists. In one machine a whole book is created; from file to finished product in less than seven minutes.  Seven minutes–printed, bound, and ready to read. That is if you have hot pads. I understand that the books come out pretty warm and need to cool down a bit.

My vision of the future has come true. What do I see in the future now? I haven’t a clue. I think my predictor must be on the blink. I’d be willing to go out on a limb by stating, “It doesn’t matter what crazy, ridiculous, impossible notion we conceive, someone is probably already a step or two ahead of us, and are right this moment building something to make it happen.”

I’m prepared to be amazed. How about you?


Top 5 Reasons Print Brokers P.O. Printers

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Printers who let their hostility get the best of them are fools,

because printers who are likely to survive this recession and move successfully forward must find ways to reinvent their relationships with Print Brokers. Brokers hold the key to doubling or tripling your business without creating additional expense. The problem is that most printers don’t know what to do with print brokers. They aren’t part of the sales team and they aren’t customers either. What are they? Any attempt to pigeon hole them into either role will end in failure and frustration.

The first thing to do is embrace brokers and stop kicking them in the teeth.  I know this may not make sense to you. Some of you are going to accuse me of overreacting, after all your company doesn’t mistreat brokers — right? Some will say I’m whining, and some won’t consider the issue of print brokers at all. There are a lot of misguided printers who staunchly refuse to work with brokers. That might have been okay in the past, but it won’t serve you well in the future. You can’t afford to turn your back on sources of instant new business.

Haven’t you noticed how tough times are? Printing, particularly offset printing, has been besieged on all sides. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how the pigheaded, self-serving banking industry has hurt all of us. Have you tried to get a loan lately? Nor do I have to explain about the impact of digital printing, foreign competition, and the Internet. You already know about these things. You are experiencing unprecedented cash flow problems and shrinking markets. Even your best customers have cut back with no real promise that they will ever be at former levels again.

I hear moaning from the Industry that good sales representatives are hard to find and that your sales people keep pressing for ever lower prices to make them competitive. You get upset and believe that they aren’t really trying. A really good sales rep can sell even under the most adverse circumstances — right? If you truly believe that why don’t you put on your salesman’s hat and find out for yourself? Maybe you did. Maybe you took a day, or a week, and went into the field. Maybe you proved to yourself that it isn’t so bad, but let me tell you, selling in this economy is like fighting an uphill battle day-after-day-after-day. It can wear down even the heartiest rep. Your sales team, is running on fumes, and another sales meeting, another motivational talk, and another seminar isn’t going to dramatically change anything.

What can you do? I would like you to take a moment, if you will, and consider re-vitalizing your sales efforts with the help of Print Brokers. Why Print Brokers, because they are FREE! Printers don’t have to house them, pay salaries, benefits, or reimbursements. That should be incentive enough. FREE, FREE, FREE — what’s better than that?

The problem is that most printers I’ve talked to either barely tolerate brokers, or despise them. Why? I think there are five main reasons for this:

  1. Print Brokers own their own customer list. The printer doesn’t. Suppose a house sales rep brings in an account, since they were working on the company dime the customer technically belongs to the company. This isn’t true with brokers. In fact if you go after the broker’s customer it can lead to a nasty fight.
  2. Print Brokers are legally a middle man. Printers fume if the broker can’t pay them because the customer didn’t pay the bill. On the other hand, how can you hold the broker responsible when they don’t receive the product? You don’t punish your in-house sales team like this. You must find a compromise. How difficult can it be to secure your interests in transactions without leaning on the party who is least likely to have the means to pay you? Think about it.
  3. Print Brokers can take the print jobs to someone else if they want. Usually they move things around to save money, time, or be more convenient, but they don’t even have to have a reason, they can just do it.
  4. Print Brokers are employed by their customers — not the printer. In the event of a disagreement the printer has little leverage over the broker. The broker knows which side his bread is buttered on  and is most likely to defend the customer’s point of view over the printer’s.
  5. Print Brokers are not constrained by territories. Printers often feel threatened by brokers because they see their own customers as potentially vulnerable to the broker. Sales reps especially are very protective and guard, as they should, from any possible threat.

In my next post I will give printers some ideas that will allow them to work around the conflicts and make better broker relationships which will benefit both printer and print broker.


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