Should we keep print alive?

I’ve been following a group on Twitter called #helpprintthrive.  It’s a discussion about how can the printing industry can, well – thrive.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the printing industry … and I’m as much for keeping the industry viable as much as the next person, but I’m starting to have second thoughts.

In discussions I’ve had with many people in the industry – I haven’t really heard many good reasons why the industry deserves my support.  “You have to support print – just because it’s print.”  That’s not good enough for me.  And I don’t think it’s good enough for most people.

Should we keep this alive?

Every morning, I go outside and pick my newspaper only to have ten circulars fall out on the ground, or these days, in the snow.  These are generic ads trying to get me to buy something I have no interest in buying or even looking at.  And today took the cake … an empty paper grocery bag with just a logo on it.  I’m about ready to cancel my print subscription and just read the online version.

And the sad thing is, I’m a customer of most of these advertisers and they know what I buy – but obviously they just don’t care.  “Don’t push ‘everything under the sun’ to me just because you are too lazy or inconsiderate to care about my time and attention … and the garbage cans I’m filling up.”

And I’m going to add printers to this rant too.  The print industry can’t expect their clients to know all the great 1 to 1 customization options available – options that focus on effective communication, not print spam.  It’s the industry’s job to educate – not just be an order taker.  And if they don’t offer these options … get with the program.

In fact, I believe a good portion of the blame lies with the print industry.  It seems like too many of the reasons to “keep print alive” come out of tradition.  Print has been around for some 600 years and by gosh we have to keep it going another 600.  We bought equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions and we have to make the payments and pay for the people to run it … so buy our print. It doesn’t make any difference that maybe we didn’t really think it through when we bought all this stuff.

After all:  “Don’t they come if we build it?”  Unless you have Kevin Costner on staff – NO!

I want to hear some good reasons why I should buy and consume print.  If I’m an advertiser, I want to know why I should spend what little money I have on print, rather on this cool internet stuff that everyone’s into.  As a consumer – why should I go through mountains of paper … and waste my time and mind space on all this junk I don’t care about?  Granted print is better for reading and I like the idea of sitting on my couch and going through the Sunday paper … but that’s just one day, and just one or two papers.

And I’m not even talking about the environmental issues.  And I don’t want to hear about “more print means more trees planted” or the environmental effects of data centers.  I don’t buy it.  You can twist the statistics all you want.  Neither I nor the vast majority of the world buys this argument – true or false.

Well – since I’m not getting any good reasons … I’m going to give you my own.

  1. As an advertiser, I think it would be great to be able to make sure my customers know about things I had to offer, the things that are relevant to their lives.  And I want to make sure it gets to them at a time when they could use it most.  This would be great since I wouldn’t have pay for so much print and postage sending useless advertising to people who aren’t going to buy from me anyway.  Answer me why should I be sending a teenage boy an advertisement for discounted diapers.
  2. As a consumer, I’d like to receive something from the companies I shop at (or even just have visited), to show me that they have actually spent the time to realize I’m an individual - not like my next door neighbor or even my wife or my daughter. And if it was a printed piece that would be cool too, maybe even with a stamp on it – that would be even be best since it’s a lot harder to do and more expensive than just sending out an email or a text.  It’ll show me you care about me and my business.
  3. As a consumer, I’d like to get something on quality paper – paper that feels nice and memorable when I touch it … something I’ll want to keep and not just throw away.  I can’t get that with my screen or my mouse.  In fact it doesn’t even have to be paper, it could be plastic or any interesting substrate with message on it that I can use.
  4. And as an advertiser, I want my printer to realize that just because I want to try new media options, doesn’t mean I don’t still love them and want them part of my life.  And if they even add some of these new exciting options to their ‘bag of tricks’ – I’d be more than happy to give them the first shot. But, just because they don’t want to grow, doesn’t mean I don’t, and in fact I have to – to survive.

I’ve been through the ups and downs of the print industry as much as anyone has.  As an electronic prepress recruiter I saw my open job orders go from forty to zero in just two months time a few years ago.  Yes – zero, as in zero dollars.  Not a five or ten percent decline … but a hundred percent.  But that just the way it goes – life changes and you move on.  Having a business isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.  A privilege that has a finite life.  That life may span over several generations – but it’s still finite.

The world is in a constant state of change.  Our success as business people lies in our ability to navigate these changes and find ways to continually make ourselves and our businesses relevant.  All to often it’s easy just to coast and think we are above it all … but we’re not.

Now I believe that the #helpprintthrive discussion has a lot of merit.  At least it recognizes that the industry’s future needs be to addressed.  But we just need to get past the “wave the flag” mentality and really look at the issues and solutions.  You don’t see the online industry touting itself, just because it’s online.  Why do we we?

If we really want to help the print industry, we need to look past – our past.  The print industry has every bit as good of a chance to thrive as any other.  We just can’t keep looking at our business and it’s value to our customers, and their customers – as being the same as it was yesterday and the day before that.

But that doesn’t mean its value can’t be worth even more.

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You can follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

The consequences of sloppy copy and demise of Chippendales

I saw a piece on the national news about the Miami Police Department and Jay-Z.  According to the report, the Miami PD updated their website focusing on gang prevention and how the community should get involved.  Good idea … horrible execution however.  Whoever was working on the site had laid in an illustration placeholder they had found on Google depicting a group of supposed gang-bangers.

Well, two of the undesirables in the image happened to look a whole lot like hip-hop mogul, Jay-Z.  Apparently nobody proofed the site before it went live.  Opps!

This is kind of ironic since Jay-Z just appeared on the cover of Forbes with Warren Buffett.  And you thought you had stereotype problems.  You can read about it more here:  http://bit.ly/bq1vuC.

This got me thinking about an old friend of mine, Eric Gilbert.  Eric worked with me on a directory I published in Los Angeles twenty years ago.  Eric told me about a situation he ran into in his next position as marketing director at Chippendales.

For those of you not familiar with Chippendales, let me fill you in.  They were a male stripper revue that became huge in the ’90s.  The majority of their revenue came from their annual calendar which sold millions and was only eclipsed in numbers by the Sports Illustration calendar.

To print a project like this required a cooperative agreement with their printer George Rice and Sons in Los Angeles.  Because of the size of the print run and enormous cost involved – George Rice agreed to carry the print costs up front in turn for half the revenue.  Again, in theory, this sounds like a good deal for both parties.  Not so quick though.

Chippendales was responsible for the calendar layout and content, and in turn the press checking.  For all of you who have press checked, you know your eye focuses on matching the color of the printed piece to that of the proof provided.  Once they match – the client, Chippendales, signs off and the presses run.

One year in the mid ’90s, Chippendales and George Rice went through their annual routine and the calendar was printed.  Several million calendars were printed and George Rice started shipping.  While packing the boxes to be sent worldwide, one of the shipping people on the dock decided to take a look at the calendar.  He didn’t make too far however.

As he turned the page to February, he noticed something.  February had thirty-one days, or at least according to the Chippendales calendar. Opps! The color was great, the printing was great … but February had thirty-one days – and the calendars, all of them, were worthless.

Somehow everyone involved in the proofing process missed this.  And since it was Chippendales that had signed off, they were on the hook.  And it was a hook that became fatal.

After a lengthy legal battle, Chippendales was significantly wounded and eventually ended up selling out.  All because of a simple proofing oversite.  In fact one of the partners was accused of murder and ended up committing suicide.

Stories like this were not common back then.  There wasn’t the rush to have everything done and out immediately.  Today it’s all about needing it yesterday … often to the detriment of quality and accuracy.  And because the use of the internet and digital printing, errors and their ramifications aren’t nearly as drastic.

We see it everywhere, especially with the news media and unsubstantiated stories.  And we see it in our basic conversation.  Our emails often lack proper grammar and punctuation.  And don’t me get me started on texting.  I suppose all this is pretty much harmless.  But like any action we do … the more we do it, the more it becomes habit.

Let’s just hope this habit doesn’t turn into your own personal Chippendales.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Will Gen-X and Gen-Y kill the printing industry … or save it?

Over the past couple months, I’ve been following several discussions on LinkedIn concerning the fate of the printing industry.  The talk is all about convergence.  The consensus is that printers, specifically digital printers,  have to embrace electronic delivery systems, including social media, in order to survive.

Now all this is fine.  We all know the industry is in a period of change that is unprecedented – and something has to be done.  We know the what.  The big question though … is the how.

Will this survive?

How do digital printers start becoming full-scale communication firms … or as I contend, communication delivery firms?  I firmly believe the industry is missing the point, however.  And this point will become even more evident in the coming years.

This point is age.  There is a generation gap in the printing industry.  And it’s occurring on two fronts:

  • First:  Who’s going to transition the printing firm into this convergent marketplace.  The majority of the people running the firms are Baby Boomers, age 50 plus.  I’m one of them so I can talk about this.  Is your average print company owner or general manager going to spearhead an effort into social media.  I don’t think so.  Most don’t use Facebook or Twitter, let alone use it effectively.  This transition involves talent … and the talent is in their twenties and thirties.  How many printing firms not only have key people in this age group in positions of authority, but also let them make strategic decisions involving the future of their companies?
  • And second:  Let’s look at the demographics of the people doing the print or communications buying.  Most of the old print buyers have long since retired.  They have been replaced by either Gen-Xers (age 30 to 50) or the younger Gen-Yers.  How many of these people even check their mail on a daily basis.  If they’re anything like my daughter, not many.  Their primary mode of communication and media exposure is electronic and with the younger ones – social media;  Facebook and Twitter.  And on top of that, even if you do recognize this demographics shift – who’s selling to them.  If you have traditional “suit and tie” printing reps driving around delivering proofs … neither your reps nor you will be employed much longer.

All is not doom and gloom however.  We’re in a recession, or at least the end of one.  With recessions as with any economic change – come opportunities.

Business in the communications industry, all sectors of it, is not good.  This includes the companies that are doing the content.  Now I’m talking about social media, web design, back-end programming and all of the other neat stuff that most us know absolutely nothing about.  And guess what, the people owning and operating these firms are same Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers that I spoke of above.  I’m willing to bet that a lot of them would be more than willing to join forces and collaborate with an established printing firm – if not outright sell and stay on as a consultant.

In this scenario, you not only have an inroad from a technological standpoint – you would also have a conduit to the generation of buyers that will determine your future.  You could go out and hire a staff.  But why?  Who’s to say you’re qualified enough to put together the right mix technically and socially.

I wrote a post last year in the middle of the recession and reposted again this year called the Alliance.  The message is still appropriate.

The Sioux and Cheyenne realized it and formed an alliance.  How did that work out for Custer?

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Small business and 1:1 marketing .. the solution?

The printing industry (my industry for last twenty years) has been stagnant for sometime now.  The rush towards social media has only made matters only worse.  One of the only bright spots has been variable data printing or 1:1 marketing.  Every piece coming off a digital press can be different from the one before and the one after it.  The message can personalized to the recipient, customized to the sender and timed to create the highest response.  Up to this point, however, only large companies have been able to take advantage of it.

Digital Printing

The digital printing industry is “missing the boat” when it comes to catering to small and mediums sized businesses in terms of variable data printing and database marketing.

The traditional printing and prepress industry is driven by the clients.  They are experienced and know what they want.  The printing rep is essentially an order taker (no offense).  Variable data printing  is a different animal.  The client does not know what they want or even what the possibilities are.  There is “chasm” between the client the provider.  It’s our job to bridge this “chasm.”

Variable data printing is also expensive.  The set-up fees including programming are prohibitive for all but the largest corporations.  And the length of set-up time greatly diminishes any “emotional momentum” created initially.  Additionally, the runs are short, creating unusually high per piece prices.
The solution is offer a 1:1 marketing solution tailored specifically for small and medium-sized businesses.  This solution must be simple and easy for our potential clients to understand (especially the benefits), not have a set-up that is expensive and lengthy and have per piece costs that compare to those large corporations enjoy.

I have attempted to address these issues with my company the bleedingEDGE.  I am currently looking for exclusive partners in several metro areas in the United States.  Take a look at the website:  http://bit.ly/98P4Fd. I welcome any comments, positive or negative.  There is more than business out there.  We just need to find the ways to get it.

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If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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Why Should We Keep Print Alive?

I’ve been following a group on Twitter called #helpprintthrive.  It’s a discussion about how can the printing industry can, well – thrive.

I’ve spent the last 20+ years in the printing industry … and I’m as much for keeping the industry viable as much as the next person, but I’m starting to have second thoughts.

In discussions I’ve had with many people in the industry – I haven’t really heard many good reasons why the industry deserves my support.  “You have to support print – just because it’s print.”  That’s not good enough for me.  And I don’t think it’s good enough for most people.

Every morning, I go outside and pick my newspaper only to have ten circulars fall out on the ground, or these days, in the snow.  These are generic ads trying to get me to buy something I have no interest in buying or even looking at.  And today took the cake … an empty paper grocery bag with just a logo on it.  I’m about ready to cancel my print subscription and just read the online version.

printing-rollers

And the sad thing is, I’m a customer of most of these advertisers and they know what I buy – but obviously they just don’t care.  “Don’t push ‘everything under the sun’ to me just because you are too lazy or inconsiderate to care about my time and attention … and the garbage cans I’m filling up.”

And I’m going to add printers to this rant too.  The print industry can’t expect their clients to know all the great 1 to 1 customization options available – options that focus on effective communication, not print spam.  It’s the industry’s job to educate – not just be an order taker.  And if they don’t offer these options … get with the program.

In fact, I believe a good portion of the blame lies with the print industry.  It seems like too many of the reasons to “keep print alive” come out of tradition.  Print has been around for some 600 years and by gosh we have to keep it going another 600.  We bought equipment for hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions and we have to make the payments and pay for the people to run it … so buy our print. It doesn’t make any difference that maybe we didn’t really think it through when we bought all this stuff.

After all:  “Don’t they come if we build it?”  Unless you have Kevin Costner on staff – NO!

I want to hear some good reasons why I should buy and consume print.  If I’m an advertiser, I want to know why I should spend what little money I have on print, rather on this cool internet stuff that everyone’s into.  As a consumer – why should I go through mountains of paper … and waste my time and mind space on all this junk I don’t care about?  Granted print is better for reading and I like the idea of sitting on my couch and going through the Sunday paper … but that’s just one day, and just one or two papers.

And I’m not even talking about the environmental issues.  And I don’t want to hear about “more print means more trees planted” or the environmental effects of data centers.  I don’t buy it.  You can twist the statistics all you want.  Neither I nor the vast majority of the world buys this argument – true or false.

Well – since I’m not getting any good reasons … I’m going to give you my own.

  1. As an advertiser, I think it would be great to be able to make sure my customers know about things I had to offer, the things that are relevant to their lives.  And I want to make sure it gets to them at a time when they could use it most.  This would be great since I wouldn’t have pay for so much print and postage sending useless advertising to people who aren’t going to buy from me anyway.  Answer me why should I be sending a teenage boy an advertisement for discounted diapers.
  2. As a consumer, I’d like to receive something from the companies I shop at (or even just have visited), to show me that they have actually spent the time to realize I’m an individual - not like my next door neighbor or even my wife or my daughter. And if it was a printed piece that would be cool too, maybe even with a stamp on it – that would be even be best since it’s a lot harder to do and more expensive than just sending out an email or a text.  It’ll show me you care about me and my business.
  3. As a consumer, I’d like to get something on quality paper – paper that feels nice and memorable when I touch it … something I’ll want to keep and not just throw away.  I can’t get that with my screen or my mouse.  In fact it doesn’t even have to be paper, it could be plastic or any interesting substrate with message on it that I can use.
  4. And as an advertiser, I want my printer to realize that just because I want to try new media options, doesn’t mean I don’t still love them and want them part of my life.  And if they even add some of these new exciting options to their ‘bag of tricks’ – I’d be more than happy to give them the first shot. But, just because they don’t want to grow, doesn’t mean I don’t, and in fact I have to – to survive.

I’ve been through the ups and downs of the print industry as much as anyone has.  As an electronic prepress recruiter I saw my open job orders go from forty to zero in just two months time a few years ago.  Yes – zero, as in zero dollars.  Not a five or ten percent decline … but a hundred percent.  But that just the way it goes – life changes and you move on.  Having a business isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.  A privilege that has a finite life.  That life may span over several generations – but it’s still finite.

The world is in a constant state of change.  Our success as business people lies in our ability to navigate these changes and find ways to continually make ourselves and our businesses relevant.  All to often it’s easy just to coast and think we are above it all … but we’re not.

Now I believe that the #helpprintthrive discussion has a lot of merit.  At least it recognizes that the industry’s future needs be to addressed.  But we just need to get past the “wave the flag” mentality and really look at the issues and solutions.  You don’t see the online industry touting itself, just because it’s online.  Why do we?

If we really want to help the print industry, we need to look past – our past.  The print industry has every bit as good of a chance to thrive as any other.  We just can’t keep looking at our business and it’s value to our customers, and their customers – as being the same as it was yesterday and the day before that.

But that doesn’t mean its value can’t be worth even more.

_____________________________

If you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

_____________________________

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