Is the ‘printernet’ a useful idea?

By on March 25th, 2009

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing with the notion that a good way to think about the global print industry is using the word “printernet” to capture what might be going on.

Yesterday, I got a chance to test it out in a more public venue in a column at PBS.org/mediashift. The title, chosen by the editor, is ‘Printernet’ Vision Brings Custom Print Publications to Masses”

The general tenor over there is that Print is Dead, newspapers have to go online, and other internet bedazzled visions of the future of journalism. I’m posting here in the hope of getting some feedback from my esteemed colleagues in Print, where I don’t have to take a defensive stance proving that the sky is not falling and print is not dead.

From a PR point of view the notion is “Now that the internet is in place, the printernet is ready to emerge.’ That’s for the kids in school to get them to be excited about Print.

From the professional point of view,”. . . this so-called “printernet” can have the same benefits as the Internet — massive parallel manufacturing with standards-based interfaces, real time production information and easy access for everyone. Each printer — the combination of the machinery and the intelligence that manages the machinery — is a print output node.”

My hypothesis is that one of the things that has kept us from seeing the emerging role for Print, is that we’ve been using old thought models that don’t capture a new environment. The facts on the ground are that the Eurocentric era of the global economy is coming to close and that new value in the form of previously impossible customer experiences are enabled by the network, not by stand alone printing companies.

While I was researching the column I came across pediapress.com in Germany. They’ve released Open Source software to automatically go from wikipedia pages to PDF,ODF, and XML. They are monetizing their invention by selling Wikipedia Printed books through their website. Just recently they’ve expanded from German to the other major European languages.

I think wikis have become the platform of choice for organizing content on the web. PBwiki.com, a start-up, says they are doing enterprise content management for over 200,000 businesses and 100′s of thousands of schools. Meanwhile, Newspapers and physical communities are organizing their content in wikis.

Given that my focus is high school education in the States, I think I’m seeing textbooks being replaced by WikiBooks and WikiNewspapers. The new experience will be cheaper, faster and much more effective in getting students to learn to love to learn.

I keep turning it over and over, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Any thoughts?

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8 Responses to “Is the ‘printernet’ a useful idea?”

  1. Andy McCourt Says:

    Michael,
    See: http://www.pacprint.com.au/
    Printernet is one of the themes of this upcoming show, although more in a marketing sense than the apps you describe.
    I am one who believes that the contextualisation – on both personal and interest group levels – of information in a bound printed product is set to be one of the next big things. If that’s Printernet then yes, it’s useful.

  2. mjosefowicz Says:

    Andy-
    And I thought I coined the term. lol. Just goes to show that there are no new ideas, just different implementations in different places! If someone in Australia thought it was a good word, and I thought it was a good word here in New York. It might actually be a good word.

    At any rate, my sense is that if the term is used not merely for marketing, but as a guide for strategy it works. It means that local printers become eager to
    make connections, instead of trying to go it alone. It means that the vendors see that they are part of much greater media ecosystem that implies they can’t go it alone.

    With the coming to market of mass customization technology, it means the beginning of the end of one size fits all Print. The under appreciated opportunity is the ability of Print to communicate with groups of people, with micro versioning, instead of focusing on 1 to 1 in the service of direct mail on steroids.

    I’m seeing:

    Relevant content printed and distributed by local PSP’s as bi monthly “stay in front of the customer” newsletter? newspaper? poster? And every once in a while a book?

    It could be:
    Corporate communication to stockholders directly that by passes the “busyness press.”. Or the latest print stories from Australia, India or Europe. Or industry specific content – marketing? advertising? education? etc etc

    Or the good news about people on the ground with innovative solutions, as one finds in the Christian Science Monitor.
    http://features.csmonitor.com/innovation/

  3. mjosefowicz Says:

    Andy,
    I tried your email address according to the info a digital nirvana. It bounced back. I wanted to get this post on your radar.
    http://toughloveforxerox.blogspot.com/2009/03/australians-coin-printernet.html

  4. mjosefowicz Says:

    So maybe this is a notion worth doing:

    What if WTT.com, or Printweek or Print21online, decided to get into Printernet Publishing.

    Someone recontextualizes their content, PSP get to choose the articles they want in front of their customer and it’s released it in PDFs to use sales collateral for PSP’s everywhere. The PSP’s do the print and distribution as samples of their work. Don’t say it, show it.

    While the PSP’s use it to stay “top of mind” of their prospects and customers. And the content producers sell ads to Adobe, Mindfire, and anyone else who wants to get in front of creatives and people who have bought printing.

    To keep it simple and useable by everyone, no adds directly from vendors.

  5. christian Says:

    There is much thougtht and coordination that needs to go into this to make it work (profitably). But I think that can and will happen. We need to get smart about making print relevant for the reader. If it is relevant, it does not matter what the means in which it is displayed (paper, platic, or screen), people will buy.

    Posted a bit on this yesterday after reading the same article on Mediashift http://printedproof.com/blog/custom-printed-publications/

  6. mjosefowicz Says:

    For our readers here. Christian raised the complicated production issue as being a significant barrier. I only have a conversational knowledge of XML to PDF. The best I could come up with was to collect and edit the content in a wiki, then go to PDF, then go to print.

    If anyone with a more granular knowledge might like to weigh in, we could all probably learn someting.

  7. Andy McCourt Says:

    Excellent thinking on the recontextualisation thing. I’ll discuss this with El Capo di Print21online who as it happens has just begun a symbiotic co-operation with European, Indian and Korean magazines and named it the ‘Independent Media Alliance’. WTT added in would be great. The Printernet may as well start with print industry-centric publishers.
    Michael, don’t sweat that ‘Printernet’ was already coined here…great ideas are floating around in the atmosphere, ready for someone with the right butterfly-net to snaggle them. It’s still a great term and your post and the comments will one day be recognised as the genesis of a new idea.

    I once thought of the word ‘wheelbarrow’ but guess what…someone had patented it already.
    (My email address on WTT profile is incorrect, first and second names need reversing andrew dot mccourt at oce dot com). Thanks for the link

  8. mjosefowicz Says:

    Our President Obama said words to the effect that, “There is no time for pride of authorship. The task at hand is to get it right.”

    Let me know if El Capo et al are really interested. There lots of very talented designers who are looking for something good to do. Of course many of them are in Australia, New Zealand and India.

    But I still stay in touch with my ex students at Parsons who are now in places like Paris, Uruguay, Santo Domingo and Mumbai.

    I had a friend who said she invented Potato Chip. She lived in Pennsylvania. She never did get the credit…