Archive for the ‘Digital Printing’ Category

Are Younger Designers Unaware of Local Printing and Support?

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

I have been stirring the pot around LinkedIn, asking questions related to digital print quality and particularly graphic designers’ and print buyers’ perceptions of what digital is capable of producing. While there are designers and print buyers who understand the full capabilities of digital production, there is still notable misperception that digital still offers more of a quick-print-quality output.

As part of those discussions, Stu Leventhal, president of Lexicon Communications (New York City) and adjunct professor – Graphic Design/Production at the Fashion Institute of Technology, made an interesting comment that I’d like to get your comments on here.

It is no secret that, in most cases, designers are not taught production in design school anymore. Consequently, young graduates may not understand the differences between production processes or even between Pantone and CMYK. They are learning on the job, and especially early in their careers, may not know the questions to ask to understand why some jobs are outputting well and others are not.

In this context, Leventhal pointed out that because younger designers often spec their print online, they may not know what they don’t know; and because they are disconnected from the process, they don’t realize that if they’d work with someone locally, they could have a partner who really invests in their education (and, consequently, their ability to output a much better quality job).

The unspoken issue today is that many young designers just know the online resources. They don’t even think to use someone local – or where there is a real person to help and advise.

So young designers may not know what they don’t know, and if they are outputting junk, they may not realize that it doesn’t have to be that way. That doesn’t benefit anyone — including the designer. This spotlights the need to encourage designers to tap into the expertise of local providers and to intensify education efforts among young designers.

Anyone have experience with this? Want to share?

Wide Ranging Responses to Digital Print Quality: Who’s Right?

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Last Friday, I wrote a post on data in “The Digital Print Survey: 2014″ published by WTT / Unisource on the issue of print quality. I cited data that 61% of respondents indicated that quality was either “as good as” or actually better than offset. Yet high percentages of respondents cited print consistency, color matching, gradients, and solids as being significant challenges.

There weren’t a lot of comments here on Digital Nirvana, but I did share the post around LinkedIn, and comments were voluminous. What was interesting was the incredible range of responses I received. On one end of the spectrum, there were those saying that gradients, solids, and color gamut would always been issues because of the design of the presses themselves. But what does it matter? Quality is in the eye of the beholder. Then there were those responding that digital has the capability of surpassing offset and producing essentially museum-quality pieces. You just need to have the right substrate, a skilled operator, and commitment from the printer to regular maintenance and calibration on the press.

All of the comments were coming from knowledgeable folks, from technicians to academians to press operators and owners, so it was interesting how varied the responses were.

Here is a sampling of those comments. What do YOU think? Add your voice to the discussion!

“If an absolute quality comparison is made with offset lithography, the differences become more apparent. Banding and gradients will always be a problem. This is due to the reduced tonal steps used in digital devices in order to increase processing speed. The recordable tone steps in offset can easily exceed 200, whereas some digital devices are restricted to fewer than 50 – thus the banding issue. Some “work arounds” are used in digital, but the most effective ones use extra colors (e.g. light cyan, light magenta). These devices are called “photo quality” in the inkjet printer market.

“Even solids and the inability to reproduce special colors are also a problem with most digital devices. These restrictions are NOT a problem as long as the concept of market-segment quality classification is kept in mind. There are good reasons why newspapers are printed on newsprint and not on high-grade coated papers. Printing has a long history of making quality vs. economic tradeoffs (grade of materials, and productivity-driven sacrifices) according to what markets desire.”

— Gary Field, color printing scientist and printing industry consultant

“Another thing besides the gradient issue is low quality screen builds with some PMS colors. This has always been an issue even in offset, that is why there are so many 6- and 7-color offset presses out there. If you want an exact PMS match, print a PMS . . . since digital cannot and since the digital process even distorts the screen build process more than traditional offset, I see builds as a critical problem with digital. Digital photos, on the other hand, print better than offset separations in my experience.”

— Greg Kingston, print and mail services at VOLVO Construction Equipment

“I think digital print quality is still a major issue because . . . you need to choose the right materials for your presses. Allot of people that are purchasing the stock isn’t aware of the particulars this one variable brings to the table. There also need to be qualified people to ascertain the print quality problem and solve it. You can’t hire people off the street expecting them to find out why the print quality isn’t great for your biggest client. Especially when they don’t know the particulars on how this industry works.”

— Barbara Jones, production artist, variable data specialist and digital prepress technician at Miller Zell

“Stock is definitely trial and error. Papers that you think would be identical (Cougar vs Accent) don’t run quite the same.”

— Richard Sohanchyk, owner, OnPoint Image & Design

“Digital printing can be great — high quality blends, few streaks, etc. — if  the company has highly skilled operators and free reign to replace worn components and time to do the maintenance and calibrations. Often the gamuts are much larger than [GRACoL]. I hear time and again the lament from digital press operators that they are not allowed to do whats necessary to make the digital press perform. Anything can beat the image quality of an offset press has glazed, out of pressure rollers, blankets with smashes and haven’t been torqued in a year, and the image of the wrench embossed in the impression cylinder.”

— David Avery, seasoned technical trainer

“I think it is an assumption by most consumers that digital equipment isn’t capable of going up against some of the very best 4-color offset printed materials. I think the reality is, MOST of the time, digital is used for “quick print” work where quality is less of a concern so the perception is that that is all that digital is capable of. However, just like offset, if you pay attention to quality, use the workarounds, and use materials that give you the best outcome, you can create pieces that rival offset. I have seen some very nice pieces used in very high profile accounts that were printed digitally. All of the variables that should go in to creating a quality piece were accounted for and executed, even though it meant a premium price was paid for the product. I don’t see how that solution is any different that creating a quality piece from offset. Digital is very capable of creating quality pieces, I just think we have marginalized it’s potential in the marketplace by our position when selling it as “quick print”. Of course, when we need to use metallics or some other specialty inks that digital doesn’t always offer yet, then of course it can’t compete, but we aren’t exactly comparing apples to apples anymore.”

— Brady Manthe, central premedia specialist, Brown Printing Company

“One particular job: Essential criteria — digital and offset components have to match. The machines tasked with the job were a 40-inch Komori (5-colour) and a Xerox-PC700. Stock was an A2 Coated Matte. We failed. Couldn’t match the two. We had our excuses ready, but the customer was not as pedantic as we had been told and didn’t even notice. The offset quality was good, very good — couldn’t fault it — until we tried to match and found that the digital was so much superior that it made the offset product look dull and lifeless by comparison. That was four years ago on a digital press which has since been superseded.”

— Shotz High Performance Print

“You should not expect to match offset and digital (laser/toner). Digital has a wider color gamut, so there can be a color difference between the two. Paul’s point about ICC profiles, you can work to match the 2 processes (if you care to) and perhaps move the curve on the offset to make it less dull and lifeless. Ironically, some the of negative traits of the digital is not having as smooth tone in gradient tints, can be can be a plus, if you like the look of it being a little sharper than the original. As far as proofing, I always ask for a proof for digital to be made on the same digital machine, RIP and paper that will be used in production. The only variable then will be the calibration and repeatability of the machine. There is no sense in comparing to another process or type of proof.”

— Ronald Boyum, printing services specialist at the U.S. Government Printing Office

What is your experience? Chime in!

All new Fold of the Week!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014
What should a company do when it wants to change its name? Throw a great party, of course! This week’s selection, designed by Prismatic (hellprismatic.com) and produced by Lawton Printers (lawtonprinters.com) of Orlando, offers a really fun modification to the always exciting and varied tulip fold format. By adding a reverse panel to the cover, the opening experience is entirely fresh. The piece is dramatic in scale and features holographic foil, too. It’s a real winner. Cheers!

The Survey Says: Digital Print Image Quality

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

If you haven’t checked out The Digital Print Survey conducted by What They Think and Unisource (March 2014), it’s a fascinating read. While the results are not projectible to the industry at large, the results are drawn from nearly 400 responses and provide a compelling look inside the shops of a representative cross-section of digital print providers.

To me, among the most fascinating sections are those relating to digital print quality. This was such a hot button for years, and if you ask PSPs today if the issue still exists, you’ll hear a resounding “No!” But that’s not what the data says. Do you agree with these results?

When asked, “In your opinion, in general, how does the output quality of your digital color production presses (HP Indigo, Xerox iGen, Xeikon, Nexpress) compare to the output quality of offset presses?”

  • 53% said “about as good as offset”
  • 8% said “slightly better than offset”
  • 2% said “is much better than offset”

In addition, 86% said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the image quality coming off their presses.

However, only 67% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color matching and 63% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with color consistency. Even fewer (43%) were satisfied with color matching.

When asked about their production challenges, “getting consistent print quality” was in the top three challenges, with 30% of respondents giving this answer. “Getting consistent color” came in fourth, with 29% of respondents giving this answer.

When asked which job elements reproduce “fine with no problems,” relatively low percentages of respondents agreed with the following:

  • fine lines / detail (47%)
  • solids (36%)
  • gradients (22%)
  • custom colors (18%)

What I take from this is that, in the end, printers are satisfied with the overall print quality on these presses, but especially when it comes to fine detail and color matching, it still takes a lot of work.

Would you agree with this data?

Building Your Web-to-Print Relationships

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Having a web-to-print storefront can be extremely beneficial for businesses. Through setting one up, a printer can save time and resources when it comes to the process of taking orders. However, while an online storefront may accomplish the goal of reducing the printer’s workload, could it end up meaning less business in the end?

Is the online-only bride too narrow?

As more and more of our interactions with businesses, friends, and other associates move online, service providers must still seek to develop relationships with customers that simply order online. Not only will this help us open up the communication lines when it comes to customer service, but it may also lead to conversations that generate additional business opportunities.

How can you make sure each customer who orders from you online feels just as appreciate and acknowledged as the rest? Download our article, Web-to-Print and Relationships, to learn 5 ways to build greater relationships with online-only customers.

Please take a moment to read and share this resource at http://ilink.me/OnlineOnly. Do you find your company running across this issue with online storefronts? What solutions have you found? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Book Publishing Made Easy with Inkjet Technology

Monday, April 28th, 2014

When we talk about inkjet technology and its benefits, the conversation tends to revolve around transaction (invoices, bills, statements) and promotional (direct mail) pieces. But in this webinar titled Inkjet: Implications for Book Printing Manufacturers and Publishers, InfoTrends’ Group Directors Barbra Pellow and Jim Hamilton bring book printing into the conversation. As they highlight, book printing now makes up roughly 20% of the inkjet marketplace, and is one of the fastest growing sectors towards adopting this technology. The webinar explores why the shift is occurring, defines emerging technologies, and discusses the financial implications of adopting a high-speed inkjet digital business model.

To understand any industry shift, it is important to consider social and financial factors that contribute to the changes in trends. In 2010, Hamilton cites three key conclusions about the changing dynamics of the book publishing industry. These include: “content is king, publishing is becoming more of a service than a product, and the days of high-volume book manufacturing are coming to an end.” By 2014, Hamilton affirms these conclusions are more prevalent than ever before with 1st mode publishing, just-in-time manufacturing, and print-on-demand services. In fact, with the onset of e-delivery, Hamilton proposes that the entire definition of a book is evolving. Now books are also electronic, on-demand, interactive, contain personal content and are delivered via multiple channels.

Although digital channels are rising in popularity, print remains one of the most effective delivery methods. In a recent PEW research study, it was found that 7 out of 10 adults read printed books. Only 4% of readers are ‘e-book only’, where as the majority alternate amongst digital, print, and audio channels. Likewise, print remains a significant source of publishers’ revenue. All of these trends, grounded in research, highlight the need for digital print solutions that can get personalized product to market in order to meet the needs of both publisher and consumer.

Book printers and publishers are realizing that production digital print provides a more effective method of manufacturing. Shifting from offset, the biggest growth opportunity now lies within inkjet color continuous feed technologies. From wharehousing and distribution to the integration with cross-media and interactive components, digital inkjet solutions provide the capacity to fulfill publishers’ demands. Essentially, the digital printer becomes a virtual document wharehouse, in which inventory is produced at the click of a button within a given workflow. And it all comes at a reasonable price with inkjet. The final portion of the webinar lays out the impact of print volume over cost distribution. In the projection, fixed costs like equipment and monthly service fees decrease per unit as volume increases, but the cost component from click charges and ink increase as volume increases. These numerical relationships are important to consider once you’ve determined how ‘long’ your run should be.

“Technology is becoming your friend in the publishing market,” claims Pellow. Inkjet technology in particular seems to provide the highest quality solution and workflow to meet the end goal. For more on cost factors, black versus color printing breakdowns, and the full list of benefits of inkjet, be sure to check out the full webinar here!

Survey on Digital Print Production Issues Released – And It’s Free!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Want objective input on the production and quality challenges still being faced by digital printers and the resources required to overcome them? Unisource and WhatTheyThink recently released a joint Digital Printing Survey that will tell you. Best of all, it’s free!

Among the topics covered:

  • Services and equipment offered
  • Digital equipment and revenue
  • Variable data work
  • Digital print quality
  • Digital vs. offset
  • Factors impacting press / image quality

The list goes on. Basically, everything you want to know about the status of the industry. It also comes with expert commentary from What They Think’s own Dr. Joe Webb.

You can download a copy here.

3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: Think Dimensional Mail

Friday, April 11th, 2014

I’m stunned. I just looked back at my post on using 3D printing to drive digital printing and there are 68 shares on LinkedIn. I don’t think any post I have written — ever — has gotten that many LinkedIn shares. This tells me I’m on to something.

Part of the reason, I think, is that all of the discussions I’ve seen around 3D printing have to do with bringing existing products, services, and business models into our industry. That means discussion about whether printers should try to replicate what’s already being done, and done well, by companies that are far more entrenched and expert at it than printers are. Of course the answer to that is, “No!”

What nobody is talking about is how printers can apply the technology in a complementary way to drive more sales the products and services they already offer. That’s why I think that post resonated so much. As I discuss in the report “State of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry: 2014,” I believe 3D printing will provide significant opportunities for this industry, but most important applications will be the ones nobody has come up with yet (although I’ve proposed a few).

We are hearing many printers express concern that 3D-printed products are simply too expensive to be used in marketing campaigns, but I don’t think 3D printed products should try to compete with traditional response incentives or ad specialties. I believe 3D-printed products should be used for creating customized or personalized products (branded items), one-off products (personalized, highly unique incentives like action figures of company executives), or for ultra-short-run campaigns with a highly targeted audience.

In this, 3D printing would compete with dimensional mail. When going after corporate executives, marketers understand the value of sending a personalized box, complete with personalized marketing collateral, personalized sales letters, and personalized incentives ranging from radio-controlled cars to personalized baseballs. Now imagine a 12” action figure that looks just like the CEO of the target company staring out at the recipient (or his gatekeeper) from underneath a plastic window as part of a mailing box. I can imagine an open rate in that campaign of 100%.

So when thinking about 3D printing, forget replicating what’s already being done. Think how the technology can be applied in complementary ways to drive the business PSPs are already doing!

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 2

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

By: Irving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In my post last week, I reviewed a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands”. Let’s consider how this article translates into the Printing Industry…

How can a company making printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others?

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Become comfortable with your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses – and be able to talk to your potential clients about them.  If a competitor’s equipment can generate 20-30% more copies per minute than yours, and costs the same, the client may argue that their equipment is more productive and you will lose the sale.  But if the client has post-printer finishing need that cannot be done in-line at the equipment’s rated speed the productivity premium may be eliminated.  In fact, using a “faster” print machine may create a total production time slower than your solution.
  • Understand your client’s entire workflow – See the example above.  Understanding what your client’s workflow is, from creation of a print product, through printing, finishing and even delivery, will allow you to build a solution that specifically meets your customer’s needs.  If your client is in no rush to create the booklets to send to its clients, there is no need to provide the fastest piece of print equipment.  If they need documents as quickly as possible, then identify where, in the current process (pre-print, print, finishing) there are the most problems and develop new solutions that meet the client time needs.
  • Have a solid implementation plan, and a fail-safe – Have a solid plan for equipment delivery, connection to print servers and networks, installation and testing.  If the solution is not working to the client’s expectations and requirements, have a fail-safe in place to ensure that the client’s bottom line is not negatively impacted due to your equipment or solutions issues.
  • Have training and mentoring solutions in place – We’ve all been in situations where we buy a piece of equipment or a product and then have to learn how to use it.  Using the Internet has made things a little easier, but, as an organization, do you want your customers to learn how to use your equipment by seeing what someone else does on the Internet?  Identify your client’s most important needs and requirements of the equipment and solutions you are providing and ensure they know how to use your equipment or solution to meet those needs.  Develop focus groups with other users so that they can share issues between themselves (with input from your organization) to develop new solutions they can all use.

The new world of sales is changing in this information-rich environment.  Be sure to use all of the tools your organization provides to provide your potential customers with all of the information they will need to buy your products, services and solutions.  Providing as much information as possible to your customers gives them the power they need to make decisions that meet or exceed their requirements at the most cost-effective price.

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

The End of Brands? How to Sell Equipment and Solutions in the Information Age Pt. 1

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

ByIrving Gaither – Madison Advisors

In February 2014, a New Yorker magazine article entitled “The Twilight of the Brands” identified the reasons that consumers are starting to abandon their prior reliance on brand loyalty in purchasing products.  The use of online information to shop and compare items, and to listen to other purchasers on the pluses and minuses of products is now the way most customers buy products.

For established brands, this makes selling products at a premium price an increasingly difficult thing.  If you are selling a product that is superior to other producer’s products, then you may charge a premium price.  But performance numbers are quickly matched by other producers, and often there is a number of products that are so similar that it is difficult to identify them sitting side-by-side outside of their brand names.  Past performance is no longer a selling point for many consumers; what the product is and how it performs NOW is what is critical to the purchaser.  There are two situations where this isn’t true – when the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product or where the brand confers status (think Louis Vuitton).

For the consumer, the information age means they are making better buying choices (hopefully), and competition has improved quality and lowered prices. It also means that upstart companies find it easier to compete with established producers.  If you make a product that works well at a competitive price, you will quickly become the next Asus, Roku, Hyundai or Kia.  We have gone from stable consumer markets to tumultuous ones, but if you can make a great product, the world will beat a path to your door (or store website).

Let’s look at the sales situation that is a bit outside of this “new” sales paradigm – where the quality of the brand is integral to the use of the product.  In the past, Coca Cola was a brand synonymous with this type of product.  Wherever you went around the world, if you purchased a Coca Cola, it would taste exactly the same and it would not make the consumer sick (because the water was pasteurized in the bottling process).  World travelers really built the Coca Cola brand, and as world economies improved citizens of the world had enough ready cash to buy one bottle of Coke.  Coca Cola has such a foothold in the US and other countries that they have increased market share in consumable beverages using their bottling companies if not their Coca Cola syrup to provide regional and local beverage favorites in every country they have a bottling plant.

So how can a company making copiers and printers break itself away from the pack and differentiate its solutions and services from the others? Check back next week for a couple of solutions!

Reference:  The New Yorker, Financial Page, Twilight of the Brands, by James Surowiecki.

Using 3D Printing to Drive Digital Print Marketing

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

For the last several months, I have been poking around, interviewing printers who have purchased 3D printers, reading 3D printing case studies, surveying 3D industry data, and trying to answer the question, “Is 3D printing relevant to the commercial printing industry?” The answer is yes, but not in the way I think many people believe.

One of the biggest opportunities for commercial printers, I believe, will come in using the production capabilities of these printers to drive the need for multi-channel marketing. Let me give one scenario.

Your client is a pediatric orthodontist who wants to increase his patient base, but there are several competing pediatric orthodontists in his geographic area. So you come up with an ingenious marketing plan that none of his competitors are using. You promote the dentist with a unique incentive for using his services — a 12″ action doll that looks just like the child. Then you purchase a list of households with a specific income level, with children under 18 years of age, within a specific geographic radius, and send out a postcard featuring a young girl with braces, with beaming smile, holding a 12″ action doll that looks just like her — braces and all.

Is this an expensive incentive? Yes, it is. But it’s only provided with the purchase of braces or other orthodonics. It can be printed in-house at the print shop or outsourced to a provider like ThatsMyFace.com. This model could be applied to nearly every market vertical. What incentive could be printed to encourage test drives of luxury vehicles? Or product demonstrations of high-dollar items. Say . . . a new digital printing press?

The value of 3D printing isn’t necessarily going to be in producing 3D-printed items for their own sake. It’s going to be for the larger marketing opportunities that these 3D-printed items create.

For more on 3D printing in the commercial printing industry, you can check out my article “Early 3D Adopters” in Printing Impressions or my report “The Status of 3D Printing in the Commercial Printing Industry.”

 

“We are always fans of having the medium be part of the message”

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“We are always fans of having the medium be part of the message.”

This is a quote from Rosser Clark, creative director for the award-winning marketing firm Fixation, whom I had the privilege to interview this morning.

Fixation had produced a really interesting “exploding page” product for Reno Tahoe USA, a firm promoting trade shows and events in the Reno Tahoe area. His comments about the medium being part of the message were very interesting to me in light of the discussions these days about the relevance of print.

What makes print relevant to an audience today? It’s matching the specific, tangible characteristics of print to the right marketing goals. It’s not a “one size fits all” kind of thing. It’s strategic pairing, and the Reno Tahoe campaign illustrated this concept extremely well.

An Exploding Page (produced by Structural Graphics / Red Paper Plane) uses scores and die cuts to allow the piece to fold down into a flat square. When opened, it “explodes” into a much larger size, opening like a 360-degree fan. So like Reno Tahoe, it, too, is “a lot more than you expect.”

Exploding Page“It is more memorable than a plain sheet of paper, and their tagline is ‘Reno Tahoe:  A lot more than you know,’” says Rosser. “Likewise, this piece is a lot more than you’d think. It’s small, but huge inside. It mirrors the message really nicely. The headline on the cover also says, ‘OPEN.’ That is the message: Open your mind to Reno Tahoe. It’s also a command: Open this piece. That works nicely. The headline pays off the inside. Reno offers you a lot more than you know, and this pieces does, too!”

It’s a great example of how print offers something that no other medium can. . . and it is this kind of creative thinking that will keep print fresh and relevant in today’s burgeoning use of digital media.

By the way, the piece, which is being used as a handout at conventions, was produced in a run of just 500 copies.

Printing Is Easy, Marketing Is Hard

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

It has been said, by whom, I’m not entirely sure, that everyone has a book inside them (insert your own “Marxist” joke here), or at least everyone thinks they do. I am regularly asked by friends and colleagues, both inside and especially outside the printing industry, about how to self-publish a book. Almost universally, the questions are about the physical production and printing process (“how many pages/words do I need I need to write?” “How expensive is it?”, etc.) or how ebooks work. However, from my experience, the questions one asks about self-publishing should focus less on production and more on marketing—and even whether there is an audience at all for the book you want to write.

There are success stories, of course. The 50 Shades of Gray franchise (to my horror, I discovered too late that it had nothing to do with color management) is perhaps the emblematic example of the self-publishing experiment that was enough of a hit to lead to mainstream publishing success. (Imagine, erotica being a saleable commodity. Who’d’a thunk it?)

Regular WhatTheyThink readers may know (or be in denial about the fact that) that Dr. Joe Webb and I have co-written and self-published almost half a dozen books (see in particular here, as well as here, here, here, and here), and the half-dozenth is on the drawing board—and, no, will not be called 128 Levels of Gray and will not chronicle the erotic adventures of a prepress department manager. The one thing that we have learned in our self-publishing adventures is that production, printing, and even writing all comprise the easy part of the self-publishing process. Today’s digital and on-demand printing technologies make it easy and inexpensive to publish your own books, and services like Amazon and Lulu, to name two that we have used, handle both the physical production and offer an online storefront for a book. But that is, again, only the smallest of first steps.

Some serious questions and considerations to ponder before even setting finger to keyboard include:

  • What is the real market for the book? Be honest. What is the competition like? Do your due diligence. Search Amazon, Barnes & Noble—even venture to the nearest physical bookstore to see what books may exist on your topic. You may very well be entering a very crowded or even saturated market—even if you have a unique take on a well-trodden topic—and being self-published is one major strike against you if your closest competition is from an established publishing company.
  • Is there a lot of free competition? Our recent book is The Home Office That Works!, about setting up a productive home office, and while there are few published titles (that we found) that cover the topic the way we did (most are about launching a specific home business), but we discovered after the fact that there are a lot of blogs and online articles about various aspects of running a home office. It’s strewn piecemeal all over the Internet, but a challenge is getting people to buy something they can probably search out and get for free. If I were to write a book offering tips for prospective self-publishers, I would be in trouble because of blogposts like this one.
  • Do you have a promotional/marketing apparatus already in place? That is, are you a fairly well-known speaker in your industry and can use speaking gigs as marketing tools for the book (and/or vice versa)? When we published Disrupting the Future in 2010, it hit enough of a nerve in the industry that it led to Joe and I getting speaking gigs that, in turn, promoted the book. It helped that we were known quantities (for better or worse) in the industry.
  • How popular are you on social media? I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but I think social media has become vastly overrated as a marketing and publicity tool, but that’s not to say it is not without value. Are you active enough in these areas or do you—like me, I hasten to add—have to be dragged kicking and screaming into social media? If you are like me (and my thoughts and prayers go out to you), do you know someone who can do your social media stuff for you?

Self-publishing is not as looked down upon as the old vanity publishers of yore, but there is still a stigma attached to it, as in “you couldn’t get a real publisher, could you”—even though all the questions you should ask yourself before self-publishing are the same as you should ask before seeking out any publisher.

Digital printing technology has truly enabled the small, independent, or self-publisher—but that really is only the beginning of the process.

Super-Cool Fold of the Week!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Brace yourselves for the most amazing feat of direct mail and digital print. This week’s selection was a spectacular find from HP’s DScoop Conference in Orlando. From Motioncutter in Germany and printed on an HP Indigo press, this pop-up self-mailer has an exciting secret – high-speed variable laser-cutting with personalization! Yes, imagine a different, highly-detailed laser cut name in EVERY mailpiece, produced at speeds of up to 6,500 per hour. Skeptical? You can watch their demo video, too. Mind = blown.

 

Are in-plants up to speed on offering cross-media marketing services?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Although cross-media marketing services are becoming more prevalent amongst print and communications partner providers, we in the print industry have yet to discuss how this evolution affects in-house, or in-plant, offerings. Last week, Canon Solutions America sponsored an InPlantGraphics webinar surrounding the question at hand: How are in-plants making the cross-media connection? Barbara Pellow, Group Director at InfoTrends, offers key background information on how in-plants are moving up the value chain and provides a breakdown of planned market investments for 2014. This overview could not have been more appropriately complemented by the examples of leading edge solutions from one of the industry’s most progressive in-plants at The World Bank. Both David Leonard, Manager of Printing & Multimedia Services, and Jimmy Vainstein, Printing Facility Manager, pose important questions and review a business model in transforming a print-focused in-plant to a full service, cross-media solutions provider.

We know having a broad range of services and capabilities, price point, and speedy turnaround time are at the top of everyone’s vendor criteria wish list. But the kicker surrounds what types of services are provided to connect with the 2014 target audience. In an InfoTrends survey, mobile marketing, multi-channel integrated marketing, web hosting, and web design services trump that wish list. This by no means comes as a surprise given the direction of communications trends and increased digital access. Barbara drives home the point: “This market is in transition. It’s an evolution, not a revolution.” The winners in this evolving market are going to figure out how to make paper interactive, how to extend value of media, and how to create solutions that are easily measurable.

That might sound like a complicated process, but really it boils down to first understanding what options are out there. For example, four ways to make print interactive include:

  1. Mobile codes – example: QR code, which links to web address
  2. Mobile messaging – example: text message containing discount receipt instructions
  3. NFC Tags – example: printed poster containing tag, which links to mobile web offer
  4. Augmented Reality – example: printed brochure, which links to digital expanded version

Knowing these channels, understanding a client’s needs, and investing in the proper software and print solutions will make for a seamless transition.

There is tremendous room for growth in most in-plants. InfoTrends highlights that the majority of in-plants foresee a stable or increase in overall revenue thanks to strategic software purchases and a re-vamped business model. As Dave and Jim explain, these investments strengthen the goal of knowledge sharing while delivering cutting edge, multi-channel communications solutions. Their business model explanation and examples successful communications pieces drive home the fact that in-plants can provide equally—if not more-so—competitive solutions.

For more insight and key questions to consider from Dave and Jim, be sure to check out the full webinar: