Production Print Buyers Prefer Digital Printing Over Offset Printing

By | January 22, 2009

Gartner just sent out a release which claims production print buyers prefer digital printing over offset based on the results of a survey of 443 production print managers in the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K.:

Overall, respondents believed that toner devices provide the best image quality and the best value for money. The survey showed that respondents preferred toner printing over offset printing by a significant margin. While the gap is smaller, liquid-ink printing is still preferred over offset and while ink-jet is also preferred over offset, the difference is marginal, meaning the two are basically on par according to survey respondents.

The survey also suggests that the use of color printing is not expected to increase in 2009:

Most in-house production printing work is done in monochrome, while outsource providers’ volumes are split 50-50 between color and monochrome. However, the surveyed showed that color printing is not expected to grow in 2009.

I can understand a shift from offset to digital, but flat predictions for color in 2009?

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12 thoughts on “Production Print Buyers Prefer Digital Printing Over Offset Printing

  1. Adam Dewitz

    I was talking to Dr. Joe about this study and he pointed out the “production print managers” is a tipoff that its survey of corporate managers, especially in IT departments. So these results might not represent commercial printing.

  2. Don Piontek


    I work in the digital field and this CANNOT be true. I’m sure that this survey did not include commercial print producers and / or buyers who work with both offset and digital. Many “corporate” IT folks have no real idea about color management. Ink-jet, while making strides, simply does not come close to offset in quality.

  3. Vscagnetti

    Doesn’t “production print” environments usually refer to these large billing centers and the like? I bet when they mention inkjet all these guys are thinking about is high speed Scitex/Videojet/etc inkjetting. Those systems are insanely fast. In the context of the forms/billing center operation, inkjet would be the leader.

    Nice survey. I knew something was fishy that it was from Gartner, a long standing and often erroneous IT surveyor.

  4. Noel Ward

    My understanding, from talking with one of the research directors at Gartner, is that the study comes from phone interviews with 443 respondents in the US, UK, France and Germany. While it is definitely slanted toward high speed production print (transactional and direct mail) it includes book, magazine and newspaper printing. The respondents are comparing toner (dry ink), liquid ink (i.e., Indigo), ink jet and offset equipment.

    443 people makes for pretty sound data. Sure, it doesn’t include graphic arts apps, but the transactional and direct mail service bureaus I know (and their customers) are pretty picky about print quality. And some are dropping pre-printed offset and going entirely to digital.

  5. Eoin Stewart

    I manage over 24 printers (some with multiple plants) and over 21 agency offices, as well as consulting with an in-house end-to-end print group for a large international corporation and as a subject matter expert for another.

    Although the use of digital presses has certainly increased over time I have not seen this drastic a trend.

    Digital is obviously being used more and more for one-to-one marketing, but our program’s norm (which is the only program I can speak address) is still involved with traditional digital press usage … short run, non-color critical, 4/C, which may or may not include variable data.

    Over the years I have taken very little stock in surveys as they tend to confirm what the initiator wishes. Anyone who has taking part knows that questions are slanted in a specific direction with limited answers accepted by the surveyor. Our industry is not that simplistic.

  6. Jeroen van Druenen

    Do you think your customer cares about the printtechnology you use for their communication needs? They want return on their “print” investment; more respons, more sales, more leads etc. Quality is in the eye of the beholder.

  7. Skip Henk

    Not knowing the exact composite of the respondants or who funded the survey (orif it really made the difference) what I am seeing is that: the application, run length and cost are still the driving factors of digital color.

    There is no doubt color quality continues to improve and production costs are coming down. Offset print is not as media sensitive as digital with media being a significant cost factor.

    If the survey is predominately related to transactional documents, I am sure there is a preference in eliminating pre-print … but transactional documents do not have the same quality reuirements in terms of looks and feel today.

    As these trends continue more applications and shorter run lenghs will make sense.

    Until then, when push comes to shove, digital print buyers will continue to purchase certain applications based on required quality and price.

  8. Eoin Stewart

    Hi all,

    In response to Jeroen’s question regarding the customer and caring which technology is used, I would submit that they should and my own workflow fully addresses which a specific project should utilize.

    Although ROI is very, very important, I have found that few clients have the ability to truly quantify return. Buyers and production staffs look at the bid. Unfortunately many marketing groups are more concerned that a project come in “within budget” and not in saving money and tracking success of a specific element of a program via quantified metrics. In short, many if not most have no idea if they have achieved ROI and as long as it looks pretty (subjectively) and adheres to branding.

    It’s a shame, but a reality from the client side.

  9. Diane Dragoff

    I am a print buyer who works for a nonprofit. I have also been a graphic designer and worked in printing plants. My qualifications lead me to put in my “two-cents” in response to the above comments.

    For each project, I look at marketing requests and end-user need in terms of cost, quality and service. Overall, I am buying less printing as information migrates to websites, blogs, emails, etc.

    What I am buying are transpromo documents which have changed over the years from webpress runs of shells with text imprints to short digital variable data runs which may have delivery electronicially or out of our in-house laser printers. This is as a result of the demand for ever increasing speed of delivery, variability of copy, short runs and cutting cost of storage, fulfillment and shipping. Quality is not stunning, but we design for the output device so it is reasonable.

    There are times when we have longer runs, can gang projects for multiple-ups or need printed non-variable collateral. These we print offset. Again, we design for the output device and maximize our use of the sheet.

    ROI is important to all staff. Soft costs, such as design time and in-house review, are now included in our cost analysis. There is no question that our communication mix is changing, but we do extensive testing, focus groups and use metrics to determine the actual cost. It is not a question of looking pretty or just adhering to branding, in these times every penny counts and the more we don’t spend, the more we have to pour into services that may mean survival for our agencies and their clients.

  10. David Popple

    I would love to see the full survey even to the extent of seeing and answering the questions just to see how my own answers were interpreted. To a professional printer with no axe to grind this survey seems to have significantly lost touch with reality.

    Powder Toner and Liquid Ink systems are very much on a level… with LI systems having the slight edge in my opinion (Depending upon which powder toner system you are comparing it with). The dot is sharper and much better defined which means predictability…. and with predictability comes consistency. But ask these systems to print 100,000 sheets of a 28″ by 30″ poster and see what happens.

    Ink Jet has sounded good for years but still has its limitations. Great for transactional work at one end of the scale and very wide format at the other as long as you are not particular about print quality and can be choosy about the substrate. To say that it is better print quality than litho, even after taking all the shortcomings of the litho process into consideration makes the survey look very suspect as a serious work. Great for wraps (Building, Vehicles banners streamers etc) but why would you want to use ink jet when there are much better digital offerings around with just as much flexibility

    Which leaves litho – the answer here is obvious dont ask for variable data because it cant be done the print quality however is excellent and either on par or superior to any digital process bar none.

    The old addage of play to strengths seems to call to mind.

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