Renaming Web-to-Print

By | August 3, 2009

Last week Cary Sherburne wrote about the need to rename Web-to-print. In her article at WhatTheyThink she pointed out that Web-to-print is a limiting term:

These days, however, what we were calling “Web-to-print” has morphed into something much more sophisticated and we really need a new name. Most notably, the digital assets that are being submitted through these systems don’t always go to print, so “Web-to-print” is much too limiting. Some assets are available for download electronically and might never be printed. Others may be used in email campaigns. Still others may be destined for the Web as banner ads, customized landing pages or more. In fact, for the customers, it is not even about print, really. It is more about managing business communications or marketing collateral, which is likely to include some print.

What Cary is talking about is templatized documents. Templatized documents can be used to provide personalization and customization to a range of documents in print and electronic mediums. Some have referred to this a Web-to-everything with the goal to streamline production by removing inefficiencies of the traditional procurement, design and and in the case of print, manufacturing the process.

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14 thoughts on “Renaming Web-to-Print

  1. Adam Edelman

    That’s why I call it Marketing on-Demand. Once you start integrating other conventional and online “engines” into the marketing mix, the term, “web to print” becomes a short-sighted term.

  2. Michael J

    It’s less important what we call it, then how we think about it. Web to Print has been a meme in the print bubble for a while. It’s use came from suppliers talking to printers. I wonder if any printer ever said to a customer “Would you like to buy some web to print?” I think not.

    The only words that a customer wants to hear are something like, “I have a proven way to solve your problem. The benefits of my solution greatly outweigh the risks of doing business with me.” If the problem is to get something printed, “the benefit of letting us print it, will minimize the risk of screwing it up.”

    On the other hand as a thought model for printers to put what we do – print stuff – in a context that helps us to figure out what to invest in and what to do next there might be a more useful set of words. I offer two possibilities for consideration by the wise people who visit this site.

    One is that every printer can be part of a printernet. It’s just new words for “distribute and print.” The new possiblity is massive parallel manufacturing capability that would allow a global brand to deliver countless millions of print pieces with a minmal carbon footprint. PacPrint in Australia has already used this as a defining concept. My sense is that it is most developed there.

    Another possibility is clickable print. This phrase points to an emerging reality that print product can be connected to personal TV with smart QR codes and TinyPurls. I have always believed that the 2 mass push media at Print and Television. Connecting them creates a new communication media.

    If clickable print is joined with printernet publishing, it would be possible to offer the global brands 50,000,000 postcards distributed in a couple of days that take the audience to 30 second commercials on their cell phones. All with a minimal carbon footprint because of the distributed manufacturing.

    I think it might join the power of physical print to the speed and scale of the internet. If you can’t beat ’em, Join ’em.

  3. Slava Apel

    Before the term web to print has taken off, I used to call it OnlineProofing or online print order procurement. I think calling it web to print is fine as long as you are segregating the action of printing utilizing the internet. PURLs, libraries of content, digital asset management, Inventory, MIS, Email Marketing are all supporting activities of W2P and because of that have their own silos and don’t have to be bundled it under the web to print umbrella. So as long as you say what you mean, web to print is exactly what it means – using internet to process a print order, a bridge between a printer and customer.

  4. Communications Resource

    I disagree all together, with more than 25 years in the industry both printing and the advertising industry, I believe that the word print will be removed all together in the very near future from our industry. To those that may recall before the MAC we once had service bureaus and these companies were the middle guy between the agency and the printer. Only in the last 20 years did we resolve these companies along with the typesetter, bindery house, mailing company and the database management… They were neatly tucked into the printing company. So now we added online service, online proofing and online ordering that also includes e-mail and text messaging campaigns what should we do now.

    We are communication resource firms… so those that are known as ABC Print or ABC Litho try making the change to ABC Communications. Very well may open a different door for you.

  5. Bryan Yeager

    I always find it a little amusing how it seems that the industry gets so hung up on names of things, like “Web-to-print” and “Print Service Provider” or “Marketing Service Provider”. Slava makes a great point. While it’s true that some “Web-to-print” solutions are becoming more ambiguous in their true functionality by adding multi-channel components, digital asset management, and campaign management, it is only a portion of the market.

    Nevertheless, many “Web-to-print” solutions don’t claim to be much more than what the term describes: a system that enables e-commerce for printed products, or electronically connecting buyers with suppliers. It’s not that far off from the concept the general concept of e-commerce, except with specific support to handle the ordering or submission of print jobs. Of course, I am simplifying the concept, as there are a lot of custom features for the general print industry that make these solutions a worthwhile endeavor.

    For many printers, this type of straightforward system is of much more immediate need than a full blown marketing resource portal. Many solutions on the market also have built-in scalability via add-on modules, where a printer can start out with Web submission and ordering, and then add those marketing-centric options as the need arises.

    Why try to rename “Web-to-print” when there is still a need for what “Web-to-print” essentially encompasses? I think maybe its use needs to be better-applied to the appropriate solutions that fit the mold. Even some marketing-centric solutions still have “Web-to-print” or print e-Business (InfoTrends’ “official” name for “Web-to-print” solutions) components.

  6. Bryan Yeager

    However, the “Web-to-print” component is prominent in these types of solutions. Therefore, it’s hard to peg solutions that fit the specific mold. More often than not, “Web-to-print” is still a conversation starter and a concept that printers can grasp, which probably contributes to its overuse. I don’t necessarily think another “sweeping” term is necessary, but maybe a greater understanding of how these solutions are segmented based on features and functionality.

    (I clicked “submit” too early without finishing my comment. Sorry for the double post!)

  7. Web Webster

    Your article is good and suggests a great question. I believe all of these comments add perspective to the dilemma. Believe it or not, all industries suffer in forming an ideal. Labeling something in order to define and categorize a process that will withstand the test of time, sale a few units and make some money is often difficult. Most digital technology tend to integrate over time as it evolves, which complicates matters even further.

    Keeping generic can be beneficial as systems evolve, morph and take on a new life and become a part of culture.

    A paradigm shift can bring with it the expense of revamping, educating industry, and persuading adaption from key stakeholders and hopefully without mutiny or commandeering from any one vendor, sect or group. The benefit to a shift if done correctly can be rewarding, increase the bottom-line and basically make that industry exciting as it achieves refreshing.

    Here’s the bottom-line, keep it generic and paint a fun picture, life is too short for anything else. Think about it, one day you and I will be gone and our kids will come along and name change the paradigm to who knows what just as we have done. We don’t remember words as easily as pictures.

    Give the term flexibility, breathing room, so it can grow and morph as the paradigm shifts.

    The honest truth is it’s not the term but the picture it paints over time. Maybe with this in mind something like READY, SET, GO (RSG), can be a simple start.

    Think about it.

  8. Peter Lancaster

    The article talks about there being in excess of 34 online solutions on show at Print 09, highlighting just how important this whole field of Web-to-Print is. So what term will all these suppliers use to describe the genre? Well it can’t be ‘Web-to-Print’ for a start because the term is trademarked in the US. A company called Belmark Inc, of DePere, Wisconsin successfully registered the term in September 2001. Some time ago, they sent out ‘Cease and Desist’ letters to those using the term in the public domain. This, in turn, led to the near global adoption of the acronym ‘W2P’

    Now I have to declare a vested interest here: my business is called W2P Ltd, my domain names all have ‘W2P’ in them, my logo incorporates the letters ‘W2P’ and I market my business as a ‘W2P’ Consultancy!

    So why did I call my business W2P? Well yes, it does stand for web-to-print, but to me it was a term that could always adapt itself to the changing landscape of communications. It also stands for:

    Web-to-Pretty much any other new technology that comes along!

    If we want a new term that best describes what Printers can do once they have adopted a ‘W2P’ solution, then it should probably be ‘Web-to-Publish’, as this term can be used for any media channel.

    Of course, this is just semantics to those who have not yet taken the plunge and invested in W2P. First and foremost, Printers need to generate cash from existing operations and that means feeding those hungry lumps of tin. Without this, all bets are off. Becoming a ‘Marketing Services Provider’ is all well and good, and I do believe it is a goal worth striving for but, for now, it’s still ‘Web-to-Print’ and will continue to be for the vast majority for some time to come.

  9. Todd Thompson

    We’ve been in this space for quite a while now and have found that many of our clients as well as prospects find the term/s we use very appropriate.

    Business & Marketing Resource Center

  10. Brett Knobloch

    Cary, We’ve been using Content-on-Demand for years for the same reasons you cite: print is not the only output and is increasingly just one piece of the mix. Online marketing portals that don’t encompass all marketing output and media are generally seen as single “point solutions” that will be replaced in coming years in favor of more comprehensive approaches.

  11. Koen Bogaert

    Web-to-print is just a part of a bigger graphical workflow. Ouch, I have to drop a coin in the “we never use the word ‘graphical workflow’ again-piggy bank”. Why? Because it’s a business process, not only limited to picture->text->layout->print->I hope there’s a script that notifies me if anything goes wrong->oops, wrong colours->looking for a new job.

    The graphical world is adopting the idea that the media supply chain can be dashboarded just as an ERP. There are assets, there are expressions of those assets and there are people/systems/locations controlling those expressions. So why not call W2P “media-to-print” since the user interface/experience is defacto more and more the web/phone/name your digital comfortzone.

  12. Michael J

    On the other hand, if Smart Qr codes go mainstream we can call it Print to Web. P2W. or W2P2W to give a sense of the full round trip.

    To try to communicate that it is a process with Print at the center, not a standalone Print product, perhaps it should be W2P2W2P2W ……

  13. Bob Raus

    I suggest Web-To-(Multi) Media.

    This is an excellent topic and aligns directly with the need for the print industry to shift from “print-centric” (ink/toner on paper) focus to multi-channel “communications” focused solutions. This doesn’t degrade the value of printed output – but rather enhances the value and relevancy of marketing/print service providers overall.

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