It Happened Then, It Will Happen Now: Lessons from TWGA Publishing 2001/2002

By | January 8, 2013

In front of me sits TrendWatch Graphic Arts Publishing  Winter 2001/2002 written by me more than a decade ago. I flipped it open to the business challenges section to see how things had changed. When respondents were asked the question, “In the next 12 months, we must address these major challenges,” it wasn’t what was at the top of the list (the perennial economic conditions, printing costs, and business direction) that were most interesting. It was what was at the bottom.

Here is what publishers were not overly concerned about in 2001/2002.

  • Profitably managing shorter deadlines (35% citing this as a top business challenge)
  • Putting up their own website (10%)
  • developing an Internet strategy (27%)
  • Implementing cross-media applications (using the same images, design elements in print, Web, possibly broadcast) (20%)
  • Repurposing images/jobs for multiple output formats (15%)
  • Fulfillment and distribution issues (14%)
  • production for e-books (5%)
  • streaming media (5%)
  • Competition from Internet sales challens (like (3%)
  • losing sales to e-books (2%)

If I’m not mistaken, don’t these “minor” challenges from 2001/2002 now define the direction of the publishing industry?

If we’re honest, 10 years isn’t that long a time for such radical shifts to take place. Yet the business drivers and production workflows have absolutely turned on their heads in that amount of time.

That bears directly on where the printing industry at large is today. If you think about where we are with social media, full digital production, mobile access and marketing, and e-books now, it’s about the same place all of these other issues were 10 years ago — clearly on the radar and creating pressure, but being pushed to the back burner because they just weren’t bad enough yet. Now what were once back-burner issues are driving the publishing business model.

I’m finishing an update (February 2013 issue) to the high-speed inkjet feature I wrote for Printing Impressions last year. The attitudes, business drivers, and capital investment trends in high-speed inkjet in the publishing, high-volume direct mail, and statement printing verticals reminds me of the early days of toner in commercial printing. In many ways, I feel as if I’m writing the same articles all over again.  New technology, same old cycle.  So it goes with most things, right?

Social media, mobile media, 100% digital production (whether inkjet or toner), and other buzz technologies have long passed the threshold at which they need to be deeply incorporated into our business models. History tells us that, if we’re smart we’ll do it now because that shift is going to happen with or without us anyway.

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