Viewing Print From The Wrong End Of The Megaphone: Collapsing Funnel Or Flowering Cornucopia?

By | December 24, 2015


As we round the bend into 2016, global graphic arts participants are fond of citing examples of print re-discovered. Perhaps we find an article in some obscure scientific journal that endorses print for retention of information in an educational setting. Or maybe we gleefully point to digital first companies like Google or Amazon using print to promote one of their array of services.

If we could consult the wisdom of the Magi in this holy season, what might those three kings exhort as portents from yonder star?

One. We are well advised to celebrate these print use cases (although we may be preaching to the choir and not the congregation of possible customers)

Two. We are wrong to ignore the truth that some conventional segments of print are in substantive decline.

Three. We are foolish to not embrace Interactive Print for its potential to leverage the value proposition of added value “in the print”.

If we are honest, the truth is laid bare in the contents of the daily (or less often) visit from the post office in whatever country we reside.

Printed holiday cards are fewer and fewer with each passing year. Conversely, photo postcards  of family members near or far are on the rise. Our credit card statements, if we haven’t opted out of printed statements, show not only increased balances due, they show that the highly trumpeted savior of print – transpromotional printing, aka trans-promo, or as one wag portrayed it – trans – pooh pooh, was no savior at all, merely a poseur exposed on trumped up claims. And quite likely, we also receive a niche publication printed magazine targeted to one of our peccadilloes:

“Kentucky Long Rifle Magazine – for the muzzle loaded moonshiner”

“The Epicure’s Guide to Tyrolean Cuisine, and Hats”

As a friend who works at one of the top ten printing companies in the world noted in early December: “the only part of our business that is booming is niche publications, there is a magazine for every odd-ball avocation you can dream up.”

Of course those “special” magazines probably have a print run rather shorter than Newsweek magazine, oh wait, that magazine isn’t printed no more…

Maybe we can see another portent in the decision of Hallmark, the massively successful creator of printed greeting cards, which branched into other media including its own Television channel, branded gifts, its own retail stores and so forth, when the firm decided to make its massive collection of world-class art elements available for subscription purchase much like one can buy a stock photographic image from Getty Images and its peers.

The plain fact is, people are buying fewer printed greeting cards, and mass market magazines and many more conventional traditional printed products are meeting the same fate, especially in the informational and promotional print segments.

So which end of the Megaphone do you use to view print’s future?

Trumpeting examples of print being used by unexpected players is not bad, but it may be more of a one-off media spend. The funnel is getting squeezed, more and more potential print users are opting for a heavily freighted digital spend at the expense of print.

But if we use the business end of the Megaphone to peer out at an expanding vista, what can we see?

Firstly, that logistics print (labels and packaging and so much more) is on a growth trajectory.

Secondly, the opportunity for print to provide a measure of security is growing. And here we do not mean the innovations in currency printing (e.g., Canada’s plasticine dollar denominations,) or even the hidden factors in passport printing (how ever did ISIL manage to get a passport printing machine?); no, we refer to the increasing global consumer concern – how do I know my medicine, my wine, my foodstuffs are genuine and also safe?

Print has a huge role to play here as the most universal (widely available) most democratic (value priced in every economic strata) and most convenient and approachable means of providing assurance.

We Print Protagonists see a bright future for print, but not for many traditional, conventional printed products. We believe as fervently as the Magi believed—behold the magic “in the print” using Interactive Print as the launchpad to a richly immersive multi-media experience.

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2 thoughts on “Viewing Print From The Wrong End Of The Megaphone: Collapsing Funnel Or Flowering Cornucopia?

  1. D. Eadward Tree

    Excellent points. But, for the record, I’ll point out that Newsweek is in fact in print, but with a print order of probably under 100,000. That’s a bit fewer than the 3 million-plus it was printing during its heyday. So your point is still valid.

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