Tribute asks whether this will be the year publishers look seriously at the benefits of high speed inkjet printing
The past few years have not been good years for the printing industry, or perhaps it is best to say they have not been good years for most of the printing industry. While most of the news is about poor trading conditions, poor company results, company failures, etc., there are still many companies that have performed well and there are many major success stories in the industry. Most of the good news comes from printers that have changed their business models to open up new markets to add further services to their offerings to customers. These new business models invariably involve the use of internet based technologies, often linked with digital printing.
Over the past year we have started to see what may be a serious move by certain printers working with their clients to further change business models to bring about further new business approaches. Indeed 2010 may be the year in which we see these changes really start to come about. In the area of digital printing so far what has happened is that most digital printing has either taken work away from offset printing at the lower end of the market, or has opened up new markets for print using variable data or web-to-print in the business to consumer area. Apart from short run monochrome printing of books digital printing has really had little impact on publishers. By publishers I am talking about companies that publish information for profit in the form of newspapers, magazines and books. At this time the only real publishing we have seen switch to digital printing is for reprints of monochrome books where offset printing has been too expensive a process. This has shown the potential of digital printing for publishing. In the area of newspapers the only work that has been done is for a very small number of newspapers being printed, again in very short runs, at remote international locations for the tourist and visiting business markets.
The technology is now in place for publishers to think about new business approaches. At this time it is really only book publishers that are looking at changing their business models. In the book area the major problem for book publishers is managing their inventory that is a major capital resource for them. They have seen the opportunities of handling reprints in monochrome through digital printing, but few publishers have used digital printing for first runs of books. We are now seeing service providers and booksellers like Amazon starting to provide digital warehouse facilities to allow publishers to switch management of their content and production to digital processes. We are also seeing organisations like Google capturing out-of-print content and providing it in digital formats.
The technology to allow publishers to start moving their first editions in monochrome and colour to digital printing is now becoming available with the high-speed continuous feed colour inkjet presses. In 2009 a few of the leading book printers started to install this technology and more will do so this year. We are starting to see the growth in self publishing bypassing the book publisher using internet based book publishing and printing operations. 2010 will I think be the year in which book publishers start switching many of their first edition monochrome and colour books to digital printing.
The situation is different in magazine and newspaper publishing. In books the challenges come first from managing inventory and secondly from new electronic forms of distribution like the Kindle e-Reader. In magazines and newspapers the challenges are very different. These are advertising driven business models where advertising funds the publishing of content, and such advertising requires substantial distribution to be success in targeting readers. Digital printing has been too low of volume of print to be competitive for these markets. What is needed is a rethink of the business models taking account of the expertise of the digital print world in personalisation and client targeting. With the ability of the new high-speed continuous digital colour presses to print every copy differently at an economic cost, will magazine and newspaper publishers to look at what is happening in the worlds of direct mail and transpromo printing?
There is no logical reason why subscription based magazines and newspapers cannot link up with cross media delivery approaches to provide a much stronger business case to allow advertisers to address targeted customers.
I don’t expect to see more than one or two newspaper or magazine publishers switching some of their operations to digital in 2010. I do however expect in 2010 to see them seriously looking at how high-speed digital colour printing could open up new business opportunities using cross media marketing approaches.