The Future Of The Commercial Printing Industry

Posted by Adrianna On November - 11 - 2014 0 Comment

Print is a strange animal as 2014 comes to a close. Much like many forms of physical media, it has diminished and continues to diminish. As mp3s and streaming audio have replaced CDs and cassettes, as Google has replaced the phone book, physical media still lives on and in some cases continues to be big business.

cd sales by year

So, while this seems like a death knell to the business, it’s easy to see that like other forms of physical media there are still hundreds of millions of units to be moved. So, while Netflix is a dominant player in the movie world, there’s a reason Planet Video still exists in most towns in America – there’s still a lot of demand.

Things that aren’t going away

  1. Business cards. No matter what you think of the age old practice of handing off a business card, it’s still very much a part of today’s business culture. For all of smartphone’s attempts to pass along contact information, few things are simpler than handing off a piece of paper to a new colleague. Better yet, not immediately sharing your contact information through a smart phone knuckle bump or some other method allows you the ability to take the analog card information and vet the person you just met before giving them your own information. Print, in many cases, allows an extra layer of personal protection before handing someone the goods on your contact information, and that in and of itself can be quite valuable.
  2. Physical media. Yes, this is an extension of the previous point, but it means something bigger. For decades many printers were essentially “job shops”. Marketing and advertising agencies would sell the job and look for a printing partner to crank out the media. As demand for print diminishes, however, these partners can exert exponentially greater pressure on printing partners to get the best deal. So simply waiting for partners to set you up with print jobs is a dying business model. In fact, integration of marketing, communications and printing services seems to be a far better option as we move into 2015. Gaining control of the marketing process away from strictly digital marketing agencies, or partnering with successful multi-channel marketing companies (or better yet, expanding into a multi-faceted marketing shop yourself) becomes a more and more sensible concept.
  3. Direct mail. As in the point above, direct mail is not going away. Looking at a place like Modern Litho in Missouri, they’ve done a very smart job integrating into direct mail development and creative along with their core magazine and commercial printing services. Whether working through an end client or a partner, the greater amount of print or print-adjacent skills your organization can bring to the table increases your overall profitability. In many cases, these add on creative and strategic marketing services that go along with more traditional printing services will only enhance your long term client relationships and boost your margins.

The industry is indeed changing, but smart organizations can move along with the curve to ensure long term viability if they just understand the ongoing shift in customer expectations and industry realities. So, if you’re wondering whether or not commercial printing is dead, it more than likely depends on your definition.


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