Over the past few years, it seems like the print industry has been fighting a constant battle to prove that print is a valuable media. Remember, we’re not the only ones in the media wars. Radio and broadcast TV are fighting for their place in the food chain, as are many of the “traditional” cable folks as Netflix and Amazon are starting to enter the fray. It’s a complicated and rapidly changing world – but there are still plenty of opportunities. Just to keep things in perspective, check out this YouTube message from our publishing friends from across the pond. Make sure to see the entire message.
It’s a clear beautiful day flying over Oklahoma headed to Missouri. CAVU in pilot’s lingo — Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. And I’m feeling that way about our industry.
I’ve been talking to quite a few of our members and as a whole they’re busy — some are very busy and setting records for monthly sales. As we all know print is not dead — it just moved somewhere else (Who Moved My Cheese?) and these folks didn’t stop looking. It meant making rational business decisions rather than staying on the track of doing whatever had got them there in the first place.
The most important word of “advice” I would give is that they need to keep an eye on that cheese because in five years there’s a high probability it won’t be there. Print technologies continue to shift (ink jet; integrated workflow; wide format, etc.); mobile digital technology (glasses, watches, phones, etc.) will continue to change the advertising landscape; and the industry will continue to consolidate and morph (CGX and RRD). But what I think will make many of these “printers” successful is that they’ll understand that their business is about providing their customers with a visual communications solution — and it will probably involve print.
Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost.
President Obama has capitulated on one aspect of the Affordable Health Care Act — the phrase “you can keep your insurance if you want” is coming back to haunt the administration. To me this is a bigger story than the website —- that’s just poorly executed technology. It’s the underlying assumptions which have been made to “supposedly” cover the under and un-insured. Those involved with writing the act did not understand market forces and what type of decisions people will make when the mandates started kicking in. I’ll paraphrase Pelosi again – “Let’s pass it and then we’ll see what we have.”
And the Chickens are roosting in Dallas. Jerry is looking at another .500 season as the Cowboys continue to flounder. Blame injuries, blame coaching, blame offensive/defensive schemes, but the decisions made by the team’s GM are coming home to roost (or maybe they never left).
It’s been 95 years since a World Series has been closed out at Fenway Park. Woodrow Wilson was the president of the U.S. We were in the middle of the “War to end all wars,” which was the way WWI was described. There were only 48 states. The War Between the States was recent history. Henry Ford was just starting to change the world of manufacturing, and print was still being produced as it had been for centuries – metal type transferring an image to paper.
Yet, Octobers continue to come and go, but for the baseball fan, things haven’t changed. It’s still about watching an Adam Wainwright trying to figure a way to keep David “Big Pappi” Ortiz from getting on base. That’s baseball.
Now, no offense to my buddy Jim Tepper in Boston, but I’d like to see the Sox lose the next game and then see a game seven on Halloween night. Although the curse of the Bambino was lifted several years ago, it would be complete closure if the Sox won Game 7 on Thursday evening. No more ghosts.
One more thing. I hope that everyone is noticing the commercial which has been running during the playoffs. It seems that the Blue Pill does wonders for folks in the printing industry. Now if the folks watching those commercials would buy more print along with their Blue Pills, we’d all be happier.
I find that living in the football-crazy State of Texas, there’s always interesting stories during football season. Sometimes my response is – “they did what?” Case in point is the recent drubbing Fort Worth Western Hills took at the hands of Aledo High School – 91-0 was the final score. OK, that’s not a good story for the Western Hills team, but here’s the twist. One of the parents filed a bullying report with the school district against the Aledo coach.
This was not a case of Aledo’s coach keeping his foot on the throttle. He put the ball on the ground when the score was getting out of hand and benched his top players. Even the opposing coach said that there was nothing wrong. Give me a break!
Many of us who have played sports have been on both sides of that equation. I think most of us learned that we don’t give up when things have gotten tough – or embarrassing. We dust ourselves off – and then find a way to avoid that situation from happening again. Work harder. Work different. Maybe were not cut out to play that game – that’s an OK solution as well.
But what kind of signal are we sending our children, when we say – Oh, we can’t let you fail. It’s not good for your psyche. Johnny may be emotionally scarred from getting an F or losing a football game. So, we need big brother to step in. Do we always need to provide a safety net (or someone else does)? Sorry, that dawg don’t hunt as far as I’m concerned.
It’s Friday, October 18th and our country made it! No default. No crashing markets. But we still have sequestration and Obamacare to deal with, AND we get to do it all over again in January!
It’s Friday and the Dodgers are still in the hunt! The best pitcher in baseball is throwing for the L.A. team, but they’re facing those pesky Red Birds for a win or go home game.
It’s Friday and Nolan Ryan is leaving the Texas Ranger organization at the end of the month. Sad day in Texas, but many of us knew his days were numbered.
It’s Friday and I’m hearing positive vibes from many in the print industry. Things aren’t where we’d like to see them – but a lot better than earlier in the year.
It’s Friday and the ‘Boys are playing the Beagles in Philly on Sunday. ‘nuff said.
Last week you could hear the glee in people’s voices as they observed politicians in Washington throwing verbal hand grenades at each other. If you were a Democrat, you observed the conservative wing of the Republican Party closing down (ransom was the preferred word) the government — and you had visions of a political rout in 2014 when angry voters would retaliate. And Republicans gladly watched Obamacare’s public exchanges come to a stand still. How could the government provide health care if they couldn’t get the websites to work properly, giggled members of the Grand Old Party.
Sad to say we saw the results of a system that isn’t working — for either side. And we still are going to have to deal with the upcoming debt ceiling argument.
Reality says that regardless of how concerned we are that the “other” guys have it wrong and are taking our country down the road to hell, it ain’t going to happen. I for one feel that our country is very resilient and we’ll get it right. It may not be an easy path, but we can get it right. How?
First, we have to understand and accept that our system moves painfully slow to the left or right — and that’s OK. Second, we need to accept that in our republic form of governance, compromise is essential. We need the left and we need the right — but we need to moderate the voices from the extreme left or right. Third, politicians aren’t going to change — no matter how much we think they should. Fourth, advocacy (lobbying) is essential in a complex society such as ours — and we can’t sit on the porch and watch the parade go by. We must be involved. Fifth, and I’ve said this before, we need to find away to get rid of gerrymandering. One of the reasons the Republicans were willing to close the government is that in the majority of cases they represent a constituency which won’t vote them out of office. They’re bullet proof — as are the Dems who condemn them and are supported by their constituency. But create districts that are more geographically representative, and you’ll see a change in how we govern.
But then again, I’m just looking at it through my eyes.
In a conversation the other day, two of us lamented — and glorified — the advent of the computer age. We spoke about the introduction of one of the industry’s first personal computers — from Radio Shack, as well as others who are now faint memories. We talked about chip speeds, memory, and hard and “floppy” disk storage which were measured in numbers now considered archaic. We spoke about how much has changed in a generation and how it has affected inter-personal communications. Although in my mind, the true change is our society’s overwhelming dependence on silicon chips — whatever their flavor.
Our dependency really came to roost the other day when we discovered that a virus had infiltrated past all of our anti-virus software and was playing havoc on our server. Files were being locked and not being recognized by our Microsoft Office software. The virus (Ransomware) was an extremely malignant one and per our IT providers had recently entered the digital matrix and being replicated across hundreds of platforms. For three days our office has came to a stand-still. Fortunately our MS Outlook was hosted in the Cloud and was not affected; thus, our phones and tablets helped us function.
Now we have another issue to discuss — should we continue to host our own server and have to deal with degrading software and the threat of viruses or do we move into the Cloud where software is upgraded regularly and systems are much more closely monitored, but what happens if the Cloud gets hacked?
These are topics we never thought about twenty + years ago when our concerns were focused on disk storage and chip speeds for our office toys. We’ve gone from novelty to technology which is integral to everything we do. Phone calls. Automobiles. GPS. And yes, printing presses. It’s definitely “can’t” live with and can’t live without” technology.
When I was in Chicago last month, I started pondering on the equipment that was being sold and the reasons for the acquisition. I’m sure some purchases were made on a “build it and they will come” model, while some used the “we’re reducing costs” model. Although those forms of reasoning do create a bit of concern, what I’m really curious about is how the work produced on that equipment (wide format; digital variable data; diecutting; mailing, etc., etc.) will be priced.
Too often I have observed company after company making major investments and then rationalize how they could sell the product cheaper than they had before. Here are some of the reasons: Our makereadies are much faster; We can now perfect at 15,000 iph; Our new workflow software allows us to produce the work twice as fast; and, We’re now doing it inside and it costs us less to produce.
Now, some of these reasons may be hype from the sales rep selling the equipment, or they may be valid — that’s not the point of my argument. What concerns me is that companies make a significant investment in capital and then immediately find a way to reduce their pricing — “because the work now costs less.” WHOA. Let’s think this rationale through.
Yes, we can now produce more work in a shift (or two or three) because of a new piece of equipment or software, BUT WHY DO WE NEED TO REDUCE OUR PRICES? And don’t give me the argument of “if we reduce our prices, we’ll be able to sell more print.” That dawg don’t hunt.
If a customer is paying you $XXXX for a printed product — and now you’ve added equipment that can make you more efficient and provide more capacity, why should the price change? Your company has made a major investment in time and money to bring on this new “whatever.” The result to your operating statement is that you just increased expenses (debt, interest, more inventory, etc.) and reduced working capital and profits – immediately!
The only way to improve profit is 1.) reduce expenses to a lower point than they were BEFORE you made the expenditure or 2.) Sell more — but without lowering the gross margin of existing sales. There are no other ways. Let me close with one of my favorite stories (apologies to Cajun’s everywhere).
Boudreaux and Thibodeaux decided to get into the watermelon business. There’s was a spot near Baton Rouge and the Texas border that had a fair amount of traffic and they calculated it would be a great spot for a watermelon stand. So every weekend for a month, they would load up Thibodeaux ‘s Ford 150 with watermelons and head out for their stand and sell every last watermelon.
Now having gone to one of Louisiana’s university’s (no, I’m not saying which one) they knew how to use a spread sheet and apply cost accounting. Sadly, the spread sheet showed they were losing money. They then looked closely at their costs. They were buying the watermelons at $.45 per pound. And they were selling their watermelons, which averaged about 10 lbs, at $4.50.
“Well, Thibodeaux,” said Boudreaux, who had a marketing degree from the aforementioned university, “Our problem is that we don’t have a good brand and we’re not utilizing social media like we should.” ”Boudreaux, I don’t totally disagree,” was Thibodeaux’s response, “but we need to find a way to increase our volume – and to do that, we need a bigger truck!”
I’ve just returned from our annual Baseball Extravaganza trip. Each year assorted brothers, brothers-in-law, adopted brothers, sons and nephews make a trip to a baseball destination to enjoy our favorite sport along with a bit of golf and visiting micro-breweries.
This year’s trip was heavy on nostalgia. Given a family wedding, the location was Los Angeles — and visiting Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium). Some of us more seasoned vets enjoyed talking about Sandy Koufax, John Roseboro, Gil Hodges, Jim Gilliam and the assorted players who made the transition from Brooklyn to the hinterlands of the West Coast in 1958. At the same time, we were watching the 2013 Dodgers playing their/our hated rivals — the San Francisco Giants. Although it was an enjoyable game, it would be several days later before the Dodgers were able to win and lock up their division title.
L.A. seems to get busier and busier every time I visit, but when you get a chance to re-visit old haunts (The Original Pantry), cutting edge breweries (The Bruery and Hanger 24), and play a bit of golf with friends and brothers, life is good.
Next year’s trip? It’s time to see Denver and catch the Rockies in action — and discover if the water really makes a difference in beer.