New Media Mix

Cary Sherburne contributor to Print CEO, recently wrote an article titled “The Role of Print in The New Media Mix.”  The article is good food for thought about the opportunities being created by digital technology for the print industry.  There’s also a video interview produced by Kodak with Jon Bracken, VP Enterprise Solutions which also deals with the issues raised by Sherburne.

Yet, with all this discussion of new media and new roles for the industry, no one addresses the REAL challenges of changing a company which has been built around the traditional print model.  This is all interesting stuff – but where’s the beef? 

First, not everyone has to change their business model.  Your company can continue to operate as it always has and there will still be a market, although the market will be much smaller.  In a report which will be published later this month, Ron Davis, Printing Industries of America’s Chief Economist, suggests that ink on paper (offset/gravure) could shrink by as much as 30% in the next 10 years.  But if your company is going to delve into the digital world, here are some issues you’ll need to consider.

First, the sales model must change.  In the future world of print, orders are going to continue to get smaller and turn around times shorter.  The print sales rep can no longer hunt for “jobs,” but must learn to become a project or account manager.  In many cases web-to-print will become the customer interface.  Here are questions which will need answers:  How will companies find the right sales people?  How will they be managed?  How will they be compensated?

Second, if we become a Marketing Services Provider (MSP) which is suggested by many, we must totally rethink our estimating/pricing model.  Companies will not survive if they continue to think in a cost plus model.  Question: How will pricing be created?  Will reps be compensated on sales or profitability?  What kind of skills will estimators need?  Will we need estimators?

Third, training becomes critically important – and it must be a budget item.  We can not afford do disregard training when technology changes every 18-36 months. 

Fourth, your company must become information centric.  Everything will run on data.  Not only the information to drive the print engines, but the analytical tools necessary to measure the performance of the customer’s campaigns.  If your company is not able to document and prove that your solutions (print, whatever) are increasing the customer’s business, you are just another printer.  Will your employees have this knowledge?  Will they know how to communicate it to your customer in language they understand?  If not, the employees need to be trained – or worse case, your company may need to find a new workforce

Fifth, rethink capital requirements.  No longer will tomorrow’s printer think in making a large investment in iron and making it pay for itself over 6-10 years.  It’s going to be about constantly re-investing in technology solutions and focusing on personnel.

Sixth, and I think this is important.  You won’t have to be large to succeed.  There continues to be a mindset in manufacturing that bigger is better.  That’s oh so 20th century.  Just look at the auto industry and what’s going on with Quebecor and Donnelley.  Small means flexible and if one considers that print is going to be filling marketing niches and focused on shorter more targeted runs, this will permit smaller companies to succeed.

Finally, today’s print owner has to start making decisions about where he’s going to play.  The days of just looking for print buyers and letting sales drive the company are quickly coming to an end.  One is going to have to truly think about the market(s) your company will target and then create the infrastructure (DO NOT think in just terms of equipment) which will support that decision.

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