Print IS the Medium!

In a recent article to his clients, marketing consultant Dick Gorelick noted how it is difficult to ascertain what is truly happening to the industry.  He showed that certain parts of the newspaper industry (metro areas) are suffering while others (suburban newspapers) are doing very well.  He contrasted the reduced circulations of “Businessweek,” “Fortune,” and the bankruptcy of “Reader’s Digest” with the growth of the “Food Network” magazine from 300,000 to over 1 million in one year. 

Dick went on to say, “The conclusion is that one can find evidence to support or refute virtually any argument regarding the future of print.  Things have become murkier over time, rather than sorting themselves out.  Perhaps it’s possible that competitive differentiation has reached print media to the same extent that it has grown in the world of commercial printing.  The buyer is becoming more knowledgeable and discriminating – and the key issues are the needs and interests of the customer rather than the medium in which information or entertainment is communicated.”

We are truly seeing the words of Marshall McLuhan resonating in that the “medium is the message” and the medium is having substantial impact in how we interact as social beings Although it was written nearly 50 years ago, read McLuhan’s “The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man”. 

Of importance to those of us who make up the print community, we must discover methods to show society that print plays an important role in communication, and that we are not pillaging the forests and polluting the landfills.  When an individual is enamored with the medium (Internet, etc.), it becomes increasingly difficult to show value of other mediums, but that’s what must be done.

It’s not a task for the faint-hearted.

At last week’s Printing Industries of America board of directors meetings, the need for the industry to show an increasingly electronic-centric world the value of print was discussed in-depth by the board and various committees.  The path is not clear, nor is it one that is agreed upon by everyone, but here are several key points which became obvious:  1.) Printing Industries of America and its affiliates need to provide their members with tools (sources of information) which can be used to show a.) the value of print, and b.) print can be sustainable.  2.) The entire industry (manufacturers, suppliers, publishers, associations) must be engaged 3.) Everyone in the industry must combat the messages which are half-truths.  Here’s a case in point.  My wife Liz was speaking to an educator the other day who was referencing how books/print destroyed trees, she quickly came to our industry’s rescue.   She knew that trees were a renewable resource and that nearly 60% of all paper is recycled – which is not true of computers/Kindles.  Needless to say, this person was not aware of this information, but had just been repeating the environmentalist mantra. Everyone has to be engaged!

Although no definitive paths were decided at the meetings, this discussion by the industry’s leaders was more akin to a call-to-arms.  We can no longer afford to ignore the fact that it is not just the printer around the corner who is a competitor.  It’s the Internet publisher; it’s the marketing solution provider; it’s the online printer; it’s the digital printing equipment manufacturer; it’s the printer in China.  They are all competitors and more importantly, we need to remember that in the world of visual communications print is just one of several possible solutions, and it becomes incumbent on us as producers/enablers of print to educate/inform our customers to the value and importance of print – not just the value of our company.

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