Businesses across the globe are facing market fluctuations and shifts in consumer demand and trends due to the rise in digital technologies. Among the most severely affected is the printing industry, though the current climate is not nearly as pessimistic or hopeless as some would lead you to believe.
It is important to remember that, while there have been changes in the market, not all have been negative. For example, according to the recent data snapshot report released by WhatTheyThink, the total number of employees in the United States printing industry dropped by 1.3 percent from the year before. On the other hand, shipments made in the industry increased by 1.1 percent. In the publishing and creative sector, the number of newspaper workers declined by nearly 6 percent, whereas those working in advertising, public relations or graphic design saw an increase. Publishing remained unchanged.
The above data points are just a few examples that portray how the print industry, and the businesses that compose it, are not necessarily at as great a risk as some seem to believe.
Strategizing toward revenue revival
It wouldn't serve any paper or print company well to deny the obvious change in direction taking place. Because refusing to admit or acknowledge that communication and business are changing – and therefore so are the processes needed to support them – does not give the prevailing trends any less power or traction.
In an article for Fortune, Steven Waldman recently pointed out that there are lessons those in the dying industry (print media/newspapers) can learn from the death industry (funeral services). The internet did to the newspaper what cremation did for burials. Those in the business of funeral services typically one of three reactions to choose from, he argued:
- Deny that a shift was taking place
- Assume it was inevitable but also that it is not their responsibility
- Be proactive and creative in adapting to the change
Waldman went on to explain that many in print media seem to be following the same path. And while there are obviously more differences than similarities between these industries, with both, "control has shifted from leaders (editors and funeral directors, respectively) to consumers (readers and families). Readers want to customize their news feeds; families want to personalize their loved ones' funerals." The innovators, the source indicated, are simply those who are capable of finding a way to integrate traditional values and strategies with new tools and solutions.
Finding the healthy balance between digital and print
Folio recently reported the highlights and discussion takeaways from a summit held in New York this month. According to the source, panelists agreed that print is still alive and a useful, important and relevant platform – and will continue to be for at least the next decade. But it is important that, instead of treating digital and print as two opposing entities, businesses instead realize that the two can actually complement one another and that approaching it with this mindset can facilitate success.
In terms of media and print magazines, one panelist, Folio reported, said that the key to doing this is reaching readers and consumers in the way that they want to be reached. And two of the main focus areas that companies should be prioritizing are mobility and customization.
As we have mentioned before, there is likely always going to be a place for print in the business environment. Paper products, documents, forms and other related items are needed to carry out daily transactions, ensure customer protection, etc. And, at the end of the day, many people simply prefer using print materials over electronic versions. However, it bears worth repeating that a sustainable and successful business model of modern-day printing businesses is not built solely using an argument against digital. It is created through developing a strategic platform that incorporates the best of both worlds.
For example, although a company may not want to transition its entire offerings to formats that are designed only for digital consumption, there are certainly opportunities to integrate the technological innovations available to them in a way that allows them strengthen and accelerate the value of an existing model. It is important to keep in mind why the age of digital we now live in came to be. People wanted faster, easier ways of communicating and accessing the things they need. It has been fueled by the desire for convenience, customization and, in many situations, cost-savings. Automation allows all of these things. At the end of the day, the one tried and true way for a business to ensure it has continued growth and revenue is to make sure it is going above and beyond to keep its customers happy.