Printing companies have found ways to adapt in recent years, as digital challengers have pushed various traditional products into obscurity. Many of the less resourceful players in the market have gone under, but those that are reacting to the economic climate and re-purposing their services and products are finding success and sustainability.
Print is changing from the primary media to a specialized form
The Drum contributor Alastair Love argued that while digital media has taken precedence over traditional sources in the mind of consumers, print now serves as a more personal, engaging and luxurious format. The author pointed to the message overload that has been created by digital media, and suggested that print can serve as a distinct voice that stands out to readers. This is a particularly useful asset for marketers, as digital advertisements are perpetually bombarding consumers, and thus are less memorable.
Love also remarked that print is increasing in popularity in some areas. High-quality content, including long-form journalism and glossy photography, is in high demand. Consumers value such pieces for their refreshing nature, and have proven willing to pay for them even though they can get free, mass-produced content on the Internet. Love said that an integral part of marketing, and indeed of creating a consistent readership base for publications, is engaging with the audience. Print is the platform that best offers the opportunity for marketers or publishers to achieve such a goal.
Investors are taking note of print's evolution
Printing Impressions contributor Erik Cagle referenced private investment firm Blackford Capital, which typically invests in between three and six new companies each year out of an initial pool of roughly 5,000. In previous years, Blackford Capital did not have any printing companies on its radar, but recently the firm has taken a different stance on the industry.
Cagle spoke with Blackford's founder and managing director, Martin Stein, who pointed out several of the strengths that printers have displayed to help paint themselves as investment-worthy. For example, Stein noted the print market's broadness, its many niches that have growth potential and its prospects for consolidation, given the declining number of industry players, as variables that have reshaped his perspective on the industry.
Stein does not view the smaller number of print companies as a sign that the industry is deteriorating – rather, he views it as a sign that the weak organizations have been weeded out by competition from digital innovations, while the strong, sustainable companies have weather the storm and now look primed for growth.
Cagle also conversed with Graphic Arts Advisors Managing Director Mark Hahn, who noted that his company – like others in the print industry – is finally seeing profitability again after surviving the double whammy of the economic recession and the digital boom, which threatened to put many printers out of business. He remarked that, in contrast to previous years and in support of Stein's consolidation idea, a number of printing companies are changing the market by buying out or absorbing smaller competitors. This, he said, is a sign of stability and growth within the industry.
Print has been faced with various challenges since the dawn of the digital era – not only has technology threatened to render it obsolete, but the financial crisis had a negative impact on industry members, as well. However, in recent years printers have seen somewhat of a revival, as the resource is now suddenly a hot commodity again. High-quality products are being appreciated by the post-recession consumer, and print offers a more engaging platform through which to reach these individuals. Investors are taking notice of this change, and for the first time in the while, printers are ending up on their radar.