In 2015 the Print Services and Distribution Association released a benchmark study that set out to get a comprehensive look at how print distributors have evolved their practices in the current market. The PSDA secured 50 firms in the print industry to participate in the survey and gathered some interesting statistics on the general practices and habits of varying distributors.

The major highlights
PSDA found that distributors had a wide range of priorities when it came to their businesses, but the leading focuses generally fell under the category of "growing overall business." The top-ranking priorities in this category ranged from the procurement of new customers to ensuring increased revenue despite other forms of online competition. One distributor priority, surprisingly ranking on the lower end of the scale, consisted of replacing former print form sales with sales in newly implemented categories such as promotional products.

These rankings suggest that companies are less concerned with pushing new revenue streams (such as promotional products) than they are with generating new customers overall regardless of their product interest.  Conversion of sales from print to promotional matters less as long as there are new customers to sell to.

Perhaps the most interesting findings to come out of the study had to do with the future of print services and distribution. Among the 50 companies surveyed, business forms and other traditional print products accounted for 30 percent of overall revenue. Only 6 percent of businesses foresaw a growth in this sales stream. However, the avenue of promotional products (articles of merchandise branded with company logos), had nearly 75 percent of participating firms anticipating growth in this field – a considerable number for a revenue source that only accounts for 16 percent of earnings currently.

Along with promotional products, PSDA found that there was high anticipated growth in the fields of commercial print, labels, tags and direct mail. In promising news, the study also concluded that the majority of companies reported increased earnings over the past three years, with continued growth on the horizon in the form of anticipated generation of new business (56 percent).

What does this all mean?
The PSDA drew some pretty positive conclusions from its findings. While the general findings in this study do suggest there are some signs of turbulence within the print distribution industry, the concerns of distributors more closely shadow those of a stable industry than a field in decline. Numbers that point to anticipated expansion as well as growth affirm that print is not dead, it is just evolving with the change of the market.

The findings of this study are echoed, in perhaps less technical terms, all over the Internet. CNN Money reporter Sara Ashley O'Brien earlier this year released an article entitled "Print's not dead. Here's proof." Similarly, Gillian Orr of The Independent reported on how indie magazine sales in themselves are proof that print is still very much alive.

Perhaps the pioneers of the digital boom wrote print off a little too quickly – the PSDA has certainly proven with this new benchmark study that print products and their distributors are definitely here to stay.