Digital Innovations Group

What in the Heck is Wrong with the Printing Industry?

Blog post   •   Jan 08, 2010 12:54 EST

Nearly 90,000 Print Industry Employees lost their jobs in 2009 (footnote 1)
Trends indicate almost 7,000 less printing establishments by end of 2010 (footnote 2)
Online advertising to pass print ad spend by 2011 (footnote 3)
1 Trillion Unique URLs on the Web (footnote 4)

This industry is rapidly changing, and from my vantage point it will be very difficult for companies under $5m to survive if they don’t change to meet the challenges and opportunities. They will not have the critical mass to compete in an industry that is becoming increasingly price driven. Their size makes it hard, if not impossible, to invest in the automation needed to profitably produce print at a price the market will bear. Add the expense of a sales team that are little more than order takers and you have a going out of business strategy.

These companies may well be dying a slow (or maybe not so slow) death and many don’t realize it. While these businesses are dying, the principles are using up their personal wealth and retirement just to stay afloat.

Everything needs to change, business models, strategy, and sales practices and yet, attendance at industry conferences, where print industry leaders might learn what they need to know to navigate these changes, is way down. When asked about this, leaders say they are too busy making sales calls, too busy doing the jobs of the people they have laid off and too poor to pay for the cost of the conference and travel. For those of you who have these excuses, you are effectively saying: “I’m going to keep doing what I am doing which is losing me money and threatening my survival because I can’t afford to stop doing it for even a few days.” Does this really make sense? What else is more important?

The recession exacerbated the problem, it is not the problem. At the root of this crisis is but one fact: there are new digital ways to communicate and for many things they work better and are sometimes more cost effective than print or at least traditional print. Someone built a better mouse trap. Period. This transition would have happened even without the recession, it just would have taken a bit longer. So unless you have really, really deep pockets and can afford to wait around until you see what happens and then some more really, really deep pockets so you can catch up with the smart people who didn’t sit around waiting, you’d better get out there and learn what you need to know now. If you aren’t willing to do it, then perhaps it is time to just pack it in. At least you may have something left for your twilight years.


1. http://gawker.com/5418975/nearly-90000-print-jobs-have-been-lost-in-the-last-year
2. Dr. Joe Webb, WhatTheyThink.com, http://members.whattheythink.com/articles/article.cfm?id=41410
3. VSS Forecast, 8/7/2007
4. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/07/we-knew-web-was-big.html, 7/25/2008 10:12:00 AM