October 2005
The power of print
Maybe it
The last issue of Graphic Monthly (August ’05 Power of Print anniversary issue) really hit a nerve in the industry, particularly, the article by Nancy Clark (25 Reasons Why Print is Best). It appears people in the industry are getting a little sick of pundits who keep saying print is dying. If it’s not wireless or digital, forget it. Come to think of it, print is wireless: no batteries required.

There seems to be a growing feeling that it’s about time the industry fought back. As Nancy pointed out in her article, print is not only good for many applications, it’s better.
In the U.S., the printing industry reached the same conclusion. The CEO of Sappi Papers, who didn’t come from the industry, began asking a lot of questions after she had been on the job for about a year. Why was everyone complaining about the state of the industry but no one was doing anything about it? When business was lost to the Internet or electronic media, everyone seemed to accept it: “Oh well, there goes another one.” A printer would fight for a job lost to another printer, but would do nothing if he lost it outside the industry. She concluded that no matter how well you market your printing, if the pie keeps getting smaller, it’s a no-win battle. So she had Sappi spend a large part of its ad budget not on trying to take business from her competitors, but growing the market. Sappi ran ads in Forbes, Business Week and other business publications to sell the value of print.

The company produced a perfect-bound book, Life with Print, with case studies on how using print improved a company’s sales, why print out-pulls the Internet, cable and network T.V., and how companies such as Lands’ End, Carnival Cruise Lines, Lexus Cars, Columbia Sportswear and Mini Cooper cars used direct mail, magazines or catalogues to beat their competitors. She challenged other stakeholders in the U.S. to do the same. Indirectly, out of this initiative grew The Print Council, a group of printers and industry suppliers whose goal is to advance the use of print and printing among media professionals. At Print 05, the council introduced its new brochure, The Voice of Print, outlining what it is all about.

In our own back yard, the major consumer magazines put together a presentation on the advantages of using magazines to reach the market. They presented it to most of the major ad agencies in Canada. It did have an effect. Ad pages are up in many consumer titles and women’s magazines have been setting records lately.

Should something be done in Canada? Yes, definitely. Not just to promote the value and effectiveness of print, but also to teach printers how to fight back and how to sell more uses of print. Who should start the ball rolling? Ideally CPIA, as long as it doesn’t get caught up in internal politics and take forever. If not, an independent body of printers and suppliers with one mission: to increase the size of the printing market in Canada. Let’s use the power of print to our advantage and put an end to the idea that printing is dying. The renaissance of printing is just ready to begin.
Alexander Donald is the publisher of Graphic Monthly Canada.
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