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For years I've listened to people in the industry arguing that Commercial Print is declining, but I believe it's time to reconsider the mantra - at least for a few reasons. I will revert to that shortly!

By Editor Morten B. Reitoft

Before arguing about a strong Commercial Print market, let me explain why it's crucial. Nobody wants to work in a declining industry, so if we talk Commercial Print down, it will be more difficult to recruit talent - but it will also influence print buyers, as they will look for other channels to market their products - if even our industry says the industry can't survive in competition with electronic marketing, we bring us self into a worse situation.

It's evident that parts of Commercial Print have disappeared - and if you think of it, the enormous volume printers working with Yellow Pages, newspapers, and catalogs in huge volume - typically rotogravure and web-offset have seen vast decreases, but at the same time - these companies represent the most significant volumes, but the fewest number of printing companies, employees, and presses. So if you ask paper companies, the market is decreasing. Of course, that influences supply and demand - but the volume printing companies also delivered the lowest profits to the paper manufacturers.

Cut-sheet printing companies are also influenced, but maybe not as much as we often believe. For centuries I have heard and read about over-capacity in the market, so even if 20-30-40% of the companies have closed, the over-capacity was not making any money and didn't do much good to the industry, as it would lead to lower prices. A consolidated and aligned market is WAY better for everybody, but it means fewer presses. However, the technology has led to even fewer presses, as the speed and reduced setup time has given the Commercial Printers the need for fewer machines to manage the demand.

So where are we now?

We are in a market situation where some Commercial Printers strive and grow because they are now in a more balanced market. Supply and demand may still not be in balance, but today - and I was about to say finally - marketers have realized that print and internet marketing shouldn't be compared. Internet is by all means excellent, but newsletters and advertising, in general, are under scrutiny. People don't like it, and often people talk about how the business model for the 'free' internet is under pressure. Regardless of how the effect of online marketing is seen, the prices of online marketing have grown significantly in the past ten years. A great example of how insignificant the internet is becoming is to look at your habits. You don't read NEWSLETTERS unless you have a good newsletter or the content is curated so precisely to your need that it has a high value. I bet that in most of the newsletters you get, you often say to yourself, ' I didn't sign up for that newsletter,' Even more often, you may either delete it or auto-archive it for 'later' or unsubscribe. I will bet you have even more rarely clicked on any of the adverts in a newsletter. You may have clicked an article, but an advert - I wouldn't believe ANY stats on this matter.

So low return, sometimes even lousy branding (as you disturb your potential audience), and high prices, and for sure online as a pull media, you look at Print as a push media.

That is an opportunity. Not only has Print a longer shelf-life, but it also is way less intrusive in your doings and maybe even something you start to engage with when you want to relax. So clever Print, storytelling, super design, and genuinely great content are, by most people, considered valuable. This IS an opportunity for our industry; some PSPs have realized this and have profitable businesses. Print also has tactility to its advantage, and Print has become much cheaper, faster, and more attractive in an electronic world. Print has become exclusive - or at least when Print is done right!

With better printing presses, analog and digital embellishment in the upper class, and smart post-press, Commercial Print is a super opportunity. I hope people will start realizing that just because the volume has gone out of the market doesn't mean the value has.

Now, however, is the time for both digital- and offset press manufacturers to realize this and stop focusing only on packaging. Commercial Print needs the newest and latest technology, and Print/Post-Press OEMs need to develop technology that serves this market - and fortunately, they are. Faster printers, shorter setup time, and even more automation will make many printing companies profitable in the following years!

The winners will be even more successful, and the losers will either be consolidated into successful companies or go out of business. Regardless, this is good news, as the alignment of supply and demand is still a work in progress!
Dear Print OEMs - let me say this loud and clear! You should develop and produce technology for all the exciting segments in our industry, but Commercial Print isn't dead. Those of you who listen and build technology that delivers on the market terms that your customers face today will have success, and even better, it will differentiate you.

For Post-Press OEMs, in the past year, you have shown innovation and products that are almost impossible to comprehend. The level of automation you now offer on even complex binding solutions is aligned with the needs PSPs will have in the future.

PSPs, you should focus on developing business models and products that make you attractive to your customers and, honestly, work closely with your suppliers, but if they don't understand that Commercial Print, find some who do, and never become TOO dependent on the wrong partners.

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Henrik Christiansen

President & CEO

I agree to all the above statements, and I should like to add that all the new automation features in both printing and finishing not only lead to shortened production times and lower labor costs but also to a dramatic reduction in waste. The combination of shorter runs and reduced waste has the curious consequence that an increasing number of short run jobs will occupy the capacity while the paper consumption drops, so measuring the paper consumption is the wrong place to measure the development trends. On top of this, digital commercial printing stands for just around 3% of the production volume but for more than 15% of the sales value, so there is money in short run commercial printing - given one uses the appropriate production equipment

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