It’s good to be back. I’m happy to be joining Joe Mulcahy and the Graphic Arts Magazine (GAM) team and returning to the printing industry in this capacity. As some of you may know, I edited another printing magazine for a long time. I spent the last couple of years away from the industry, though in some ways I never really left. Does anyone ever really leave? I mean, this industry has a way of getting under your skin. While I concentrated on other endeavours, I continued to keep an eye on the comings and goings of individuals and companies I knew well. I checked in with the news, looked at websites, talked to friends and went to the local tradeshows. The industry has continued to change, and yet remains quite familiar. Here’s what I’m thinking about on my return.
I’m not sure the industry upheaval is finished, and I’m fairly sure that it hasn’t yet learned how to arrive at a financially healthy co-existence with digital disruptors. No doubt, there’ll still be some gut wrenching to go through and some ongoing rationalizations that must be endured. But I do think that the morbid thoughts about the death of print can be put to rest once and for all. Print seems to be sliding closer to a clearer role in the communications universe. It’s a smaller industry, and some markets are down and won’t come back. But if you look beyond commercial printing in particular, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
Monitoring the big (and small) picture
I’ve also learned that while we need to pay attention to the overarching macro trends shaping any industry, we all have to make decisions based on our micro situation. And every trend has a countertrend. For example, no one would dispute that printed magazines are straining under the expansion of digital communications channels. And yet, some titles are bucking that trend because they deliver real value.
The New York Times, (yes, I know that’s a newspaper) and The Economist have all seen pretty hefty upticks in circulation over the last year or so. The Economist in particular has been hugely creative in how it structured its business and engaged its readers. Other titles that once rode high are facing an exodus of readers because, well, the latest antics by the model or celebrity of the day, don’t really offer any value in today’s supercharged environment. My point is that, to paraphrase a leading industry pundit, real change happens when forward-thinking individual printers respond effectively to what the market demands.
For a time over the last two years, I worked with a group of young editors, all raised in the Internet age, all digitally savvy – and somewhat sassy! Digital media and websites were as natural to them as cursive writing once was to me. But they showed a special enthusiasm when it came to producing a printed magazine on some high-end paper. Honestly, I was surprised. They lavished a level of care on the printed products that actually surpassed the diligence they poured into digital channels.
Exciting developments ahead
I’m joining the GAM team at an interesting juncture, both for the magazine and the industry. I see exciting developments taking place in areas like packaging, functional and industrial printing, décor and specialty applications, 3D and textile printing and more, and I see cause for hope and excitement. If you don’t believe me, just check out some of the statistics below from UK-based print marketing research firm Smithers Pira regarding the growth of printing, especially in the functional and industrial sectors. GAM, too, is poised to grow and explore new possibilities. We have a great team of dedicated professionals and we have great ideas that we plan to implement over the coming months.
To fulfill these improvements, I’d like to explore in depth some of the issues that matter most to you, our readers. A changing industry always brings challenges, but it also always brings opportunities – and make no mistake, it’ll be the opportunities that we’ll focus on. Sometimes we can’t give you the exact answers to your particular challenges, or all the solutions to your problems. But if we can make you think and look at your business with a different and fresh perspective, and supply you with some business-building ideas in addition to news and features, then we’ll have done our job successfully.
Showcasing disruptive technology
We plan to explore more strongly some of the areas I mentioned that show promise, to deliver more revenues to industry coffers. And we plan to highlight the efforts of forward-thinking printers who have forged their own paths to success, even as the overall environment is less than sunshiny bright. We also plan to find different ways of engaging the industry – whether it be through events, special products or new marketing initiatives and partnerships. And we plan to work with our manufacturing partners to showcase some the groundbreaking work their technologies are capable of. So, look for more exceptional cover treatments like the one on this issue thanks to Konica Minolta Canada, MGI, and design studio Creative Path.
In fact, this isn’t the first time we’ve showcased such tactile and visually stunning disruptive technology on our front cover. One of our most head-turning issues was in June of 2016 when we featured Konica Minolta and high-end commercial printer Print Panther of Oakville, Ontario, teaming up to bring first MGI JETvarnish 3DS and iFoil System to Canada. This groundbreaking digital finishing technology promises to be a real game-changer for Canadian print, packaging and related industries, taking advanced one-pass special-effects finishing to an entirely new level, while offering an exciting range of new market opportunities. When that issue was placed alongside other issues at several subsequent tradeshows, it stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Those who walked by the GAM booth simply couldn’t resist picking it up and touching the cover over and over again. Talk about the “wow” factor – raised 3D effects, hot foil stamping (with variable) and spot varnish all in one pass.
Another example was our February, 2017 issue that featured a cover story on industry leader Benny Landa (who, by the way is Canadian, born in Edmonton). We worked on the cover with Sherwood Printers, who’ve been providing the Greater Toronto Area with cutting-edge technology since 1984. The cover included a clever, eye-catching die-cut window treatment using the LasX LaserSharp Laser Module that Sherwood President and CEO Manoj Sheth recently purchased.
The LaserSharp actually cuts directly from a PDF, so designers are limited only by their imaginations. These designs, like our February cover, can be incredibly intricate and used for custom packaging, pocket folders, wedding invitations and much more. Best of all, the technology can handle small, medium and large runs easily and cost-effectively. That head-turning cover was designed by Amanda Grey of Greyscale Design.
So as you can see, we believe that there’s no better way to showcase the amazing technology in this industry that by incorporating innovations physically into our printed magazine whenever the opportunity arises. Finally, it’s the early days for me here, and I have a long to-do list. But I look forward to reacquainting myself with many of you, getting up to speed on the technology that’s come out, and generally dive in again. For starters, I hope to see many of you at booth 568 at Print 17 in Chicago.
Any comments or suggestions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Functional and industrial printing market to grow to $114.8 billion by 2022
For those who think that print is dying, we have some news for you from Smithers Pira. Industrial and functional printing applications are all seeing growth in several sectors – décor and laminates, ceramics, electronics, displays and photovoltaics, glass, aerospace, automotive, biomedical, promotional and miscellaneous items, 3D printing and inkjet-printed textiles. All of these are printed by a variety of specialist analogue methods and inkjet. In its The Future of Functional and Industrial Print to 2022, Smithers Pira values the current worldwide market at $76.9 billion, up from $37.2 billion in 2012 – but with further growth forecasted to rise to $114.8 billion by 2022.
Suppliers have developed new equipment that widens applications with new inks, coatings and functional fluids, providing new properties of flexibility, adhesion and durability. While analogue printing methods – gravure, flexo, litho, screen, and foiling – are still widely used, there’s strong growth in digital methods, with new inkjet inks and fluids opening up new opportunities. These markets don’t necessarily use paper or paperboard substrates, but rather plastic, film, glass, wood, metal, ceramics, textiles, laminates and other composite materials.
There’s also strong growth in North America for high-value printed items, as improvements to many manufacturing processes are made. For example, new technologies are being developed, with inkjet textile bringing high-value, short-run textile printing closer to the end user. Meanwhile 3D printing is enabling changes to some manufacturing while potentially changing business models and entire supply chains through distributed 3D printing on-demand.
And we’ve saved the best news for last! While digital print is indeed growing and creating new revenue streams for commercial printers every day, offset still rules – about 97% of print comes from current offset equipment.