What does digital transformation mean for the print industry?

People often ask what the most important trends are in the print industry. The only relevant trend is “The digital transformation of the industry”.

For years there has been much talk about the power and impact of this disruption, the print industry included. It is a fallacy to believe that printing will no longer take place due to digital communication being the absolute priority. More is being printed: faster, more individual, more targeted and more demand-oriented. Print is not dead! But that does not mean that the print industry as we know it today will survive.

The problem of overcapacity

With each new generation of presses, whether digital or traditional, unit costs decrease and press output increases. If a printer invests in a new press, this automatically means that he must increase the job volume in order to operate the press economically. The old press being replaced is sold and does not disappear from the print market. Of course, printing is more individual and targeted. This means that print runs are reduced and more different pages are printed. However, global paper consumption is stagnating at a constantly high level. The printing industry is therefore in a ruinous predatory competition. Every time a new printing press is purchased, a print shop is slowly dying somewhere else.

Print and publishing are becoming part of the digital strategy.

“Digital first” dominates the communication strategies of companies. The time when digital and offline channels were equal has long gone. Print will not die, but print will become part of digital communication. If print and publishing now become part of digital communication, digital laws will also be subject to them.

This has far-reaching implications for agencies, media service providers and printers.

  • Simplicity for the customer
    Everything must be simple and convenient for the customer. All the more so as customers have less and less in-house printing know-how. User experiences in the personal use of digital services is having an increasing impact on peoples business life. A user who prints a birthday invitation card at the weekend with one click at the online printer will also want to handle the company’s printed matter in the same way the next day.
  • Anywhere & Anytime
    The Internet decouples us from time and space. The user can do everything anywhere in the world at any time. The decoupling from the place has progressed even further with the triumph of the mobile Internet and smartphones. This means that customers want to print quickly and easily anytime, anywhere.
  • Speed & less is more
    Digital communication is strongly influenced by the trial & error principle. It is tried out quickly and easily. If the attempt is successful, the idea is further developed. Otherwise, the next idea is tried out. This trial & error principle will also be applied to print publications.

Platforms & Cloud Services

Corporate customers and end customers are increasingly using digital platforms to handle more and more activities. They book services and products on demand in the cloud. This will also happen for publishing and print services. The online printers are “only” a harbinger of the platforms on which companies can purchase graphic services and image processing services. Processing via intelligent platforms is becoming increasingly important as customers lose more and more “print know-how” in-house. More and more digital natives are represented in the marketing and communications departments, which have no knowledge of print.

Résumé

In the long term, print and publishing will be part of digital communication. Printers and specialized media service providers will offer their services via platforms. These platforms guarantee customers quality, process reliability, cost-effectiveness, distribution and worldwide availability.

Print and publishing will take on a new meaning in digital communication, but according to the rules of the digital game. The good old print industry as we know it today is definitely dying out.

Horst Huber

Horst Huber

Our mastermind leader: Horst Huber has been working on methods of optimizing print publishing, cross media and cross-channel communication, from the the early 1990s onwards. He has managed some 300 projects in the fields of manufacturing, retail, mail order and publishing – making Horst Huber probably one of the most experienced thought leaders in the industry.