News . Print Solutions

16 Nov 2017

The demise of printing has been predicted for many years, and yet, rather like the hero of an action movie, it has survived various knocks and blows, and is still standing.

More than that, printing is an industry that is still innovating, and embracing new technologies rather than fearing them. It’s evolving, not going extinct.

Fundamentally, customers still require things to be printed. As a process, marking onto a substrate – typically paper – remains competitive in numerous fields, from business cards to directories. This is likely to remain the case for some time, but in this blog, we want to look more to the future than at legacy opportunities.

It’s as a communication medium that printing is perhaps most threatened. Sales of physical newspapers have declined precipitously, with most people now getting their news (fake or otherwise) online. Magazine and books, have, however, proved more resilient. People still seemingly love the feel of a book or a magazine in their hands. They like being able to underline bits, tear out articles, or fold over a corner to mark their page.

Physical, printed objects have other advantages, too: they don’t need power, or an additional ‘reader’ device. They’re accessible to anyone who has been to school. They do, however, cost money to distribute – although economies of scale are achievable.

Even if no-one seems to write letters anymore, the volume of direct mail delivered is increasing year-on-year. This is an example of print working with new technology – in this case, more advanced databases.

Many printing companies and printshops worry that online services will eat into their business and ultimately drive them out of it, but a review of current industry trends shows that there are as many opportunities here as there are risks.

What is most likely to change is the way that (potential) customers communicate with printers – they may well order print in different ways, but they will still require items to be printed. In this way, digitisation could actually be a boon to printing companies.

The much-vaunted Internet of Things (IoT) hasn’t transformed our lives just yet, but it’s coming. In the near future, millions more devices – from fridges to home security systems – will be connected to the internet, and will be communicating semi-autonomously. This could include placing print orders in their own right, such as maintenance reports. The advantage for printers is that with no middleman, costs will come down.

As apps become part of everyday life, we’ll all become more comfortable with using them to place orders and choose from menus of goods and services. So-called ‘appification’ will make workflow integration more efficient, and allow customers to order print jobs on-the-go, and more spontaneously.

Web-to-workflow apps and online platforms will connect customers with printshops – those printshops, that is, that see digital publishing as an opportunity rather than a threat. Technological advances could even lead to increased or higher-value print orders, as in the case of 3D-visualisation which will permit customers to see their finished product before it has begun life.

Printing enhancements such as foil and tactile elements will become even more appealing, and help ensure that printing has a brighter – and longer – future than any of the doom-mongers could have predicted.