Network Publishing: Part Three
Contrary to the status quo outlook given us in PIA's and NAPL's industry studies, NAPL's chief economist Andrew Paparozzi, at last December's Print Outlook 2001 conference, presented a less optimistic viewpoint. He warned that an economic slowdown will shrink ad and print budgets, spelling "big trouble" for the printing industry. In a summary of the proceedings, Paparozzi stressed "the crucial need for printers to pursue new non-print concepts and redefine themselves as communication solutions providers."
I hope my last two columns have been persuasive in making the same argument. For those who may not have read the past two columns, here are some of the more salient statistics that point toward printers moving beyond print.
Borrowing from Adobe's November 2000 press conference at which the premier design software manufacturer announced it was redirecting its R&D efforts toward cross-media software solutions, McIlroy presented a well-researched argument rebutting PIA's Vision 21 report. Vision 21 research, conducted by Standard & Poor's DRI, finds that, with the exception of forms printing, the industry will not see significant change in the immediate five- to six-year future. McIlroy's own research suggests otherwise. Note: Please check out www.pinc.org/Hawaii/Future of Print for research sources.
Nothing Like Internet Efficiencies
While the downturn may slow the rate of change in the above forecasts, I believe the migration into cross-media delivery systems is imminent. I also believe clicks-smart, bricks-and-mortar companies are ideally positioned to become providers of these services.
As all-digital workflows and Web-based print procurement and management systems become more commonplace in print production settings, so, too, will consumers and clients grow increasingly comfortable with the full range of digital media, from the Internet to wireless communications devices. This will push marketers to expand their use of the full media mix for campaigns. Print is just one component of the mix.
The migration is well underway. Ad agencies now have Interactive Media departments devoted entirely to multimedia design. Adobe, the originators of the Network Publishing rubric, has set its sights on developing software that makes "visually-rich, personalized content, reliably available anytime, anywhere, on any device."
Impress.com recently introduced a new enterprise application called Marketing Resource Management (MRM), which purports to "increase visibility and control over all marketing resources and improves collaboration both internally across company departments and externally across agencies, partners, and suppliers." I was a panelist, last January, at a Advertising Production of Orange Country presentation where three out of five of us talked about variations on the Network Publishing theme.
Where Do We Start?
Read and learn. Since we're still at the pioneering stage of cross-media development, we have some time educate ourselves. Stay current with advances in wireless and Internet technologies. Use the technologies, and encourage your staff and sales force to use them, too. Not only will they gain familiarity and a comfort level with new media tools like cell phones, PDAs and the Internet, their use of these technologies is an effective strategy for conferring a "progressive" label to your company's brand.
Main players to watch in the wireless world are Sweden's Nokia and Japan's DoCoMo. Nokia recently previewed a nifty new cell-phone equipped with a Webcam and two screens (see IndustryWeek.com), which enables users to browse the Internet, receive and send emails, as well as do other online functions, such as debit purchasing and banking.
PDAs, too, are melding wireless technology with their original functionality. CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software manufacturers are bonding with PDA manufacturers to bring sales management functionality to these mini-devices.
This is all cutting-edge technology, not the stuff we (or customers) are going to rush out and buy. But pay attention to the implications these developments may have to your customer base. For instance, if you produce a lot of sales support literature for clients, you might want to begin researching ways to repurpose print artwork into a PDA environment for the clients' sales force. If annual reports are a big part of your business, you may want to check out ways to automatically convert artwork to the Internet, so clients' VIP shareholders have access to the information the moment it's released. If direct mail is a big chunk of your business, investigate ways to stream graphics to rich-media emails with hyperlinks to Web pages. Bottom line, the world is moving toward universal connectivity between digital devices and Web-enabled media.
How Do We Determine Need?
Ask and listen. Your customers are your best resource. Use the traditional forms of research: focus groups, customer surveys, one-on-one executive interviews. Interview your best, most profitable and largest clients (and prospects) because they'll point the way for the others.
Focus groups are terrific venues for obtaining "big picture" information, since they provide the forum in which to engage participants in their own discovery of the issues. Simpler methods like email or mail questionnaires are less effective, in my opinion, for this type of research because they don't allow real-time feedback.
My company is about to conduct two focus groups for a client who specializes in print and other services for law firms. In one session, we'll query purchasing agents (those who primarily buy from my client) about existing and future needs. For the second session, we're inviting managing partners and marketing directors of large firms, whom we believe will have a broader perspective on costs and future needs. After an in-depth presentation about Network Publishing and its benefits, we'll ask participants how they think Network Publishing would be useful in their environment.
Executive interviews are a second, effective method. If you and key members of your sales team (get the consent and help from your print buying liaison!) can arrange a meeting with the key decision-maker in your clients' organization, you have the best condition to get the best information. Generally, the higher the rank of the decision-maker, the bigger the perspective on how and with what media they plan to deliver their internal corporate communications and external marketing communications.
Regardless of research method used, how and what you ask are key to getting information that will be useful. Since much of what Network Publishing involves is futuristic and evolving, we must precisely define the concept and its possible benefits before we can ask if and how it might be useful.
A Final Up-Note
The good news about our weakened economy is that there are many dot-commers out there looking for jobs with more stable bricks-and-mortar companies. Now is a good time to recruit techies who could help lead the charge into Network Publishing. The other piece of good news is that the downturn should buy us more time, since everyone, not just the print industry, is recouping and regrouping.
Charlotte Mills Seligman is president of Traversant Marketing Communications. The firm specializes in planning and executing integrated marketing programs for printing and allied graphic arts companies, with nearly two decades of expertise in the industry. Previous columns and issues of the company's Ti Monthly e-newsletter are posted on http://www.traversant.com. Inquiries should be directed to (415) 357-2929 or charlotte @traversant.com.
© 2001 Charlotte Mills Seligman