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Print Finally Turns the Page

How A Once Doomed Industry is Benefitting from its Biggest Competitor

Industry experts pointed to the demise of print media as an inevitable, black-and-white truth when the public first gained access to the Web in the early 1990’s. Over 20 years later, however, something very different is taking place in publishing. Print, as we know it is not dead. In fact, print is stronger than it has been in quite some time.

Developments in both consumer demand and print technology have combined to forever alter the course of publishing as a whole. Where print may have atrophied as the Web took root in our daily lives, it did survive. And now, industry insiders are finding out first-hand just how much pulse remains in the pulp.

Where a Web presence was once the byproduct of print, we now see just the opposite. Content is finding its way online faster than ever, and is achieving peak relevancy in doing so through e-first workflows and continuous publishing, digital editions and XML composition. This shift to the Web that once had prognosticators preparing for doomsday is the very shift that is redefining how publishers will move forward.

Because the Web now serves as the “publication” of record for many organizations, print is free to employ new business models for how, and even why, it is produced. The two mediums are not necessarily tied together by design or content any longer. They are moving away from one another as independent entities with each new technology that comes into play. But, it’s not the publishers of content who determine what is circulated online or put to paper. It’s the consumer. Today, information on the Web is further communicated through rss feeds, blogs and social media, across devices small enough to fit in one’s pocket. Users can tailor how information, and which information, is received. And as the amount of content on the Web continues to grow, choice has become an increasingly important component to any publisher’s online subscription model. Consumers are pro-actively looking for ways to self-route more relevant information, more quickly. And it’s the publisher who understands this fact, who will reap the rewards that come with increased readership.

Meanwhile, publishers are also beginning to understand the benefits of custom publishing (print-on-demand) and digital printing. “Print-on-demand technology is particularly relevant for our core academic and professional markets which are heavily dependant on specialist information,” said Philip Blackwell, CEO of Blackwell Ltd. Where many membership, circulation and advertising departments have had a front row seat to the horrors of attrition in their respective, interdependent areas, they now see that untapped resources await them through custom publishing.

No longer are magazines and journals bound by set editorial deadlines and production schedules. As digital files are made available, consumers can select a series of articles based on topic, author demographics or even timeframe. Customers can personalize their title, order a single copy and have it delivered to their door in less time that it takes publishers to do so under the current industry-standard model. Lightning Source, for example, can print a custom book in less than three minutes and ship within 24-48 hours. At the same time, publishers can target advertising accordingly, while membership subscription models are better able to allow for more freedom of choice in what benefits may be realized by joining.

The pieces are in place to stay current, and competitive, in this ever-changing industry. It’s just a matter of knowing how to put the pieces together. In keeping pace with industry trends and emerging technologies, publishers are finding they have options for determining how their content is distributed.

Print is not going away. It’s just going a different way by redefining itself, its processes and its products. It is finally, truly, aligning itself with the Web. And, it requires that publishers once again rethink their entire approach to print.


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