The New Printing Industry
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October 2005

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Contact Ken Custer at 303-277-9840.


The New Printing Industry

By Ken Custer

As a writer and editor of the weekly South High Confederate Newspaper many years ago, the big event was to take everything to the printer. After all, it was a full day away from school. You took all the stories, typed on manual typewriters, and gave them to Mr. Jordan at Jordan Printing on Santa Fe. He fired up the linotype machine and began typing in the stories. As he finished a page, you proofed the galley of hot type. Learning to read backwards became an art and for heaven’s sake, don’t drop the box with the full page of type.

Linotype, hot type, cold type, galley proofs, proof sheets, veloxes, matts, right reading emulsion side down … just some of the terms from days gone by in the printing industry. Today’s computerized, digital world has dictated that a new printing industry had to be born. Direct to plate is the new term where a person prepares the material, provides it on a disc to the printer and a plate to go on the press is made and the press is turned on. Now comes the digital press providing short run, full color and personalization and many more opportunities.

This modern technique has not necessarily made printing any less expensive but it is a whole lot faster. Some printers didn’t survive the conversion to the digital age; others have taken it far beyond just putting ink on paper. Most printers today are capable of doing all forms of printing from small one or two color runs to huge four-color work. Yet most have specialized, found a niche, and have built a business around that niche. For the purposes of this feature, we talked with several printers of varying sizes and capabilities to see what they have to offer, what their niche is and where they think the industry is going.

The Pressroom
The smaller print shops have advanced into the digital age and have found a niche. Ted Walker, Owner of The Pressroom at 1879 S. Acoma in Denver, has been in business for 13 years and now has five employees and about to hire one more. According to Walker, his niche is good services, high quality work, quick turnaround and low overhead. His plant is capable of direct to plate, four-color, sheet-fed printing and he recently added a digital Xerox Docucolor 2045 that provides high resolution, short run, high quality, four-color work. The Pressroom has folding and binding capabilities and can handle small lot mailing.

As to the future of printing, Walker feels that printers will have to broaden their offerings and pay special attention to taking care of their customers. “Printing is not going to go away, it will always be there in one form or another. Personal service and being on our toes is going to keep us in business. Attention to detail, maintain quality and being part of the customers team is important.” Walker continued, “The exciting part of digital printing is the small lots marketing. Start-up companies can do short run, four-color brochures and get their message out without having to print a closet full of material. They can change their message every couple of weeks by printing as few as 200 brochures at a time. They look sophisticated from the beginning and as they grow can start printing larger quantities.”

Reinventing companies
The innovation of the digital press has provided a source of income and a niche for companies that previously were in other phases of the business. Two such companies are Reed Photo-Imaging and T&R Graphic Imaging.

Reed Photo Imaging at 888 Federal Blvd., has been a premier photo processing and film processing company in Denver for years. With the advent of digital cameras, that part of the business has declined though the capability is still there. Owner, Bob Reed, five years ago, added offshoots of the photo business with large format graphics, trade show booths and digital printing. The recent addition of a Xerox Docucolor 6060 allows Reed to print borderless on any paper stock. Short run four-color work can be as few as two or three copies or 1000, work that most traditional printers can’t touch. Customers have ordered as few as 10 or 15 galley books to send to publishers or buyers.

Reed’s printing capabilities tie to their entire product line with trade show graphics and booth sales. Customers can one-stop-shop and order their graphics, trade show booth, business cards, brochures and other needs and have the full package in two weeks. Many of their customers were unaware of the printing capabilities and now can have their images produced and added to gallery opening invitations, note cards, business cards, brochures and other needs in one stop.

Tom Tucker, President of T&R Graphic Imaging at 2535 17th St., has seen the business his father started move from the typesetting/prepress business into large format and variable data printing. Though one of the few places you can still get film for printing, direct to plate printing has replaced most of that business. The printing portion of the business started in 2000. The T&R niche is real custom jobs, difficult colors, larger format and multi-version along with variable data printing. Their Xeikon, web fed press can produce graphics up to 18 _” wide and 200 feet long. A recent project produced a map that was 8 _” wide and 104” long. T&R does layout, production art, scanning, file prep and contract proofing plus making sure all files are optimized for their press.

Tucker feels that offset printing still does a tremendous job on static printing and will continue to do so, but there are certain types of messages to certain types of markets that a more intimate printing works better. “You are basically talking one on one with people the same way email is doing.” He continues, “I see print as still a big part of the mix, but it is definitely part of the mix, not a stand-alone thing.”

Quality is a concern for Tucker. “I think customers settle for less quality for cheaper and faster. That has nothing to do with digital vs. offset.” He feels people will cut corners on a scan to save $100 and jeopardize the entire print run. For a little more money on the front end, the job comes out better on the back end. The savvy print buyer is going to look at what is this thing supposed to do, what’s my budget, where does it fit the best and what is the best way to get it done.

As to the future, Tucker feels that personalization will continue to grow. It is more expensive but when measured by return on investment (ROI), it is much less expensive.

Keyline Graphics
The larger sheet-fed printing business has seen a lot of mergers over the last five years as that phase of the printing industry has needed to consolidate. Keyline Graphics has been a high quality, independently owned sheet fed printer for 20 years in Denver now with 60 employees. Keyline has five sheet-fed presses that include everything from an 18” two-color press up a six-color press with coater.

Keyline Sales Manager, Charles McKay, says the pie has shrunk for sheet-fed printing. Where companies used to order 20,000 catalogs, now they order 5-10,000 and the rest of the business is done on the Internet. Digital printing is also having an effect as shorter run four-color work is being done. The niche for Keyline Graphics remains the high quality, four-color larger print runs. Because of their quality and competitive prices, customers have remained very loyal.

Changes in the printing industry, both from the buyers’ standpoint and technology have changed the way printers do business. According to McKay, buyers are settling for less to cut costs on all projects. An example is the proof now being provided. A digital proof costs about $30.00 as opposed to $300.00 for match prints. The digital proof quality is far less then a match print but that doesn’t matter. Also, the trend has been to high gloss white paper instead of the myriad of fiber-based papers used in the past. Most customers will take whatever they can get their hands on, usually an 80# gloss, just to save money. All of this leads to accepting a little less quality to save money.

Technology continues to change the printing industry. According to McKay, the digital age is now making possible beautiful color in large format graphics that can be printed on canvas, vinyl, paper and any number of other media. Also, the personalization factor is becoming more important. Keyline Graphics intends to keep pace with these changes. Keyline is currently direct to plate on all presses but, according to McKay, he looks forward to when digital presses are able to print an eight-page, full format sheet. At that time he predicts digital printing will really take off.

A concern the McKay has for the future of printing is that the industry has not done a good job of recruiting people over the past 25 years. According to McKay, “We had computers, Photoshop and were performing magic and could have attracted kids that would have been excited about the industry. Now with video games and other things, those same kids have their heads elsewhere and we’ve lost a whole generation of talent. For years, unions required seven years of apprenticeship before promoting someone to journeyman (stripper), which is now a dead art. There is no way kids today will do that.”

McKay has no doubt that the printing industry is here to stay. It will change and the survivors will have to change with it. The question is, will it still be an art form or will it just be another commodity?

Golden Bell Press
Finding a niche and serving your own printing needs has been the success of Golden Bell Press at 2403 Champa Street. President, Larry Bell, after taking over his father’s printing company, has become more of a publisher than a printer. His base for the printing is several national magazine titles that he has developed, prints and mails. He still does traditional sheet-fed printing of all types, but that is the profit on the business. The overhead is paid by his publications.

Publication Printers
One of the oldest and probably the largest printer in the Metro area with 250 employees, is Publication Printers located at 2001 S. Platte River Drive. Founded in 1979 by Gary and IV Rosenberg, the business is still owned by the Rosenberg family. True to its name, Publication Printers, that’s what they print, publications. This includes catalogs, periodicals, visitor’s guides, anything magazine or newspaper format. Current publications include Hooters, Fit Body, Planet Muscle and most recently added, all programs and yearbooks for the Denver Broncos.

There are no sheet-fed presses at Publication Printers as they have three large Web presses producing sheet fed quality and UV coating capability for covers. Recently added is a Xerox iGen 3 used for making proofs and to do short run, personalized printing such as post cards. They have a full array of binding equipment; both saddle stitching and perfect binding that includes the latest saddle stitcher that runs about 21,000 per hour. There is a mailing department that is capable of ink jetting labels on the outside and order forms on the inside.

According to Publication Printers VP Marketing, Kerri Ann Rosenberg-Hallet, the primary effort for most printers is the investment in new technology. Printing will certainly be around for a while but the industry is very tight right now and there will be winners and losers as business is competitively cutthroat. Everyone is moving up with new technology and better looking product and a more streamline way of doing business. The new technology from start to finish is amazing. The new direct to plate Web presses have improved quality 10 fold.

Paper will continue to be a problem as there have been four rate increases in the last year due to the dollar value overseas and the economy in mill towns as mills close down.

G.A Wright Marketing
Setting the pace for the new printing industry is G.A. Wright Marketing. The company was started in 1981 by Gary Wright as a direct mail print house. Now with 82 employees and a brand new facility opened in May this year, G.A. Wright offers full marketing services.

Before the presses roll, the G.A. Wright team looks at the customer database and helps them identify customer purchasing patterns, lifecycle trends and all the things that are important to developing a good strategy. The data is then analyzed against national lifestyle profiles and opportunities are pinpointed. Based on this information, additional mail lists are found to target qualified leads. With the strategy and mail list in place, the creative team builds the creative around the strategy and may create a customer loyalty program.

G.A. Wright has a variety of presses to serve the strategy and creative needs including direct to plate sheet-fed, digital Xerox iGen 3, a digital production press that takes data and merges it with graphic files to print personalized information. The company does a lot of work for the gaming industry and puts together loyalty programs. The combination of the database and printing technology allows them to print highly personalized coupons with the players name and different offers on them.

According to Jeanette McMurtry, Vice President, Marketing at G.A. Wright, “We are in the age of personalization and consumers are expecting personalized information from the brands they do business with. To acquire new customers you have to have that personalized message.”

G.A. Wright also has instituted a Web-based solutions, print on demand program that allows franchise organization to provide members from around the country with marketing tools. G.A. Wright creates a Web site for the organization that includes all of the available marketing materials. The franchisee can go to the site, select the materials they need, fill out a form that customizes the materials for them, then with the press of a button, the order is placed direct to the printer. In a very short period of time the order is printed, packaged and shipped to the franchisee.

Rounding out the marketing services at G.A. Wright are the capabilities to provide customers with email blasts, handle sweepstakes materials and fulfillment services. The company also does a lot of tracking and testing. Each month they send out 150,000 inquiries to test new marketing concepts that can be applied to a customer’s needs.

McMurtry sees more and more breakthroughs in technology for personalized printing in the future. She feels the technology for personalized printing is very much in the developmental stage but is getting to the point where it is more efficient.

McMurtry says, “Printing has always been a part of marketing and it’s an exciting transition as we move away from traditional to personalized marketing. I think it transfers to all media. Personalization is not just about the personalized pieces, it’s a whole strategy and you have to integrate it. Your mass media has to support it and drive people to the interactive tools that you have to build a relationship and printing is a big part of that.”

D&K Printing
D&K has provided quality, sheet-fed printing to the Boulder and Metro area for many years. Five year ago they added the Indigo digital press and now can provide personalized, short run four-color printing. Owner Gary Bennett, feels their niche is the personal service and quality work done by his staff. He does have a concern about the new workflow computer technology being introduced by the major printer manufacturers that automate the full process from start to finish with no human contact. In that type of system, what the client provides is what they get. Part of the D&K services is making corrections to files that are provided or suggestions to improve the work. Losing that human element could lead to an unhappy customer. Though the new computerized system will reduce cost, there are many opportunities for errors that won’t be found until it’s too late.

Printing Industry Association Mountain States
Kathy Lauerman is President of the Printing Industry Association Mountain States (PIAMS), the trade association for printers that includes Colorado. According to Lauerman, it’s been a tough few years for printers in Colorado but now we are seeing some rebounding, particularly in the areas of magazine publications and direct mail. Because of no-call and no-fax lists, direct mail has become a more important way to reach consumers.

Lauerman says, “Technology is making printers become more technologically savvy and requiring new expensive equipment and this has brought about many of the mergers now taking place. If you can’t buy, merge it.” Lauerman continues, “Print sales people need to know their market better then ever, get educated on equipment and technology so they can solve problems for the clients through print.”

Lauerman feels that there is not much growth in printing at this time, just different ways to print. She says, “A great step forward is, with digital printing, the ability to serve small customers with top quality, four-color printing in very limited and affordable runs. This gives printer the opportunity to help customers of all sizes.”

Conclusion
To prepare this feature, only a few of the print shops available in Colorado were contacted to give you a sample of what is available. There are many, many more printers in the state that all have similar capabilities.

From small print shops to full-scale marketing firms, there is no doubt that the digital revolution will affect printing as much or more than any other industry. The traditional printer’s role of putting ink on paper is not enough by itself anymore. Everyone agrees that personalization is a big part of printing’s future. As you hear in any marketing speech, one-on-one marketing is where it is today and printing can provide a major portion of that concept. Also, the ability to create printed materials quickly in very limited quantities is a boon to the small and start-up companies. The day of having to print a closet full of brochures is over. You can now tailor limited quantities to specific programs and events.

Printing is here to stay. We must all learn how to use The New Printing Industry to our best advantage.


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