Symbiosis or ‘Death Spiral’?
It’s all well and good to say we must be nicer to the printers. But publishers will continue to seek the lowest prevailing price to remain competitive. The twist is, we are converting a mutually beneficial relationship into a parasitic one.
The positive aspects of the symbiotic relationship between printers and publishers could, eventually, erode and largely disappear. We’ll move closer to a state of cursory service, bankrupt plants, mediocre quality, and a still smaller set of masochistic vendors.
A stable future depends on keeping both printer and publisher profitable. However, it may be difficult or impossible for two mature industries to maintain that type of interaction.
Printers themselves can take the most important first step by selectively pushing back against extreme publisher demands. And publishers could accept the idea that getting printers to compete for their business shouldn’t mean a fight to the death. Of all things, the vendor you choose should emerge the healthiest, not the weakest. For now, we have to trust printers to set reasonable limits on the price cuts they’ll make. If they don’t, both printer and publisher will trade the benefits of symbiosis for the sad end of a death spiral. PE
Alex Brown is a consultant to magazine publishers specializing in manufacturing and magazine management. She founded her consulting company, Printmark, in 1984, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.