Master Manufacturer: The Modern Printer’s Evolution
Wherever you are headed, there is a printer to accompany you on your journey. While putting ink on paper remains their primary business, most printers are ready to expand—or have already expanded—the definition of their services.
"We are in the business of storing, managing and distributing content," says Michael Simon, executive vice president of Publishers Press. "We just happened to be doing it in print for the last 140 years; but in the future, our digital content distribution mechanism can be every bit as effective."
Most printers are developing in areas such as mobile marketing, content management, document management and e-mail marketing. But they are testing many possibilities, from pooled ad sales for their publisher clients (Bartash Printing, a Philadelphia coldset printer) to editorial photography (Quad/Graphics).
Printers can expand, essentially, in two directions: managing digital content or operating in new media channels that parallel print. In the first case, a printer takes on tasks that publishers have traditionally performed, but undertakes them with high-volume, state-of-the-art technology that individual publishers can't easily afford. In the second case, a printer looks toward what currently augments, and may eventually replace, print.
As an example of the latter, mobile phones represent a new content medium, and printers see a compelling analogy: What we were doing for publishers on paper, we can now do on screens.
Brown Printing has leveraged the European expertise of its parent company, Bertlesmann, toward developing mobile marketing technology for the U.S. market. Released last year, B.Mobile makes print interactive with mobile devices.
After downloading a "reader," a smartphone user can scan 2D barcodes with B.Mobile technology, launching a Web page on the user's phone, which can facilitate more interaction, collecting user information or delivering content, from coupons to commentary.
Mobile ticketing, which airlines have begun to use, requires a scanner that can read an image from a cell phone. As retailers acquire such scanners, the possibilities of mobile marketing expand. A coupon, a sweepstakes entry, or the buyer's demographic data can all be captured from his mobile phone at the point of purchase. Mark Treat, Brown's executive vice president of new business development, noted that Brown sells scanners to complete its mobile technology package.