Master Manufacturer: The Modern Printer’s Evolution
Publishers have leveraged advertising to afford the creation and distribution of high-quality content, and the development of targeted audiences; only the largest retailers can afford comparable expenditures. Publishers, therefore, that can prove their value as intermediaries (custom publishers) to advertisers can find, in this shift, a significant opportunity.
Integrated Publishing Platforms
Milner believes printers are especially capable of integrating multiple promotion channels—which brings us to the other direction printers can go—offering services for content creation and management. Transcontinental also has invested in content management systems, and Milner notes, "For some of our sophisticated customers, any piece of information may be used in nine to 10 different places, from a website to an e-mail newsletter to a magazine—all driven by consumer information."
In another example, Publishers Press created a content management system through alliances with software vendors, with the printer serving as the integration hub. "It's a comprehensive publishing solution," says Simon, "that will take our customers to print to phone and to the Web." Services include data mining and enrichment, content management, e-mail marketing and e-newsletters, and analytics.
This puts Publishers Press into a marketing partnership with its customers, which introduces the question of where the publisher should end and the printer begin. "I'm trying to be the ultimate consortium for my clients," says Simon, who stresses that Publishers Press can afford to invest in and maintain state-of-the-art technology, which individual customers may find difficult.
The company also focuses on the mechanics of distribution to new channels, with web hosting and production workflow tools. Several years ago, like most printers, it developed digital edition technology, ePub Express. Simon concedes, "It's now slightly lagging Zinio, but ready to leapfrog."
This is a fruitful, but challenging frontier. Despite some toehold in the digital editions market, the printers interviewed also were awaiting the iPad's impact on magazines. As early apps from Sports Illustrated and Wired show, both publishers and readers still are testing the new medium's boundaries, benefits to consumers and the cost/benefit balance, as publishers salivate over a mechanism for collecting money via Apple, but view with dismay both sales terms and reader price resistance.