Breathing new life into the print industry

“There’s no money in print anymore, it’s dead.” Ever met a printer who didn’t tell you that? Take a quick glance at the print industry magazines and you could be forgiven for thinking that, at last, the doom-mongers are being proved right.
In the past few weeks alone, Pindar has put its UK printing business up for sale, Polestar has ditched 150 staff, while the axe is hovering over nearly 60 jobs at Wyndeham Roche. For those working in web offset, the future seems far from bright, with the cost of raw materials and energy piling on the pressure.
Now before Tom Heap, presenter of BBC One’s recent Panorama, gets out the bunting, we have some bad news for him: print, and especially direct mail print, is very much alive and kicking. It is just that, like most sectors, the digital world is forcing everyone in the print industry to re-examine their business and adapt or die.
Communisis – whose client list includes Asda, Amex, Barclays, BT, Lloyds, Procter & Gamble, Tesco and Virgin Media – is a classic example. Recognising it needed to change, the firm invested in an HP Indigo sheet-fed digital press at its Leeds facility. But the new kit even raised a few eyebrows within the business. In the world of print, you see, the size of your equipment says it all, and many thought this particular press did not say enough.
Yet 18 months later, having spent nearly £10m of CapEx funding on two HP T300 high-speed inkjet presses (pictured) and powerful servers to handle the huge amount of data processing involved in high-speed personalised print, the company believes it has stolen a march on its rivals.
This has not come without its own set of issues, as Communisis managing director of specialist production and sourcing Dave Rushton explained: “We had 18 months of pain as an early adopter, but now we’re 18 months ahead of the market.”
Arguably, however, it was the investment in data – back in December 2008, the company paid £12.6m for Absolute Intuistic (that’s Ai to most of us) – which has given it the real power base. Ultimately, it’s all well and good having the capacity to print 2 million mail-packs a day, but without being able to drill down into customer data to reveal needs, desires, motivations and the eligibility for new products, you might as well be printing blanks.
Communisis Data Intelligence analysis director Paul Birks has some impressive statistics, claiming the company has 80 million individual records (including current and previous addresses), 42 million names for prospect marketing, and up to 3,000 pieces of information on each person. The company also consolidates more than 20 different sources of data every month.
Add in Communisis’ recently launched creative arm, Ingenious Rapport, and you can see why its bosses are feeling so bullish. And managing director of direct channels Gurdev Singh is in no doubt where the company’s competition lies.
He said: “Our rivals are not just other printers, they are all the other media channels. If our clients want print, we can give them that; if they want email or digital media, we can also provide them with that.”
To be fair, Royal Mail has been banging the drum for combining email and direct mail ever since it saw the writing on the wall for mail volumes. With Communisis claiming to be channel agnostic, it seems that, at last, someone is putting this theory into practice.

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2 Comments on "Breathing new life into the print industry"

  1. Printers are just like bookies – always pleading poverty but always driving around in Mercs!

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