Friday, February 20, 2009

Hey Wall Street! The Print Output Industry will be the Walmart of Information

A Print Output Industry is forming from the mash up of information technology, a reorganizing traditional printing industry, workgroup printing and desktop printing. The new enabler is the MFP which is the on ramp to the Cloud.

Like Walmart this is a industry that delivers a "must have" - information - to a mass market. While the internet serves a rapidly growing niche at the top of the pyramids in many silos, printed on paper is the method of information delivery for the middle and bottom of the pyramids that is the mass market.

Like Walmart, internet functionality is leading to data emitted by the user to inform product delivery in predictable, much more efficient ways. The leading edge technology includes QR codes and searchable visual databases that can be accessed by cell phones pointing at print products. But the proven technology is tracking the use of print products. More about that in later posts.

Like Walmart, the physical footprint of product delivery is global. Built on the massive number of output nodes that include big box stores, commercial printers, and most recently every workgroup or personal printer connected to the internet.

Like Walmart, the margin on each purchase is small. The volume of purchases is large. For the infrastructure players the revenue is after sales service, low cost of upselling, and supplies.
Each output node has different revenue streams depending on their specific situtations.

As the traditional organizational forms of print delivery are being disrupted, new forms are emerging to take their place. With all due respect, I understand that it is hard to get the signal with all the noise. But by now the effects are clearly visible in the market.

If you look closely you will see that newspapers are being re invented with versioned and personalized product tied to websites and social media. College textbooks are being reinvented by a read for free, pay for print business model also integrated with websites and social media. K-12 textbooks will soon follow.

At the same time the years of ruthless competition are now starting to give us a picture of the next generation of commercial print. It seems to be multi location, internet front ends, standards based production and pricing computerized process management procedures.

Book publishing has already been reinvented in the last few years by print on demand. While still a niche market, new technology is coming to market that will take this to scale. The release of Kindle 2.0 and the copycat e readers will only accelerate this movement. Printing books at point of sale is just now coming out of prototype testing.

The Print Output Industries are driven by the secular global drive for education. While there is a consumer and marketing aspect, that is a noisy market subject to unpredictable highs and lows.

The need for education on a global, mass scale has now become unstoppable.
As the investment increases to meet that growing need, print will output content from the web. The big new thing is that information generated by tracking the use of print is now starting to be harvested so that it can inform the crafting of the best content to be delivered.

As of today the industry is still organizing itself. Each player is growing from the niche they have earned over a long period of time. They are still trapped by a legacy of marketing and advertising. But, as each player grows and standards continue to emerge, the sector as a whole is getting ready for significant organic growth.

Now that HP and Ricoh are seriously in all sections of the sector, it is much closer to the Tipping Point.

More to follow. Stay tuned.

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