Jostens to close North Carolina Plant - Printing Industry News from WhatTheyThink:Print is a tool, a toy or a token. The highest margins and defensible advantages are print as token.
"Jostens continues to transform the way memory books are produced through technology, plant investments and new capabilities.
Tools have stable mass markets. The way to win is constant incremental improvements, fair prices, appropriate break even points. Stanley makes great tools. Fein, has been in the power tool business for 140 years. Their latest release is the Multimaster. It's oscillating technology in a convenient package. It's not cheap in dollars, but for certain jobs save lots of time.
The codex form of the Printed Book has been described as a "hammer" for reading. I tend to agree.
As a technology, the book is like a hammer. That is to say, it is perfect: a tool ideally suited to its task. Hammers can be tweaked and varied but will never go obsolete. Even when builders pound nails by the thousand with pneumatic nail guns, every household needs a hammer. Likewise, the bicycle is alive and well. It was invented in a world without automobiles, and for speed and range it was quickly surpassed by motorcycles and all kinds of powered scooters. But there is nothing quaint about bicycles. They outsell cars. James Glieck, NY Times Op Ed.
Print as toy is for another post. But think children books and what we used to call design porn.
Print as token is a killer app. Tokens can command much higher margins because the value is in capturing and sharing an experience. As VISA says in their ads, some experiences are "priceless." "Priceless" means the possibility of reasonable margins.
The "value" of a high school yearbook, a rock band's T shirt, an gallery catalogue, or a photo book has little to do with the cost of materials. The value is that it captures, in some magical way, the memory of the user's experience.
Versioned newspapers in education
It is largely unnoticed that the value of news-on-paper is as a token of the experience of living in an area or being part of a group. People subscribe to the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal because "people like us" read the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. People welcome the Small Town Gazette because "people like us" read the Small Town Gazette.
As the discourse on newspapers evolves to getting back to business, versioned newspapers can monetize the reality that they are tokens of overlapping groups of "people like us."
The importance of a school newspaper is not the information included. The importance is in being a token of "people like us" means in a high school. If it includes current events and world news in addition to the gossip and pictures of the sports teams, it communicates that "people like us" read about current events and world news. When it includes advertisements for public health issues, it communicates that "people like us" take public health seriously.
Fast forward to 2011:
Consider an SaaS functionality that allows the high school journalists to assemble the content for 4 to 6 pages of a 24 page newspaper. The other 18 to 20 pages includes the stories of the day. Each current events page would in the form of the lede from the Google top story of the day with a tinyurl + QR code (for cool). Then there would be some background from Wikipedia with a tinyurl + QR code(for cool) then a link to a video on YouTube.
Here are some examples of how this could work. Science: How Laptops May Link to Male Infertility or Economics: The Strength of the US Dollar or News: The Election in Iran
or News: President Obama's Speech in Cairo.
For now, the QR codes are there for cool. The TinyUrls are for navigation to the web. As the telecoms fight it out for broadband and Google v Apple v Microsoft fight it out for the mobile OS and LG v Nokia v a gezillion others for the hand set, QR codes are only going to get cooler and cooler, until they hit scale.
For adolescents there is nothing more important than being part of the cool crowd. The opportunity is to make "smart and persistent" the new cool. If that's what it takes, they will naturally do it.