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Turnaround Powerhouse


The print industry is dead

Blog geplaatst door Jan Adriaanse


The location could not have been better chosen. France. The beautiful city of Lyon. Divided by the Rhône and Saône River. A large history of art, gastronomy, science, manufacturing and trading. And although well-known for its traditional silk weaving and print industry, nowadays Lyon is a major centre of banking, biotech and software industries. The latter largely focusing on video games and related innovations.

Turnaround Powerhouse® was recently invited by Intergraf – the international confederation for printing & allied industries – to come to Lyon and share our experiences on the workshop series we are currently hosting in the Netherlands for KVGO, the Royal Dutch federation of employers in the print industry. Central theme in this series is the future of the print industry in general, and managing change in a turbulent business environment more precisely.   

Indeed, the international print industry is in turmoil nowadays. Facing heavy weather.  A perfect storm, some people say. A hurricane initiated by the global economic crisis, globalization, open borders, as well as new players entering the industry mainly competing on price and volume. A crisis also fuelled by the rise of online printing companies, lead generators brokering between print demand and supply, as well as shifting preferences of customers and advertisers towards the internet, iPad-like tablets, smart phones and e-books (at present Amazon.com is selling more Kindle e-books than traditional print books …). Trends and developments heavily deteriorating current and future profitability of the industry.

During the workshop series we notice that Dutch printers in general agree that they are living in extremely tumultuous times. And almost every participant agrees that the world of print as we know it will be gone forever. Yet, what the future will bring? Nobody really seems to know. In fact, we observe that the industry as a whole is a bit "paralyzed" by the threats it is faced with. Next to that fresh ideas most of the times seem to be “stuck in a printer paradigm”. Really new and innovative thoughts – for example completely outside the current industry borders - are not often heard. Unfortunately.

Schumpeterian creative destruction is what the industry needs. Current business models must be destroyed. Innovative thinking is needed, as well as strategic entrepreneurship. Real market driven services and products must be developed. Based on current but above all on future demand. Printers must become time travellers. Creators of fundamental change. Reshapers of the way we live, work and think. Printers must leave their houses of commodity and should start recreating an industry. Recreating, or better, start building a whole new world. A fascinating world with or maybe even... without any print.

On the Rue de la Poulaillerie number 13 the “Musée de l’imprimerie de Lyon” is based. This stunning museum inhibits an exquisite collection of ancient printed books and print machinery symbolizing the birth of the print industry as we know it.  In the same city we discussed its possible end. Life sometimes is ironic.

The print industry is dead. Unless.