On the Current State of Web-to-Print

On the Current State of Web-to-Print

Why It’s Important and Why Open Source

By Charles Groce, CEO of Pearl Street Consulting

“retirement”

A few years back I had the opportunity to evaluate various “web-to-print” solutions (or W2P) from several of the leading software vendors. Although all of the W2P systems evaluated technically did what they were supposed to do, there were some drawbacks which ultimately prevented our commercial printing company from moving forward on the decision to sell print (efficiently) online.

The largest of these, of course, was cost, including deployment, licensing, hosting, and support. The cost of these systems and the connection to a guaranteed benefit on the bottom line was simply not clear. It was a difficult decision: sink tens of thousands of dollars into licensing for an MIS-integrated web-to-print portal, with at least eventual “hands free” order placement to plate-making capabilities; or do it the old fashion way, and use our website as corporate “brochureware”, and have staff inserted at every touchpoint in the production process, from design through billing.

That was 2009 and a lot has happened in the industry since then. Today, in 2016, every printing company needs to be able to satisfy the needs of the “modern shopper”. Like it or not, Amazon and other eCommerce providers have changed the way people think about how they shop, and this applies to print buyers as well. Consumers want to be able to make their own (informed) decisions and have different expectations than they used to have. As web entrepreneurs, our job is to not only give them the tools to actually place their order but also give them the information needed to make an informed decision, albeit with information that provides a marketing influence that “leans” in our direction.

Think of your web-to-print portal as a salesperson not drawing a salary or commission. It’s not for every customer, but it will be appealing to some. Moreover, a web-to-print portal can be branded differently than your company. And if you base your web-to-print portal on open source software, you can avoid additional licensing costs to duplicate it under your corporate identity or under as many brands as you want. This allows you to sell print online not only to a general audience, i.e. everyone, with a general one-size-fits-all marketing message along the lines of “we’re your trusted partner”, but to tailor to specific markets: academic, religious, manufacturing, governmental, etc., without significant overhead since there aren’t additional licensing costs and the code can simply be copied to a new web portal.

Open Source and Web-to-Print

What is the current state of open source web-to-print? This is a very large topic. I’m not in a position to evaluate every solution that arises in this continuously evolving software landscape, but I thought it might be useful to summare a couple of the leading web-to-print products and website plugins that the major open source platforms. None of these are going to integrate with your print MIS system right out-of-the-box, although all of them will integrate with well-established accounting systems like Quickbooks. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t weigh the benefits of such systems.

Two popular open source eCommerce platforms I’m going to write about are WordPress (Woocommerce) and Magento, which is owned by a subsidiary of eBay (eBay bought the company behind Magento in 2010, seeing a rising competitive threat from open source eCommerce). So I’m going to restrict my list to these platforms, and I’ll write a little bit about the pros and cons of each over the other. Both platforms are, of course, open source and come with zero dollars in licensing fees. Each platform could be downloaded, installed, and customer-facing today for free.

WordPress

Woocommerce is perfect if your shop doesn’t contain a large number of products, and requires a great presentation. I like to think of WordPress as the platform that’s perfect for web designers. It’s well suited to web designers because the platform is easy to update in terms of its theme and design.

Magento

Magento on the other hand is, in my opinion, the better platform for eCommerce shops with large numbers of products and product categories. Magento is written by using a more complicated web framework called MVC (Model-Viewer-Controller) and can be more difficult for non-technical personnel to get their head around. This is why it lags a bit in the design department, although the trade off over WordPress/Woocommerce are significant productivity enhancements (like automated emails, integrated newsletter management and a more flexible framework for extensibility).

Both platforms have multiple APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), and can be integrated with just about anything, including your MIS. In short, my recommendation is for Woocommerce if you don’t have a large number of products or product configurations (don’t confuse this with run quantity) and Magento if you have a large number of product or product configurations.

Examples of Open Source W2P

Now on to some examples of the leading web-to-print solutions available on each platform. Just to clarify, web-to- print solutions are a subset of digital storefront solutions (DSF). DSF is really just another name for eCommerce, something the open source community mastered long ago (with respect to the short history of the internet). “Web-to-print” differs from standard DSF in that it allows for real-time product previews and at least has the capability for some amount of automation through API access. I’m going to restrict my list to the ordering process, including real time previewing.

uDraw on WooCommerce

uDraw is a powerful, easy-to-use web-to-print plugin that runs under WordPress/Woocommerce using a modern HTML5 framework (no Java plugins or Flash to deal with). It supports a PDF workflow and allows for in-browser real time editing and uploading. Your users can create brochures (with folding), business cards, mousepads, personalized bags, and more right from within the web browser. It’s mobile friendly and allows for the building of custom products. The ordering processing products are a layered PDF file that can be tweaked by your prepress as needed. WordPress/Woocommerce are both, of course, free to use.

uDraw requires a $500 setup fee and costs around $99/month for a subscription to the service. There is a free version of the plugin available so you can test it out (even do a little market testing). Give it a try by visiting the URL http://bit.ly/1M21chu.

PrintScience on Magento

PrintScience is a fantastic plugin that integrates with the Magento platform. Templates are created using Adobe Acrobat Pro and the PDFLib plugin, allowing VDP fields to be inserted directly into your PDF. In additional to the standard features listed above with uDraw, PrintScience allows your customers to download realtime generated PDF previews of their templates (with watermarking).

PrintScience has no setup fee, and costs $9.99 a month to get started. Give PrintScience a try by visiting the URL http://bit.ly/24ZSlTZ

Open Source Offers Many Flavors

There are many other options for open source, including ZetaPrints which runs on Magento, but utilizes Corel Draw (you read that right) for templating which starts at $1.70 per order, and a nice solution called“DesignnBuy”which also runs on Magento that starts at around $7000, far less than the price tag on many of the “industry standard” solutions. That these solutions run on open source platforms means they have the added advantage of being highly flexible and integrable with other platforms, such as MIS platforms, prepress systems, and more.

Whichever platform you decide to go with, definitely start selling print online if you’re not already doing it. Appealing to modern shopping expectations is sure to increasingly become a market differentiator between the old schools and the new schools of print.

About the Author: Charles Groce is the CEO of Pearl Street Consulting, a Michigan-based IT, web, and software consultancy. Charles is also the owner/operator osforprint.com, an open source technology solutions provider for the printing industry.

Save Yourself!

Save Yourself!

5 Things Every Small Business Can Do

By Phyllis Borzi, U.S. Department of Labor Blog

“retirement”

John knows he has been able to attract and keep talented staff because his winery offers a retirement plan. Tim credits the 401(k) plan at the Dairy Queen he manages with motivating employees to stay with the company long-term – which translates into more savings for the owner. For John and Tim – and for small businesses across the country – retirement plans that help their employees prepare for the future are having real benefits for their businesses today.

Saving for retirement is easier than many small business owners think. There are a number of options available to help you and your employees save; and what’s more, they also provide tax advantages to both your business and your employees. As part of America Saves Week, we’re reaching out to make small businesses aware of these options and provide information to help in choosing, setting up and operating a retirement plan.

Here are five steps every small business can take toward a secure retirement:

1. Explore the Retirement Plan Options

There are many retirement plan options available, including Individual Retirement Arrangement -based plans such as Payroll Deduction IRAs, SEPs and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined contribution plans like the 401(k) plan. In addition, myRA is a simple, safe and affordable way to help your employees start saving. Learn more about each option and what is involved in operating the plan before choosing the option that’s best for your needs.

2. Determine What Features You Want for Your Plan

Consider your needs as a business owner. Review the features of each option to see which best meets your needs. For example, do you want flexibility in employee and employer contributions? What are the pros and cons? The department has publications and tools to help you compare the options.

3. Assess Your Retirement Needs

Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you will need 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your current standard of living after you stop working. How much will you need for a secure retirement? We’ve got tools to help you save.

4. Choose a Plan

Review and compare the options to find the one that best meets your needs. You may want assistance from a retirement plan professional or adviser who is legally required to act in your best interest. Or you can contact us if you have questions.

5. Get Started, Now!

The best time to start saving is right now. We have information to help you set up your plan. And once your plan is in operation, we have publications and tools to help.

You can view our video featuring small business owners and their employees and accountants discussing their consideration and selection of a retirement saving solution by visiting YouTube and searching for the video entitled “Choosing a Retirement Solution for Your Small Business.”

Choosing a retirement savings plan is the first important step towards saving for a secure future. America Saves Week is a great time to get started.

About the Author: Phyllis C. Borzi is the assistant secretary of labor for employee benefits security. Her blog was published on http://blog.dol.gov.

Print Books, E-Books and the E-Paper Chase

Print Books, E-Books and the E-Paper Chase

By Kevin R. Donley • kevin@multimediaman.org

“amazon

Last November Amazon opened its first retail book store in Seattle near the campus of the University of Washington. More than two decades after it pioneered online book sales—and initiated the e-commerce disruption of the retail industry— the $550 billion company seemed to be taking a step backward with its “brick and mortar” Amazon Books.
However, Amazon launched its store concept with a nod to traditional consumer shopping habits, i.e. the ability to “kick the tires.” Amazon knows very well that many customers like to browse the shelves in bookstores and fiddle with electronic gadgets like the Kindle, Fire TV and Echo before they make buying decisions.

So far, the Seattle book store has been successful and Amazon has plans to open more locations. Some unique features of the Amazon.com buying experience have been extended to the book store. Customer star ratings and reviews are posted near book displays; shoppers are encouraged to use the Amazon app and scan bar codes to check prices.

Amazon’s book store initiative was also possibly motivated by the persistence and strength of the print book market. Despite the rapid rise of e-books, print books have shown a resurgence of late. Following a sales decline of 15 million print books in 2013 to just above 500 million units, the past two years have seen an increase to 560 million in 2014 and 570 million in 2015. Meanwhile, the American Booksellers Association reported a substantial increase in independent bookstores over the past five years (1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations in 2010).

Print Books and E-Books

The ratio of e-book to print book sales appears to have leveled off at around 1 to 3. This relationship supports recent public perception surveys and learning studies that show the reading experience and information retention properties of print books are superior to that of e-books.

The reasons for the recent uptick in print sales and the slowing of e-book expansion are complex. Changes in the overall economy, adjustments to bookstore inventory from digital print technologies and the acclimation of consumers to the differences between the two media platforms have created a dynamic and rapidly shifting landscape.

As many analysts have insisted, it is difficult to make any hard and fast predictions about future trends of either segment of the book market. However, two things are clear: (1) the printed book will undergo little further evolution and (2) the e-book is headed for rapid and dramatic innovation.

Amazon launched the e-book revolution in 2007 with the first Kindle device. Although digital books were previously available in various computer file formats and media types like CD-ROMs for decades, e-books connected with Amazon’s Kindle took off in popularity beginning in 2008. The most important technical innovation of the Kindle—and a major factor in its success— was the implementation of the e-paper display.

Distinct from backlit LCD displays on most mobile devices and personal computers, e-paper displays are designed to mimic the appearance of ink on paper. Another important difference is that the energy requirements of e-paper devices are significantly lower than LCD-based systems. Even in later models that offer automatic back lighting for low-light reading conditions, e-paper devices will run for weeks on a single charge while most LCD systems require a recharge in less than 24-hours.

Nick Sheridon and Gyricon

The theory behind the Kindle’s ink-on-paper emulation was originated in the 1970s at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California by Nick Sheridon. Sheridon developed his concepts while working to overcome limitations with the displays of the Xerox Alto, the first desktop computer. The early monitors could only be viewed in darkened office environments because of insufficient brightness and contrast.

Sheridon sought to develop a display that could match the contrast and readability of black ink on white paper. Along with his team of engineers at Xerox, Sheridon developed Gyricon, a substrate with thousands of microscopic plastic beads—each of which were half black and half white—suspended in a thin and transparent silicon sheet. Changes in voltage polarity caused either the white or black side of the beads to rotate up and display images and text without backlighting or special ambient light conditions.

After Xerox cancelled the Alto project in the early 1980s, Sheridon took his Gyricon technology in a new direction. By the late 1980s, he was working on methods to manufacture a new digital display system as part of the “paperless office.” As Sheridon explained later, “There was a need for a paper-like electronic display— e-paper! It needed to have as many paper properties as possible, because ink on paper is the ‘perfect display.’”

In 2000, Gyricon LLC was founded as a subsidiary of Xerox to develop commercially viable e-paper products. The startup opened manufacturing facilities in Ann Arbor, Michigan and developed several products including e-signage that utilized Wi-Fi networking to remotely update messaging. Unfortunately, Xerox shut down the entity in 2005 due to financial problems.

Among the challenges Gyricon faced were making a truly paper-like material that had sufficient contrast and resolution while keeping manufacturing costs low. Sheridan maintained that e-paper displays would only be viable economically if units were sold for less than $100 so that “nearly everyone could have one.”

As Sheridon explained in a 2009 interview:
“The holy grail of e-paper will be embodied as a cylindrical tube, about 1 centimeter in diameter and 15 to 20 centimeters long, that a person can comfortably carry in his or her pocket. The tube will contain a tightly rolled sheet of e-paper that can be spooled out of a slit in the tube as a flat sheet, for reading, and stored again at the touch of a button. Information will be downloaded—there will be simple user interface—from an overhead satellite, a cell phone network, or an internal memory chip.”

E Ink

By the 1990s competitors began entering the e-paper market. E Ink, founded in 1998 by a group of scientists and engineers from MIT’s Media Lab including Russ Wilcox, developed a concept similar to Sheridon’s. Instead of using rotating beads with white and black hemispheres, E Ink introduced a method of suspending microencapsulated cells filled with both black and white particles in a thin transparent film. Electrical charges to the film caused the black or white particles to rise to the top of the microcapsules and create the appearance of a printed page.

E Ink’s e-paper technology was initially implemented by Sony in 2004 in the first commercially available e-reader called LIBRIe. In 2006, Motorola integrated an E Ink display in its F3 cellular phone. A year later, Amazon included E Ink’s 6-inch display in the first Amazon Kindle which became by far the most popular device of its kind.

Subsequent generations of Kindle devices have integrated E Ink displays with progressively improved contrast, resolution and energy consumption. By 2011, the third generation Kindle included touch screen capability (the original Kindle had an integrated hardware keyboard for input).

The current edition of the Kindle Paperwhite (3rd Generation) combines back lighting and a touch interface with E Ink Carta technology and a resolution of 300 pixels per inch. Many other e-readers such as the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Kobo, the Onyx Boox and the PocketBook also use E Ink products for their displays.

Historical Parallel

The quest to replicate, as closely as possible in electronic form, the appearance of ink on paper is logical enough. In the absence of a practical and culturally established form, the new media naturally strives to emulate that which came before it. This process is reminiscent of the evolution of the first printed books. For many decades, print carried over the characteristics of the books that were hand-copied by scribes.

It is well-known that Gutenberg’s “mechanized handwriting” invention (1440-50) sought to imitate the best works of the Medieval monks. The Gutenberg Bible, for instance, has two columns of print text while everything else about the volume —paper, size, ornamental drop caps, illustrations, gold leaf accents, binding, etc.—required techniques that preceded the invention of printing. Thus, the initial impact of Gutenberg’s system was an increase in the productivity of book duplication and the displacement of scribes; it would take some time for the implications of the new process to work its way through the function, form and content of books.

More than a half century later—following the spread of Gutenberg’s invention to the rest of Europe—the book began to evolve dramatically and take on attributes specific to printing and other changes taking place in society. For example, by the first decade of the 1500s, books were no longer stationary objects to be read in exclusive libraries and reading rooms of the privileged few. As their cost dropped, editions became more plentiful and literacy expanded, books were being read everywhere and by everybody.

By the middle 1500s, both the form and content of books became transformed. To facilitate their newfound portability, the size of books fell from the folio (14.5” x 20”) to the octavo the octavo dimension (7”x 10.5”).

By the beginning of the next century, popular literature—the first European novel is widely recognized as Cervantes’ Don Quixote of 1605—supplanted verse and classic texts. New forms of print media developed such as chapbooks, broadsheets and newspapers.

Next Generation E-Paper

It seems clear that the dominance of LCD displays on computers, mobile and handheld devices is a factor in the persistent affinity of the public for print books. Much of the technology investment and advancement of the past decade—coming from companies such as Apple Computer—has been committed to computer miniaturization and mobility, not the transition from print to electronic media. While first decade e-readers have made important strides, most e-books are still being read on devices that are visually distant from print books, impeding a more substantial migration to the new media.

Additionally, most current e-paper devices have many unpaper like characteristics such as relatively small size, inflexibility, limited bit-depth and the inability to write on them. All current model e-paper Kindles, for example, are limited to 6-inch displays with 16 grey levels beneath a heavy and fragile layer of glass and no support for handwriting.

The Sony Digital Paper System (DPT-S1) is based on E Ink’s Mobius e-paper display technology:
13.3” format, flexible and supports stylus handwriting (pictured right).

A new generation of e-paper systems is now being developed that overcome many of these limitations. In 2014, Sony released its Digital Paper System (DPT- S1) that is a letter-size e-reader and e-notebook (for $1,100 at launch and currently selling for $799). The DPT-S1 is based on E Ink’s Mobius display, a 13.3” thin film transistor (TFT) platform that is flexible and can accept handwriting from a stylus.

Since it does not have any glass, the new Sony device weighs 12.6 oz or about half of a similar LCD-based tablet. With the addition of stylus-based handwriting capability, the device functions like an electronic notepad and, meanwhile, notes can be written in the margins of e-books and other electronic documents.

These advancements and others show that e-paper is positioned for a renewed surge into things that have yet to be conceived. Once a flat surface can be curved or even folded and then made to transform itself into any image—including a color image—at any time and at very low cost and very low energy consumption, then many things are possible like e-wall paper, e-wrapping paper, e-milk cartons and e-price tags. The possibilities are enormous.

Charles Stanhope (1753 – 1816)

Charles Stanhope (1753 – 1816)

Iron Printing Press

By Kevin R. Donley • kevin@multimediaman.org

crm

Historians generally agree that the first industrial revolution took place between 1760 and 1840. Among the features of the great economic and social transformation were: (1) the progression from predominantly rural to urban society, (2) the replacement of handicraft with machine production, (3) the introduction of iron and steel in place of wood and (4) the substitution of muscle power with new energy sources like coal-fired steam power.

A unique set of circumstances – a stable commercial environment, advances in iron making and an abundance of skilled mechanics —made Britain the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Beginning with new techniques in textile production, industrial innovations spread rapidly to other manufacturing sectors and then across national borders in Europe and around the globe. All aspects of life would be touched by industrialization: population, politics, trade and commerce, science and culture, education, transportation and communication.

It was during this era of remarkable change that the English aristocrat Charles Stanhope invented—sometime around 1800—the first printing press constructed wholly of iron. Prior to Stanhope’s achievement, the design and build of printing machines had not changed in the three and a half centuries since Gutenberg.

Previously, small adjustments had been made to the wooden press. These related to structural stability, increased sheet size and automation to reduce human muscle power. But, even with the inclusion of some iron parts, the basic design of printing presses remained as they were in 1450.

With the Stanhope hand press, both the design of the impression mechanism as well as the material from which the machine was built were transformed; Stanhope’s contribution was a crucial preliminary step in the industrial development of print communications.

Young Lord Stanhope

Charles Stanhope, third Earl Stanhope, was born on August 3, 1753, the younger of two sons of Philip Stanhope, second Earl Stanhope, and his wife Lady Grisel (Hamilton) Stanhope. As a member of the English peerage system—with titles like Duke, Earl and Baron—Charles is often referred to as Lord Stanhope or Earl Stanhope. Born into the English aristocracy, he was afforded a privileged upbringing and, at the age of nine, was enrolled by his parents at prestigious Eton boarding school.

In 1763, following the death at age seventeen of his brother Philip from tuberculosis, Charles became family heir. His parents decided that Charles’ “health should not be exposed to the English climate, or the care of his mind to the capricious attention of the English schoolmaster” and the family relocated to Geneva, Switzerland. At age eleven, he was enrolled at the school in Geneva founded on the principles of John Calvin and there studied philosophy, science and math.

As a teenager, Charles was known to be a devoted cricket player, an exceptional equestrian and a well mannered young man who was admired by his peers. At age seventeen, Charles won a prize in a Swedish competition for the best essay, written in French, on the construction of a pendulum.

While Charles was accomplished academically in math and science, he was also known to have talents in drawing and painting. As a nobleman, Charles had obligations as a militia commander and he developed a passion for archery and musket shooting. At eighteen, he won a competition and was crowned the best shot and so-called “King of the Arquebusiers.”

By the time Charles completed his education in Switzerland, his parents decided to move the family back to England. According to a published account, as the family and its entourage left Geneva in 1774, “The young gentleman was obliged to come out again and again to his old friends and companions who pressed round the coach to bid him farewell, and expressed their sorrow for his departure and their wishes for his prosperity.”

Stanhope the Inventor

During their five-month journey home to England from Switzerland, the family made a stop in Paris. Charles was welcomed and “esteemed by most of the learned educated men of the capital” over the prize he had won for his paper on pendulum design. He was developing an international reputation as an innovator.

Upon his return to England, Charles used his skills in mechanics to win election to London’s Royal Society, a world renowned club founded by King Charles in the 17th century to promote the benefits and accomplishments of science. At the age of 20, Charles embarked on a series of self-funded experiments and inventions and his interest in such matters continued throughout his life.

The most important of these were:
• A method for preventing counterfeiting of gold currency (1775)
• A system for fireproofing houses by starving a fire of air (1778)
• Several mechanical “arithmetical machines” that could add, subtract, multiply and divide. These inventions were early forerunners of computers (1777 and 1780).
• Experiments in steamboat navigation and ship construction which included the invention of the split pin, later known as the Cottier pin (1789).
• A popular single lens microscope that became known as the Stanhope that was used in medical practice and for examination of transparent materials such as crystals and fluids (1806).
• A monochord or a single string device, used for tuning musical instruments.
• Improvements in canal locks and inland navigation (1806).

Charles Stanhope became so well accomplished in international scientific circles that he was befriended by Benjamin Franklin. The two spent time together during Franklin’s visits to England prior to the American Revolution. They shared a mutual interest in electricity and, in 1779, Charles Stanhope published a volume entitled “Principles of Electricity” that corroborated through experimental evidence Franklin’s ideas about lighting rods.

The Stanhope Press

By 1800, as has often happened in graphic arts history, the environment became ripe for a major step forward in printing methods. Charles Stanhope—who had the desire, know-how and resources to make it happen—stepped forward with a significant breakthrough.

Due to his many democratic political pursuits and scientific publishing activities—some of which concerned freedom of the press—Charles was very familiar with printing technology. Among his concerns were the cost of production, the accuracy of the content, the beauty of the print quality and the importance of books for the expansion of knowledge in society as a whole.

All letterpress technologies require a means to transfer ink from the surface of the metal type forms to the paper. This process requires the application of pressure, i.e. an impression, that mechanically drives the ink into the paper fibers. The pressure also creates a slight indentation in the shape of the letter forms in the surface of the paper.

Prior to 1800, press designs were based on the screw press that had been used for pressing grapes (wine) and olives (oil), cloth and paper going back to Roman times. The screw mechanism is a complex arrangement of the screw, nut, spindle and fixed bar that drives the platen—the flat plate that presses the paper against the type form—downward. There are many historical drawings and engravings that illustrate how physical strength is required to pull the bar and make a printing impression with the Gutenberg era press design.

Stanhope’s innovation, according to historian James Moran, was that “he retained the conventional screw but separated it from the spindle and bar, inserting a system of compound levers between them. The effect of several levers acting upon another is to multiply considerably the power applied.” The compound lever system was so successful that it became referred to as “Stanhope principles” and was incorporated into subsequent generations of hand press design in the nineteenth century (Columbian, Albion and Washington).

Other important Stanhope press changes were:

• All iron construction including a massive frame formed in one piece

• A double size platen

• A regulator that controlled the intensity of the impression

The Stanhope press would undergo several important modifications, the most important of which was strengthening the frame in 1806 to prevent the iron from cracking under the stress of repeated impressions. The second design—with its characteristic rounded cheeks—is what today is commonly associated with the Stanhope press.

The Times of London immediately adopted the Stanhope press and it became successful across Europe and America in the first few decades of the 1800s. Meanwhile, further developments with all-iron hand presses would continue up to the end of the nineteenth century. However, driven by the rapid advancement of the industrial revolution, the next stage in the evolution of press design—the introduction of cylinders and steam power—would rapidly eclipse Stanhope’s accomplishments.

Stanhope the Statesmen

Charles 3rd Earl Stanhope was an unusual man. In addition to his many inventions and scientific studies, he devoted himself to radical political causes that often controverted his aristocratic background. He often referred to himself as “Citizen” Stanhope. The origins of his democratic leanings were to be found in the influence of his father—who was a member of Parliament and an outspoken critic of the crown and proponent of Habeas Corpus—his education in the radical environment of Geneva and the Revolutions in America (1776) and France (1789).

Known publicly as Viscount Mahon at the time, Charles was elected to Parliament in 1780 and adopted positions that conflicted with the political elite. His demands for electoral and finance reform and religious tolerance of dissenters and Catholics did not sit well with the establishment. Charles was also known to have campaigned against slavery and was party to the abolition bill known as the Slave Trade Act of 1807.

Charles Stanhope was an opponent of the war against the thirteen colonies and a supporter of John Wilkes, a British sympathizer of the American rebels. Despite his efforts on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden in society, Charles Stanhope’s personal eccentricities caused him, especially later in life, to be isolated from his family.
Always thinking of others before himself, he allowed his manse at Chevening, Kent to fall into disrepair and it is speculated that he had starved himself to death on a diet of soup and barley water. Charles Stanhope was interred “as a very poor man” in the family vault at Chevening Church one week after his death on December 17, 1816.

How to Identify Those Hard-to-Find Decision Makers

How to Identify Those Hard-to-Find Decision Makers

By Joe Rickard

crm

Knowing who will make the decision to buy printing products and services is a key step in any sales process. Countless hours in sales time and frustration can be saved by quickly sizing up an account and learning how buying decisions are made. Though there is no magic formula, there are some simple steps salespeople can take to ensure they are working with the right people and not wasting valuable time.

Determining the decision process starts with learning who has the authority to make the final decision, who is a driving force and who will actually execute the proposed offering. Though the decision process varies from company to company, the buying of print always starts with a problem. The bigger the problem the more people will be involved in the decision.

Categories of Decision Makers

Sorting through the multitude of potential players who affect the decision process takes time and skill. The decision process for print-related offerings can be organized around five general categories. For many large sales, each of these categories of customers will need to be engaged. For smaller accounts, these categories of decision makers are often combined.

  • Tire Kickers and General Time Wasters: These are the folks that can’t make or won’t make a meaningful buying decision. It is best to identify these people and politely avoid them.
  • Influencers: There are plenty of potential influencers around decision makers. Recognizing who has influence and then gaining their support will minimize wrong sales steps. Most buying decisions will have multiple influencers.
  • Champions and Mobilizers: These are folks that are vital. Without an influential person who supports you and your offering, there will not be a sale.
  • End Users: For every decision, there is someone in the organization who actually implements and manages projects. Never overlook this role in the decision process. They may not be able to say“yes”but can certainly say“no”to a proposed solution.
  • Decision Makers: Finally, there are individuals or groups of individuals who actually have the final operational and financial decision-making authority. Depending on the type and size of offering, they can be senior executives, middle managers or end users.
  • Gatekeepers: Additionally, often there is a gatekeeper to contend with. A gatekeeper is a person who permits salespeople to talk to decision makers or influencers.

Multiple Decision-Making Processes in the Same Account

We recently worked with a large retailer to help them construct a company-wide Request for Proposal (RFP) for printing products and services. The company uses multiple printers for a variety of work. We counted at least four different decision processes based on what was being bought. For instance, in one case, a print buyer was responsible for the purchase of a substantial set of defined printing products that included point of sale, price books and promotional materials. In another, the customer bought direct mail services where the decision came from the marketing communications department.

Here are three ways to gain insights on how decisions are made:

1. Customers, Colleagues, Friends, and Family

When an opportunity presents itself, determine anyone who is or has been connected with this account. This takes creativity and a little time. Being able to reference another person to a targeted customer contact opens doors and enables the gathering of critical information to guide the sales process. Printing is still a relationship business.

In existing accounts, salespeople must relentlessly expand personal contacts and relationships. Incumbent salespeople always have the advantage in knowing how decisions are being made. Over time, it becomes apparent who are those champions or mobilizers who can help guide and drive sales efforts.

2. Social and Personal Networking

If there are no relationships at the targeted account, networking into the decision circle is the best approach. Using Linkedin and other networking channels to ask for help to gain access to decision makers is a good approach.
Take time to research each name provided by networking contacts to ensure you have the right messages, interesting opening statements and insights to share when you make contact. Having a name for a reference and specific knowledge into the customer’s business can help get through to busy decision makers.

3. The Last Resort

When all else fails, the cold call is the last option. Though it is the least productive in selling complex printing products and services, cold calling may be the only way to get into an account. We recommend being straight- forward and direct. Simply asking who is responsible for making decisions on direct mail or marketing communications is a good place to start.

Joining groups online and industry associations is also a good way to find contact names and insights into a customer’s business. This is a good way to move a very cold call to a warmer one.

Before moving through any sales process or forecasting deals, it is a good practice to ensure that the decision process is clearly understood. Failure often results in wasted time and effort. The chances of consistently being successful selling high relationship offerings associated with printing are greatly enhanced by simply knowing who are actually making the decisions.

About the Author: Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. Joe can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joe.rickardis.

Successful CRM Implementation

Successful CRM Implementation

A Top-Down Approach

By Charles Groce, CEO of Pearl Street Consulting

crm

Most companies in the printing industry by now have at least gone through the experience of deploying some kind of CRM, or Customer Relationship Management system, but I dare say few printing companies have done so successfully. The most difficult aspect of successfully deploying a CRM lies not in the technical aspects of deployment. Have no doubt that with enough money thrown at a CRM project it will, in the end, more or less do what it’s supposed to do: archive customer data, “automate” sales and marketing processes, and systematize all sorts of organizational communications. That all sounds great, but the problem with successful company adoption of CRM lies, in the end, with the people that are expected to use the system: your staff.

First, let’s define CRM. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and is a software system which allows your company to effectively organize all sorts of data, including customer data, lead data, sales activity, and more. Think of your CRM as your information repository of all data related to your customers and potential customers. It is like an online library of all important communications with your customers and potential customers.

Some time after a successful deployment and adoption of a CRM at your organization, any member of your staff will be able to use the system to review the history of your company’s interaction with any customer, from the initial winning of the customer, to looking at job activity and performance, to the systematic and proactive review of production or fulfillment problems which arose in the past with each customer.

Print is certainly not alone with regards to the challenges of successful CRM adoption. In a 2013 study by the marketing agency Merkle Group Inc, interviews of 352 senior-level executives at companies with $1+ billion in revenue revealed that an astounding two-thirds (63%) saw CRM deployment at their companies as a failure.

The reasons cited by the report may sound familiar to companies in print who’ve had difficulties with CRM. They include a lack of clear ownership of customer insight data (training and information workflow, 53%), lopsided adoption by department management (43%), a lack of executive buy-in (38%), and CRM not being a priority with company IT (38%).

Does this mean that CRM deployment is a waste of time and resources? Not at all! The same study showed that high growth organizations, those companies with both revenue growth and profit growth, were 50% more likely than low-growth organizations to view CRM as key to their company’s success. So CRM is important to the bottom line, and this begs the question: How can organizations in print deploy a CRM successfully?

In this article, I want to briefly list some of the factors that I’ve seen in the successful adoption of CRM solutions in the printing industry as well as some of the barriers to adoption.

Successful adoption requires, absolutely must include executive and managerial buy-in. Owners must insist that their managers require their staff to utilize the CRM in their day-to-day reporting activities. This means, of course, that staff must be trained on the daily usage of the system and must be continually reminded of its value.

A customer has a problem? It shouldn’t be put down on a paper form which goes in a dark desk drawer where it dies a slow, biodegradeable death. This information goes in the CRM where it will be reviewed later as part of a CRM-driven job follow-up process. A potential customer has called in and asked for more information? This touch point goes in the CRM where all such activity can be analyzed later. A special postal form is required for a customer mailing on their own periodical permit: all pertinent information goes in the CRM, not on some sticky note attached to a CSR’s computer monitor.

crmThe CRM as the central repository of your customer interaction data becomes the most critical system in your organization allowing your company to be systematic in its interactions with customers. Managers must insist that members of their team stop utilizing their own way of organizing this data, even if this approach has worked for years, but utilize a CRM to make customer-specific information systematically organized and widely available to the team.

This is admittedly easier said that done. Managers can demand all they want that staff use the CRM system, but if the staff sees it merely as a reporting tool, it’s less likely to be adopted enthusiastically. This is why it’s critical that organizations integrate the CRM with their main MIS (Management Information) system. The CRM should also be the most convenient place where your sales and customer service staff retrieves quotes, invoices, and other customer specific data.

But isn’t this the purpose of your MIS? It’s part of it, but MIS systems often don’t provide the flexibility of a modern CRM, with their automated email capabilities, task assignment, mobile integration, and powerful built-in visualization tools. Print specific MIS systems are great at what they’re designed to do, operate your printing business, but not great at what they’re not designed to do. CRM functions are often, at best, an after thought in the design of print-specific MIS systems.

Finally, in choosing a CRM for your company, we argue that successful deployment and adoption is not so much about choosing the right system as it is about successfully preparing your staff for the cultural change that comes from putting a CRM front and center in your operation.

CRM adoption ain’t easy, but it can be done with a well thought out approach that isn’t simply driven by the technical requirements. Successful CRM adoption requires a one-two punch of adoption from the top down.

PIM members should contact the PIM office for more information 248.946.5895.

About the Author: Charles Groce is the CEO of Pearl Street Consulting, a Michigan-based IT, web, and software consultancy. Charles is also the owner/operator osforprint.com, an open source technology solutions provider for the printing industry.

Michigan Printing Week Committee

Michigan Printing Week Committee

33rd Annual Ben Franklin Awards Dinner

By John Gumina

printing week

Stellar awardees; meaningful program; great camaraderie and fine dining!

Giving no more than a nod to an icy blast of January weather, over 200 PIM members and vendor representatives, family, friends and associates joined together Tuesday, January 12th at the renowned Michigan Printing Week Ben Franklin Awards Dinner.

The event, taking place at Laurel Manor in Livonia, saw two coveted awards given: Individual of the Year was garnered by Julie McFarland of McNaughton & Gunn in Saline; the Corporation of the Year went to Wolverine Solutions Group of Detroit. Along with these awards, six Michigan college students enrolled in printing/graphics programs were Scholarship Recipients.

And once again, Ben Franklin joined us for the fun, along with his wife Deborah!

The evening was introduced by Kevin Donley of Adair Graphic Communications who noted that the Printing Week Dinner is the one time each year that so many people associated with the printing and graphics industry in Michigan get together for a unique networking opportunity.

He noted, as well, that today marked the 310th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth, a man whose life was a mix of adversity and perseverance but filled with overriding innovation. All of these, Kevin made clear, were part and parcel to the printing and graphics industry.

“Today there are so many challenges,” he stated. Among them: the economic slowdown of late 2000 that lingers; and, the fast-changing technology impacting the industry, including digital, mobile and wireless realities. All need to be integrated.

“Success requires innovation, even along with risk,” Kevin said, adding that there were many examples of companies and individuals at the Awards Dinner that recognized this. And along with this was a tone of optimism that clearly ensures the printing and graphics industry will prevail.

Introducing Corporation of the Year recipient Wolverine Solutions Group was Tip Quilter of Tip Quilter & Associates, LLC. He is Wolverine’s leadership coach and strategy advisor.

Tip said Wolverine’s success was “no magic,” but a combination of “grit, determination and commitment” that has brought it the success it enjoys today.

Wolverine Solutions Group was founded in 1978 by Bob Tokar as Wolverine Mailing & Packaging, occupying 4,000 square feet of space on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Its growth from there saw it move to 30,000 square feet, then to a facility with 180,000 square feet. It focused on the opportunities that the direct mail business offered, especially during the 1980’s and 1990’s, and made early entry into the digital print business.

High-speed multiline, automated sorting equipment came next, followed by continuous variable digital web presses. Wolverine, in fact, was one of the first companies to drive the presses from a PC platform.

By the early 2000’s Wolverine leadership knew it had outgrown its “mailing” nameplate; thus, the company name changed to Wolverine Solutions Group to better reflect its provision of solutions in the direct communications business. Today, Wolverine enjoys an active client base of over 300.

Tip noted that succession and quality people within the company were major factors in the 39% growth Wolverine has enjoyed as a result of its transformation through the years. He added: “Wolverine is receiving this award tonight because of success driven by hard work.”

At this point, Tip asked a number of employees of Wolverine Solutions Group to join him on stage. In a few moments, there were nearly 20 of them standing either side of him! He asked them if the hard work of change to better the organization had been easy. They exclaimed, “No!” But was it worth it, he asked. They joined in a resounding “Yes!”

Among those joining Tip on stage was Robert Tokar, the son of Wolverine’s founder, who began working at Wolverine shortly after its doors opened. Today, he is CEO.

Robert stated that he has enjoyed the hard work and the “journey” at Wolverine through so many years and that he has looked at life as the “glass half full,” just as his father did.

“And my dad always told me: “Always work to better yourself.’” Robert also especially thanked his wife, Felicia, for “staying with me” through all the hard work of being involved with a successful business.

Referring to the employees on stage with him, Robert said “This is what it’s all about; our most important asset is the right people.” He added that he has always taken the attitude that he will let them be creative, make their own choices, and make decisions that they feel would be best for the company and its clients.

Introducing the Individual of the Year Award recipient was Jim Clark, Director of Operations at McNaughton & Gunn, a renowned book printer. He noted that winner Julie McFarland’s important and steadily increasing responsibilities through the years with the company began in 1990 when she took the Assistant Controller position. She went next to Controller, then COO, then to CEO, and presently is President.

Jim also listed many of Julie’s numerous personal and civic honors and appointments, including Treasurer for the Ann Arbor Graphic Arts Memorial Foundation; Past President and Treasurer of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce; United Way and Junior Achievement volunteer. In 2003, Business Direct Weekly named her one of the “Most Influential Women.” “Today, McNaughton & Gunn is profitable because of Julie,” Jim added.

Noting that the company has sales of $25 million annually, Clark called Julie “a great leader” who has been at the helm for the past 14 years. He stated: “And we are still producing books in this challenging industry!”

In 2015, McNaughton & Gunn celebrated 40 years in the business and has received numerous awards including: The Principal’s “One of the 10 Best Companies for Employee Financial Security; Printing Industries of America’s “Best of the Best Workplaces in America; and one of Crain’s Detroit Business’ “Cool Places to Work.” In 2006, McNaughton & Gunn received Printing Week Association’s corporate Ben Franklin award.

At the podium, Julie stated that she feels “very lucky to be part of this industry.”

She added that she is passionate about books because they “allow us to explore emotions, explore new worlds, and to learn.” The industry also captures history and gives us a view of “where we can go,” she said.

Julie also stated that she is very happy to be a part of a family business, noting that her father, Bob McNaughton, was one of the company’s founding partners over 40 years ago. She recalled how in the early days, the “business phone was in the living room and we bound books in the garage.”

Julie said that in order to be successful, one had to “jump at opportunities as quickly as conclusions.” She urged all in the room to recognize that technology is impacting the industry, but that we must “take our expertise and our experiences” and work with technology.

Each year, the Michigan Printing Week Association, Printing Industries of Michigan and their numerous partners pool resources to provide scholarships to worthy college students in the printing and graphics curriculums.

This year’s recipients of Graphics Arts Scholarships were:

Ferris State University
Karen Lynn Readon and Carly DeWeert

Western Michigan University
Adrianna Bird, Andrew Bogan, Bradley Green and Sarah Meldrum

Congratulations to all! Perhaps the words of Ben Franklin, printed in the Award Dinner program book, offer some of the sagest advice for members of the printing and graphics industry today:

‘Tis true there is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak handed, but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects, for constant dropping wears away stones, and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.”

She concluded: “We need to continue to take pride in our industry, and color our world in print!”

Each year, the Michigan Printing Week Association, Printing Industries of Michigan and their numerous partners pool resources to provide scholarships to worthy college students in the printing and graphics curriculums.

Start Off the New Year

Start Off the New Year

with Some Baseline Metrics

By Stuart W. Margolis, CPA, MT

break even

Year-end is a great time to capture metrics on the past twelve months and make sensible projection for the next twelve. As you start the process, evaluate Break Even. Break Even Analysis is a fundamental and important criterion for management to use in formulating overall business strategies for selling printed product, establishing work shift production benchmarks and evaluating success in various other areas of the company.

Performing Break-Even Analysis Can Help to:

  • Determine price levels
  • Analyze sales needs and goals
  • Estimate whether or not an expansion project or cost-saving project makes sense
  • And more

Break-Even Analysis

The goal of a Break-Even Analysis is to determine when sales and revenue equals total expenses. Beneath the surface, the real value of this analysis lies in helping managers break down the components of the equation to determine the relationship between revenue, fixed costs and variable costs. In essence, management should use it to determine answers to questions like:

  • “Has our press purchase paid off?”
  • “Are we covering costs at our current pricing levels?”
  • “Did our company “break-even” on that big job requiring so many outside services?”
  • “How much printing needs to be sold and produced so all of our expenses are covered?” Changing one component of the break-even analysis changes the results and allows managers to explore various potential scenarios to make better decisions and forecasts.

Changing one component of the break-even analysis changes the results and allows managers to explore various potential scenarios to make better decisions and forecasts.

Pricing Decision Break-Even Analysis

Scenario: Here’s a snapshot of a company The Variable Costs for the month based on $910,000 in sales looked like this:
break even break even

 

Sales for the Month were $910,000

Fixed expenses (overhead) were $535,000
Variable expenses were $405,000
Did we break-even?

In this Scenario Break-Even looks like this:

Sales = Fixed costs + variable costs
$940,000 = $535,000 + $405,000
$910,000 is less than $940,000

So according to our figures, with sales of $910,000, we lost $30,000 this month! How did that happen?

Let’s find out.

Cost Analysis-Evaluate the Components of the Equation

To find out what went wrong, we need to take a careful look at the equation, break it down, taking a careful look at costs and pricing.

For this example, let’s assume Fixed Costs or Overhead are tight and controlled.

To perform an analysis of costs we turn to the PIA Ratios.

Upon research we find that our companies Variable Costs as a % of Sales are high compared to Industry Profit Leaders in The Ratios.

Here’s the facts:

break evenWhile taking a closer look at the components of Break-Even, we determine that our Variable Costs seem to be about 3% higher than the Variable Costs of Profit Leaders. If we can control those costs, will we break-even? Three percent (3%) seems like a small amount, but as a % of sales it adds up. To bring Variable Sales down to 41% of sales, here’s the equation:

41% of $910,000
$910,000 x 0.41 = $373,000

Meaning Variable Costs need to be reduced by $32,000. Suddenly, that 3% is a lot.

  • Can we shave $20,000 off outside services by doing more work inside and not sending it out?
  • Can we reduce Factory Expenses by $10,000 by focusing on better purchasing and tighter usage?
  • In many cases, the answer is “no, not really”. So in this scenario, the question becomes– What type of jobs can we do that do not require the use of outside services and this high level of Factory Expense?
  • In other words, what kinds of jobs do we need sell to actually break-even and maybe even make money!

The answer might lie within and might surprise you. Take a look at your past monthly performance.

  • In months when Break-Even was achieved, how did your ratios stack up to the Industry Profit Leader Performance?
  • What was different in those months?
  • Were particular Cost Components still out of line? If not, what did you do to achieve good ratios?
  • Can good ratios be achieved in future months?
If not, it might be a good time to look at those costs carefully and find solutions. We call it “Right Sizing”.

Unraveling costs and analyzing components can become a monumental task, especially when budgets are already tight. If it becomes too time consuming, get help.

About the Author: Margolis Partners has long been recognized as the financial expert for family- owned businesses with a specialty in the printing, packaging and allied graphic communications industries, assisting thousands of companies with strategic and financial management, valuation, mergers/acquisitions, accounting, audit and tax services. The firm is noted for its expertise in enabling companies to optimize profits. Proudly, it is the purveyor of the industry’s Value-Added Principles of Management, and compiles the annual Printing Industries of America Ratios, the printing industry’s premier financial benchmarking tool.

Our Customer Metrics May Not Have Changed

Our Customer Metrics May Not Have Changed

But Our Customer Relationships Must!

By Dick Rossman

printing week

In one of Dr. Ronnie Davis’ PIA Economic and Print Market and Flash Reports, he pointed out two interesting marketing metrics. First, our largest single customer accounts for nearly 19% of our total business and our largest 5 customers provide nearly 40% of our business. And second, over 60% of printers in the US have a market focus of less than 100 miles. So we continue to be an industry that does business fairly locally and where we rely on large accounts which are close to our manufacturing facilities. But while our customers may still prefer to be near their print suppliers, how they want to manage their print communications and what we need to know about them is definitely not as it once was.

We all know the importance of having great customer service. But today great customer service also means providing an easy way to store, design, change, order and pay for print communications material with an online web-to-print capability that is easy for our customers to use. I recently spoke with a VP of Sales and Marketing at a large NE printing company. He said that they want their customers to call or email them about everything. Ordering online was anathema to them as it eliminated the contact with their customers that they so religiously sought out. But customers today, whether local or not, want to simplify their lives, reduce unnecessary communication, speed up the production process, and see results quicker. Providing an online print products management solution for your best customers is part of the new definition of great customer service.

Second, in the past it was enough for us to understand the nature of the jobs that our largest customers wanted us to print: sizes, number of pages, stock, frequency, delivery requirements, etc. Today we need to know not only what they want to print but why. We should be learning first about the industries that our customers are in and second about how our customers do business in that industry. How do they generate revenue, who is their competition, who are their customers and how do they find more of them, what is the nature and purpose of their marketing communications, etc.? By becoming an expert in their businesses, we are then in a position to be not just an order-taking sales person but an advisor in providing the print and marketing solutions that we offer.

While the metrics about our customers may not have changed, how we service them and what we need to know about them certainly has. The companies who are growing today are those that recognize this and have developed the technology and the sales mindset to make these adaptations. Their 5 largest customers have recognized this also and are providing them even more business than ever.

Streaming and the Era of On-Demand Media

Streaming and the Era of On-Demand Media

By Kevin R. Donley, kevin@multimediaman.org

printing week

On January 6th, Netflix went live with its video-streaming service in 130 new countries across the globe. The expansion— covering most of the world except for China—was announced by Netflix cofounder and CEO Reed Hastings during a keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Hastings said, “Today, right now, you are witnessing the birth of a global TV network.”

Prior to this latest announcement, Netflix had 40 million subscribers in the US and 20 million subscribers internationally in a total of 60 countries and available in 17 languages. According to Hastings, the company’s goal is to reach 200 countries by the end of 2016 and sign up 90 million US and 450 million worldwide subscribers.

The rapid expansion of Netflix is part of the transformation of TV program and movie viewing that has been underway for a decade or more. While “linear TV”— programming that is presented at specific times and on non-portable screens—is still popular, it is being rapidly overtaken by the new personalized, on-demand and mobile subscription services like Netflix.

According to Netflix, the growth of Internet TV is driven by (1) advancements in Internet reliability and performance, (2) time and place flexibility of on-demand viewing and (3) accelerating innovation of streaming video technology. A possible fourth driver of Netflix’s success is its subscription-based user model. Unlike previous on-demand solutions that often required consumers to purchase one at a time—or rent for a specified period of time—their own copies of movies and music, streaming media solutions like Netflix offers subscribers access to their entire content library without limitations for a monthly fee.

Streaming media refers to video or audio content that is transmitted in a compressed digital form over the Internet and played immediately, rather than being downloaded onto a computer hard drive or other storage media for later playback. Therefore, users do not need to wait for the entire media file to be sent before playing it; the media file is delivered in a continuous stream and can be watched or listened to as soon as the playing process is able to begin.

Media streaming originated with “elevator music” known as Muzak in the early 1950s. It was a service that transmitted music over electrical lines in retail stores and building lobbies. The first efforts to stream music and video on computers and digital networks ran up against the limitations of CPU performance, network bandwidth and data stream interruptions associated with “buffering.”

Attempts in the 1990s by Microsoft (Windows Media Player), Apple (QuickTime) and RealNetworks (RealPlayer) to develop streaming technologies on desktop computers made important breakthroughs. However, each of these solutions required proprietary file formats and media players that resulted in an unworkable system for users.

By the early 2000s, the adoption of broadband internet and improvements in CPU and data throughput along with efforts to create a single, unified format led to the adoption of Adobe Flash as a de facto standard for streaming media. By 2005, when the social media and video sharing service YouTube was established, Flash became the dominant streaming technology on the Internet. More recently—especially since 2011—HTML5 has advanced as an international standard on computers and mobile devices and it will eventually supplant Flash.

printing weekStreaming media has been transforming the music industry along side of TV and movies. While digital downloads still represent the largest percentage of music sales in the US, they are falling. Meanwhile, streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music have already overtaken physical CD sales and represent about one third of the industry’s income. Some analysts expect revenue from music streaming to surpass that of digital downloads in the near future.

Consumers and Content

Streaming media has fundamentally shifted the relationship between consumers and entertainment content. During the era of broadcast radio (1920s) and television (1950s), consumers needed a “set” to receive the analog programs of radio stations and TV channels. Meanwhile, audience members had to be in front of their radio or TV—with “rabbit ears” antenna adjusted optimally—on a schedule set by the broadcasters. The cost of programming was paid for by commercial advertising and corporate sponsors.

In the cable and satellite era (1970s), consumers began paying for content with subscription fees and programming was “commercial free.” Along with home recording devices—at first analog magnetic tape systems like VCRs (1970s) and digital recording devices like DVRs (late 1990s)—came an important shift in viewing behavior. Consumers could do what is now called “time shifted viewing,” i.e. they could choose when they wanted to experience the recorded content.

At first, music publishers mass produced and marketed analog audio recordings—records (1950s) and then audio tapes (1970s)—and consumers purchased and owned a library of recordings. These records and tapes could be enjoyed at any time and place as long as there was an audio system with a stereo turntable or cassette player available.

The same was true of mass produced CD audio (1980s) and DVD video (2000s) optical discs. While these digital formats improved portability and their quality did not deteriorate from repeated play—the way that analog magnetic and vinyl did— they required a new generation of optical devices. Portable CD (1980s) and DVD players (late 1990s) addressed this issue, but consumers still had to maintain a library of purchased titles.

With digital downloading of music and video over the Internet, content could finally be played anywhere and at anytime on portable digital players like iPods (2001) and notebook PCs. However, consumers were still required to purchase the titles they wanted to enjoy. Instead of owning bookshelves and cabinets full of CD and DVD jewel cases, downloaded electron- ic files had to be maintained on MP3 players, computer hard drives and digital media servers.

When Internet-based media streaming arrived alongside of mobile and wireless computing the real potential of time and place independent content viewing became a reality. Add to these the subscription model—with (potentially) the entire back catalog of recorded music, TV shows and movies available for a relatively small monthly fee—and consumers began flocking in large numbers to services like Netflix and Spotify.

Streaming Media Trends to Watch 2016

Media industry analysts have been following the impact of these streaming content and technologies and some of their recent insights and trend analyses are below:

Streaming Devices:

  • Linear TV content still dominates US households. However, there are signs that streaming media devices such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast and Amazon Fire are rapidly shifting things. The adoption of these devices went from about 17% in 2014 to about 28% of US households with broadband internet in 2015 [Park Associates]

Streaming vs. Downloading:

  • Online music streams doubled from 164.5 billion to 317 billions songs
  • Digital song sales dropped 12.5% from 1.1 billion to 964.8 million downloads
  • Digital album sales dropped 2.9% from 106.5 million to 103.3 million downloads [Nielsen 2015 Music Report]

Cable TV:

  • The cord-cutting trend—households that are ending their cable TV service—is accelerating. Total households with cable subscriptions fell from 83% in 2014 to under 80% in 2015 [Pacific Crest].
  • Scheduled “linear” TV fell and recorded “linear” TV was flat (or even increased slightly) from 2014 to 2015, while streamed on-demand video increased [Ericsson ConsumerLab].

While streaming audio and video are growing rapidly, traditional radio and TV still represent by far the largest percentages of consumer activity. Obviously, some of the cultural and behavior changes involved in streaming media run up against audience demographics: some older consumers are less likely to shift their habits while some younger consumers have had fewer or no “linear” experiences.

As the Ericsson ConsumerLab study shows, teenagers spend less than 20% of their TV viewing time watching a TV screen; the other 80% is spent in front of desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smartphones. Despite these differences, streaming content use is soaring and the era of “linear”media is rapidly coming to an end. Just like the relationship between eBooks and print books, the electronic alternative is expanding rapidly while the analog form persists and, in some ways, is stronger than ever. Nonetheless, the new era of time and place independent on-demand media is fast approaching.

Health Insurance

Health Insurance

BCBSM has individual health insurance plans available to PIM members. Association Benefits Company, an authorized independent agency with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is here to help you take care of your families and your employees. Call them today to discuss the individual and group options available to you. They work with all agents!

Description for Individual Coverage:

Introducing MyBlueSM– Individual Coverage direct with BCBSM

Printing Industries of Michigan now offers new BCBSM health care plans for individuals and families at all stages of life. Whether you’re single, a recent college graduate, self-employed, starting a family, or considering early retirement, BCBSM has a plan to meet your needs and budget. Click here for eligibility, review plan options and to enroll on line!

Description for Group Coverage:

Employers providing health insurance for employees

Printing Industries of Michigan now offers new BCBSM health care plans for individuals and families at all stages of life. Whether you’re single, a recent college graduate, self-employed, starting a family, or considering early retirement, BCBSM has a plan to meet your needs and budget. Click here to get started with our BCBSM/BCN Administrator!

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Fee Schedule

Fees schedule for PIM Active Membership

Annual sales volume Monthly Membership Dues
Under $100,000 $25
$100,001 – $200,000 $25
$200,001 – $250,000 $25
$250,001 – $300,000 $25
$300,001 – $350,000 $30
$350,001 – $400,000 $35
$400,001 – $450,000 $40
$450,001 – $500,000 $45
$500,001 – $550,000 $50
$550,001 – $600,000 $55
$600,001 – $650,000 $60
$650,001 – $700,000 $65
$700,001 – $750,000 $70
$750,001 – $800,000 $75
$800,001 – $850,000 $80
$850,001 – $900,000 $85
$900,001 – $950,000 $90
$950,001 – $1,000,000 $95
$1,000,001 – $1,500,000 $105
$1,500,001 – $2,000,000 $115
$2,000,001 – $2,500,000 $125
$2,500,001 – $3,000,000 $135
$3,000,001 – $3,500,000 $145
$3,500,001 – $4,000,000 $160
$4,000,001 – $5,000,000 $185
$5,000,001 – $6,000,000 $195
$6,000,001 – $7,000,000 $210
$7,000,001 – $8,000,000 $230
$8,000,001 – $9,000,000 $260
$9,000,001 – $10,000,000 $280
$10,000,001 – $11,000,000 $300
$11,000,001 – $13,000,000 $315
$13,000,001 – $15,000,000 $340
$15,000,001 – $17,000,000 $365
$17,000,001 and over $390
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