For the Love of the Game
I love the game of baseball. I like everything about it - playing (softball, now in my advanced years), watching, its rich history, the smell of it (the leather of a glove, popcorn and hotdogs!), and even movies about it. I’ve watched all the baseball-themed movies repeatedly to the point that I think my wife will divorce me if I watch “The Sandlot” one more time. I still get emotional when Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) hits his final, explosive home run in “The Natural.”
I get choked up every time the National Anthem is sung live at a ballpark, and vividly recall when I took my older two boys to the first Phillies game ever played in Citizens Bank Park … the tears of joy were streaming. What can I say? It’s a part of my DNA.
Love of Printing Is Also Part of My DNA
Equal to my love of baseball is my love of the printing industry, which is also in my DNA. My father was the founder of Grade Finders Inc., which published “The Competitive Grade Finder” starting in 1966 - the year I was born. Although I’m sure it broke child labor laws, my father had me packing “Grade Finders” when I was a young kid.
My dad was bigger than life to me then, and I was fascinated by all aspects of the business. Although it came with lots of paper cuts, those hours spent together packing and sending the thousands of directories provided us with some quality time together. Thinking back, it was as enjoyable as our baseball catches in the backyard.
I stayed involved in Grade Finders Inc. and ended up serving as its president for several years. Through those decades, I looked forward to each annual issue. Dropping off the mechanicals to the printer (I prefer the pre-PDF days of plant visits) and anticipating the final printed publication. Opening the first box and lifting the first directory out for inspection.
First step: breathe it in … as good to me as unwrapping a new baseball. The scent of a freshly printed book. What could be better? It’s like a piece of the printing plant was shipped directly to us. Second step: a visual inspection of the directory cover, fanning through the pages and closely inspecting the reproduction quality of the advertising pages. This never got old for me. The idea that we could work closely with the mills and merchants to develop a database, which could then transition into a valuable resource for use by printers in a printed format was fascinating and very fulfilling.
Fast forward to today. I’m president of the Printing, Packaging, and Publishing Group of NAPCO Media and closing in on three decades serving the market in my professional career. I did spend a few years working outside of the printing industry on the publishing technology side, but this is my home.
I’ve spent many years listening to the needs of OEMs/suppliers, printers and brands that they serve. It is this diligent observation that lead to my thinking around industry convergence and segment migration. It’s what the graphic arts community has been calling for more than the past 5-7 years. As I got to know Ford Bowers, CEO and president of SGIA - and understanding that he shared this same view of the industry transition that’s occurring - the concept of PRINTING United was born.
Since we first made the announcement in October 2017, I’ve been asked what PRINTING United is several times. The answer is very simple: PRINTING United is a strategic response to market needs. OEMs have less marketing dollars at their disposal and printers have less time available to spend away from their facilities.
Single Venue for Exploring Adjacent Markets
As convergence and market migration continue - where the lines between the various printing segments are blurred - PRINTING United will provide a “one roof” approach to uniting market segments, technologies and access to new, adjacent market opportunities for OEMs and printers via an all-encompassing trade exhibition and a full slate of educational sessions. The ultimate goal is to provide greater ROI for all constituents in the value chain.
I’ve been told by some that there’s no convergence happening with our industry and that it’s best to keep all technologies in the silos where they currently reside. I think that is a self-serving position and I couldn’t disagree more. The digital revolution is driving a democratization. I’m not simply referring to digital printing presses. I’m referring to all processes, technologies and workflows that are digital or are digitally enabled. This is allowing the walls to be torn down.
NAPCO Research recently leveraged our robust brands and audience and SGIA’s membership to develop a report titled, “Convergence in the Print Industry: Understanding Growth Opportunities and Competition.” This study looks at each of the major market segments and shows levels of adoption occurring from other segments. Convergence among formerly separate market segments is happening in a big way!
Here are some quick takeaways from the study:
- 43% of Commercial printers are considering Label printing
- 32% of Commercial printers are considering Folding Carton printing
- 37% of Commercial printers are considering Wide-Format Signage/Graphics production (Not a surprise, 42% are already doing it!)
- 40% of Signage/Graphics printers are considering adding Commercial printing
- 44% of Garment printers are considering adding Commercial printing
The other comment I often hear about the launch of PRINTING United is that “it’s too hard; you’ll never do it.” To quote Tom Hanks’ character from “A League of Their Own,” “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” When we first introduced our Inkjet Summit conference, I heard the same exact thing. “You’ll never be able to pull this hosted-buyer model off and the C-level executives will never go for it.” However, we wrapped up our sixth-annual Inkjet Summit in April and, by all accounts, it was our best one yet!
Disruptive Change Not Easy, But Needed
I agree that the successful launch of PRINTING United will require a serious level of effort. This is a disruptive change to the status quo and - like these types of changes that have come before - they are needed, but never come easy. However, based on the synergy that exists between NAPCO Media and SGIA, we are the only organizations that will be able to pull it off. SGIA brings the Graphics/Wide-Format, Garment/Textile and Industrial segments. NAPCO Media brings the Commercial, In-Plant and Packaging audiences through our industry-leading Printing Impressions, In-plant Graphics and Package Printing brands and thought leaders.
We are also building on SGIA’s strong foundation of operating successful trade exhibitions and our track record of building strong engagement with our respective audiences. The industry is asking for a combined industry event and we can make it happen. If we are honest in our intentions to best serve the market we all love, I feel to not move forward would be cowardice.
PRINTING United is fully owned by SGIA, and NAPCO Media is very proud to be part of the sea change that is happening. The June issue of Printing Impressions marks the 60th year of NAPCO Media successfully serving the printing community.
We will continue to do what’s right for our clients and audiences, and will be launching our first PRINTING United Expo in Dallas, Oct. 23-25, 2019 - for the love of the industry!
About the Author
Mark J. Subers is president/CRO of the Printing, Packaging, and Publishing Group at NAPCO Media.