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The Expanding Role of Printers

Traditional printing companies diversify their businesses for the digital age.



By Ioanna Opidee and Stefanie Botelho
05/03/2012

With the race on for expanding magazine brands onto a variety of platforms, particularly the kind that don’t involve paper, printers are finding new ways to serve clients and draw in new revenue. Some of these tactics include launching multiplatform services, in addition to combining digital and print solutions for a one-stop shop for publishers.

Digital Diversification

Continuing to diversify beyond its role as a printer, RR Donnelley recently made a $2.5 million investment in catalog shopping app CoffeeTable, which allows tablet users to browse and purchase from multiple retailers’ catalogs directly within the application.

“Our core business is delivering multi-channel solutions,” says Ann Marie Bushell, president of RR Donnelley’s CustomPoint Solutions. Like cataloguers, she adds, “[Publishers] want a provider that can take content from creation to delivery, across a variety of media.”

This news follows RR Donnelley’s touting the success of its Press+ platform, now used by 323 publications to launch paid content models online.

In June 2011, the company acquired Helium.com to enhance its content creation offerings—one of a series of acquisitions it made to broaden its services. In August, it purchased LibreDigital, which provides digital magazine replicas, data analytics and content for more than 40 e-commerce sites. That same month, the company bought software company Sequence Personal to bolster its custom digital publishing services. Finally, in October, all of that build-up paid off when it struck a $550 million deal through 2020 with American Media Inc. to assist the OK! and Star publisher with its digital convergence.

Greater Reach, Smarter Solutions

Recently, Wisconsin-based printer Quad/Graphics bought a minority stake in India-based print service and business solutions provider Manipal Technologies.

ManipalTech is a printer of security, marketing, branding and communications products, but the company is also developing products with embedded technology like fingerprint recognition, printed electronics and near field communication (NFC).

President and CEO Joel Quadracci says Quad has a firmer grasp on the traditional printing business, while ManipalTech brings a sharper-edged technology suite.

Already, publishers are taking advantage of Quad’s expanding services. WIRED incorporated NFC into 500,000 subscriber copies of its April issue. An NFC-powered ad launches a mobile site when users tap an NFC-enabled Android smartphone to the page.

Print Base, Digital Add-On

“Our customer revenue mix has shifted to include non-print,” says  Steve Grande, vice president of sales with commercial printer Fry Communications.

Fry now includes a litany of companies under the Fry Family Network umbrella, such as Thumb Media Group (focused on mobile technology); Aysling Digital Media Solutions (a distributor of WoodWing editorial workflow systems, mobile and content management systems); and Circulation Specialists Incorporated, among other services.

Due to this growing list of offerings, Grande says his team specializes in the consultative sale. “Sometimes, publishers are challenged in the digital market; some publishers know exactly what they want to do. We help apply proper technologies and make them accessible, and provide the services they really need,” he says.

Despite the promise of the digital publishing space, Grande says print still represents 80 to 90 percent of Fry’s business. “The non-print portions of our business become the differentiating factor in our offerings to customers. With things the same in print, the digital expertise is a significant benefit and a tipping point of our sale,” he says.

By Ioanna Opidee and Stefanie Botelho
05/03/2012







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