Printers are failing. Businesses are closing forever. The recession beginning in 2008 and expected to continue well into 2010 has dealt the printing industry near catastrophic blows.

Why is this happening? Printers have weathered previous recessions–why is this different. The answer to that can be summed in two words the Internet.

Exactly how has the Internet harmed printing? They seem to be totally unrelated businesses–aren’t they? No, they are different businesses, but not unrelated. Both printing and the Internet are mediums of information delivery.

Once peacefully co-existing, what changed? The recession changed the rules. For example, the US Postal Service has just announced that they are facing a $ 7 Billion dollar loss this year, and that’s after having Billion dollar profits just a couple of years ago. They say that the reduction in direct mail advertising is the biggest reason for the decrease. The second reason is the popularity of on-line statements, and bill paying. Mail volume is down approximately 25%.

Everything going through the mail is printed. The outer envelope and everything contained inside are printed matter. When the post office is hurting, you can bet that the printers are hurting too.

The good news for consumers is that they are seeing far less junk mail because the Internet provides a viable alternative to mailing. Advertisers can conceivably reach a much larger audience at lower costs by utilizing the Internet.

The unanswered question is, “Will Internet marketing work as well?” The answer is that it is too early to tell. Advertisers were forced to dramatically decrease printing purchases because of the recession. Printing, unfortunately for printers, is an easy budget item to eliminate or postpone.

Everyone wants to know if printing will stabilize and return to profitability. There is an excellent chance that printing will continue to be an important factor in business marketing. Those in-the-know, say that the early evidence suggests that a marketing mix will prove to be a better alternative. The Internet provides the reach, but isn’t generally as good at providing the depth. Sure, you can send your advertising message to millions with just a key stroke, but how many readers will pay attention? An ad in the hand might be worth thousands in the bush.

Will printing survive the twin tsunamis of the Internet and recession? It’s a fair bet that it will, but not all printers, and the ones who continue must run leaner and more efficiently than ever before.

Bill Ruesch is a highly respected printing broker in the Salt Lake City, Utah graphic arts community. For the last twenty years he has been self-employed offering his services and advice to many of the most prestigious businesses in the area. He has spent his career helping marketers to save money, improve quality, and reduce frustrations.

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