Smart Directions: the imperative to change in the Print Industry

Smart Directions Conference May 2017 : Better Business – Invaluable Insights for Printers

The focus of this year’s Smart Directions Conference 2017 was on seeking out ideas and inspiration that can help print businesses to prosper and grow.

  • How can you diversify to strengthen your product offering?
  • How can you get the best out of your staff?
  • What benefits could the fast evolving trade printing
    sector deliver?
  • Could it be that your own body language holds the key to growing sales and profitability?

Expert speakers at the The Smart Directions Conference provided the answers to these questions and more.

Digital transformation – the imperative to change

While printers may see opportunities in the way consumers are delivering a backlash against digital advertising, they are also coming under pressure to embrace digital through their technology and processes, as well as their service offering.

In this presentation I looked at what digital transformation means for printers and how they should respond.

“Digital transformation” was explored by marketing consultant Roger Christiansen, who described digital print as a “quiet revolution” – with virtual stock, faster time to market, printing locally and on-demand services continuing to see off the threat of e-books.  Digital Printer Magazine


Roger at Smart Directions Conf 2017 4


Digital transformation in Publishing – my presentation to The Galley Club

Digital transformation in Publishing – my presentation to The Galley Club

Here’s my presentation to the Galley Club last night on Digital Transformation in the Publishing Industry.

Here’s a write up of the event by members of the Galley Club.

an excellent account of e-business transformations and what this means for publishers today


A great insight into the varied Digital World



Digital transformation – a brave new world ?

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about Digital Transformation, with a number of people pushing the need to innovate and transform. So here is my advice for business leaders.

The e-business story: a lesson from history ?

Deja vu ? an article from Feb 2000

Remember back in 2000 ?  This was the time when the internet was really starting to take off. There were many people very excited about the opportunities that this new thing called the internet could bring for organisations  – hence “e-business”.

There were even a number of trade magazines devoted to e-business.

At the time I was working in IBM, as Global Marketing Communications Manager. My key focus was to launch IBM’s new e-learning solution globally. Except we weren’t allowed to use the term “e-learning” because, the IBM CEO Lou Gerstner (with amazing foresight) dictated that “e-business” was really a passing phase. And he was completely right (although we all complained at the time of having to talk about Distributed Learning Solutions when our competitors and customers were talking about e-learning).

e-business was not, in the long term, a revolutionary change. It was just a new way of doing business which, after a few years has become business as usual.  (And, not surprisingly,  the e-business magazines are no more).

So what’s different about Digital Transformation in 2017 ?

Roll forward to 2017.  The vast majority of businesses have a digital presence, they have websites, social media etc and they may even have eCommerce capability.

So why the interest in digital transformation ?  In my experience, I think the focus on digital transformation is really about fundamental changes in business models. Let me give you an example.

Digital transformation in the Publishing Industry: Brave New World

When I started my project at Ricoh Europe to target the Publishing Industry in 2014, I was genuinely surprised how much people were much concerned about digital transformation. I was told that this was all due to consumers buying eBooks instead of printed books. The key symptoms were:

  • print book sales were falling
  • new technologies (ie ebooks) were growing rapidly
  • Publishers were losing money and asking serious questions about their business models
Interquest 2016 banner.png
The mood amongst attendees at Interquest 2016 digital book printing forum was definitely positive, compared to the 2014 event

However in just a few years the situation seemed to settle down, and the mood changed from pessimisim to optimism.

  • book sales have stabilised and have even started to increase in some categories
  • ebook sales had reached a plateau and stabilised
  • And, last but not least, many Publishers have started to make money again.

So what has happened ?   Well, this is how I interpret it.

Consumer behaviour has been changing…:

People’s buying habits have been changing. There are many things  competing with books: music, film, and other entertainments.  Publishers have had to respond to this new situation.

An inefficient supply chain model has been made more efficient

The traditional supply chain was organised around buying books in bulk from China, and storing in large warehouses.  It was not uncommon for up to 30% of stock to remain unsold.  This was OK so long as Publishers were making money….

However the adoption of the latest digital print technologies has meant that Publishers can now almost print to order. As a result, they have significantly reduced inventory (and costs), speeded up time to market and opened up new revenue opportunities from backlist titles.

eBooks have carved out a niche

The launch of the Kindle and other ebook platforms, along with subsidised prices for eBooks created an accelerated demand for ebooks. Initially this caused significant disruption for Publishers. However, as soon as the subsidies ended, eBook sales have reached a plateau.

The new normal

I think it was the MD of HarperCollins at the Futurebook Conference in 2015 who coined the phrase “The new normal”  – a great expression ! What has happened is actually not digital transformation  – it’s far more profound than that.

To me, the new normal isn’t about transforming the business to make it more digital: no more than mainstream businesses became e-Businesses after 2000. Rather it’s about responding to market changes, and adapting the business model. It’s also about taking advantage of all innovations such as digital print – not just IT.

The book publishers of 2014 still make most of their money selling books. Now they can expand their revenues by selling a wider range of books, printed more cost-effectively using digital print technologies. They can offer a wider choice of formats to their readers – print and ebooks. And they can reach their end-users directly using Social Media.

What’s not to like ?


I’m looking to build a business as a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world. 









Out with the new, bring in the old

Out with the new, bring in the old

New Year is traditionally a time of renewal, change and reflection. Out with the old, bring in the new, as the saying goes.

So I was really interested to see that, at the very end of 2016, vinyl sales in the UK even exceeded digital sales –  Tables turned as vinyl sales overtake digital sales for the first time in the UK. This is the first this has happened.

Now I can remember back to the days when all music was vinyl. I used to think my record collection was a bit like my DNA and I used to choose carefully which records to take to a party, depending who I was trying to impress… (Well, I was young!)

Then along came CDs. CDs promised a number of advantages over vinyl, principally CDs were supposed to be much more robust (no scratching!), used less storage and offered more control. You could actually change tracks without getting up.. You could even play tracks in a different order..

On the down side, to me (and my friends) the sound quality of CDs wasn’t as rich. However as my music tastes changed from classical to prog rock, rock and pop then this was a price worth paying…  (In fact I can remember the look of sheer horror and disdain from the staff in an upmarket music shop when I put on Supertramp to test a music system I was buying).

Then of course download replaced both CD and vinyl in the steady march of progress..

But the recent uptake in vinyl demonstrates that technology does not always progress in a linear fashion. In many areas – such as print, radio – one technology rarely completely replaces or supersedes another.

And, as the latest generation of millenials are finding, newer doesn’t necessarily mean better. This is a summary of a conversation I had over Christmas was some 25+ year olds, which took me right back to when I was discovering vinyl for the first time.

  • Isn’t it great to listen to a whole album
  • Vinyl record covers are great – it’s like having a record of your tastes in music
  • I love the depth of the sound
  • Isn’t it fun to browse through records in a store – you never know what you will find

Last but not least… I know someone who wanted a vinyl record player for Christmas even though she has no vinyl records at all !

And, of course, “older” technology rarely stands still. The last time I bought a vinyl record (it was last year), it came with a code for a high quality digital download. That’s a great idea as it enables me to have the best of all worlds.

So is calling one technology “new” and another “old” really that useful ? After all, to a millenial, vinyl is a new exciting experience ….

So maybe old is really  the new new?

I’m looking to build a business as a Freelance Marketing Consultant. Contact me to find out how I can help your transform your business for the digital world.