Is print finally on the way out?
David Brooks 19.05.2016
Two different issues over the last few weeks, but both are bad news for print.
The first issue is the demise of the
Polestar Group when the last financing arrangement failed and in came the administrators. I suspect the Polestar brand is not well know beyond the print industry. Their web site proclaims, "We realise your Vision" - it goes on to say, "As Europe's largest independent printers fused with a mission to be the leading content delivery company we realise your vision too" - you can read the rest. The Vision Statement thing was essential to any major business that wanted to be taken seriously, but that was perhaps a passing management speak idea back in the 1980s. Actually Polestar was one of our clients for many years, until about 3 years ago. At that time they more modestly claimed to be Europe's largest independent printer. How that has morphed into aiming to become Europe's leading content delivery company is interesting. The funny thing is Polestar used us to deliver their press releases. At the time like many companies their IT department controlled the web site and frequently posting press releases did not really work for the PR Officer. We presented our Virtual News Office and the deal was done. At that time the situation was reversed - they developed the content, we delivered it. Polestar seems to have an equally intriguing past, older readers may recall Robert Maxwell's various print groups which were the prequel to Polestar before the name was changed and no doubt provided rich content for its own printing presses to deliver. The company seemed to be positioned at the industrial end of the market, investing heavily in new plant and a fabulous new print factory in Sheffield. The press releases we delivered painted an optimistic future for print. But in an over capacity industry where price deflation has seen other players drop out, maybe the maths didn't work for the bold investment hopes.
The second comment is the rise of the electronic book and in particular the Kindle. Not long ago we travelled with 30 Kg of luggage or more and packing a few paper backs to read along the way was easily accommodated. But low cost fares and high cost baggage conveyance changed the whole packing philosophy. With just a modest carry-on case, volume is now a big issue, particularly when you think about all the electric kit and collection of cables and chargers needed to support them that has to go along too. A few chunky best sellers just don't make it to the packed suitcase anymore. And who wants to carry around a read book? Once completed they are just consumers of space and weight. The Kindle consumes very little space, although as a long time Apple user, the page turning can be confusing, it is great for travelling. And it solves another problem. What to do with read books? The bookcase is no longer the show place it was to demonstrate to guests you could read, even the charity stores are choosy about the books you give them. So the book in its printed form is on the skids too.
It may just be that the crafters of mission statements embodying ambitions to become leaders in content delivery have got it the wrong way round. It is the content that enjoys the value.
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