The Pandemic’s Impact on Print

Inkjet to power the decline of commercial offset print

The drupa cube is part of drupa 2021 now scheduled to be held from 20 to 28 April 2021

The pandemic has accelerated the pace of change in many industries, including print. As printers struggle to make sense of what the future holds, industry analyst Marco Boer shares insight into what he believes a post-pandemic print marketplace will look like. In an interview with WhatTheyThink, Boer highlighted some key developments he sees waiting ahead for the print industry.

Relevancy is key

For many years, the print industry discussed the importance of creating relevant, personalized communications. The pandemic – and its attendant economic crisis – has accelerated that need. Today, relevancy is not just a nice thing to have; it’s a requirement in printed communications.

One reason for this shift is the cost of paper. Boer says that the pandemic has increased the number of paper mills closing – either temporarily or permanently. “This will make the delta between offset-printed pages and inkjet-printed pages that much smaller. In this environment it no longer makes sense to mail 100,000 pieces at 1% and 2% response rate. Whatever gets mailed must be more relevant,” says Boer. We had earlier done a story on the closure of Stora Enso paper mill by Naresh Khanna.

Look at direct mail, for example. Boer reports that there were 120 billion inkjet-printed pages in 2019. That number is projected to grow to 201 billion – a CAGR of 11%. So, while direct mail printing overall is declining, the portion printed on inkjet is rapidly rising.

The decline of offset

Boer expects that as we recover from the pandemic, print will continue to be healthy. But, he notes, the pandemic will hasten the demise of offset printing. “As we come out of the pandemic, we may need to be patient for a little while, but print will continue to be strong,” says Boer. “However, we predict that offset will disappear two years faster than we originally thought. The pandemic has accelerated that decline.”

Labor is another factor driving printers away from offset. Boer predicts that printers in the middle of the market (the US$ 20 million to US$ 75 million shops) will do very well after the pandemic. That’s because these printers have enough capital to reinvest into automation, thereby reducing the high labor costs associated with offset.

Boer suggests that for many mid-size printers, the transformation is already underway. Many printers are using the time of the pandemic to get rid of their offset presses and move their operations to digital printing.

A new look at colour

Boer says that as the use of offset diminishes, so too will reliance on specific Pantone colours. He says that while colour consistency will still be important, print buyers won’t care if it matches the exact Pantone number. These buyers care about creating relevant, targeted communications that meet the goal of what the piece was intended to do.

If the printer doesn’t hit the colour on the first round, they’ll get it on the second round. Clients are increasingly accepting of this because they aren’t losing tons of money on wasted inventory,” says Boer.

The value of inkjet in a post-pandemic world

At Memjet, we are committed to working with OEM partners to deliver printing solutions that provide the speed, simplicity, profitability, and beautiful precision printers need to succeed in a post-pandemic world. By developing modular printing technology, we give our OEM partners the resources they need to create printing solutions that come at an affordable cost of ownership. Moreover, because these inkjet-powered presses are easier to operate and maintain, the labor cost is much less than offset.

Inkjet printers and presses can easily create the types of targeted, relevant communications Boer says are needed in today’s communications. Whether it’s customized packaging, personalized direct mail, or targeted labels, inkjet can cost-effectively produce the short runs of output needed for printers to succeed.

And while these solutions may be affordable, they deliver a quality level that rivals that of offset printing. With 1600 x 1600 dpi, printers have the confidence of knowing output from their Powered by Memjet printer delivers a superior level of quality that rivals offset.

Explore, Powered by Memjet print solutions, at one of these upcoming events.

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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