Dot Lovers versus Pixel Peepers July 2002
29 Sep 2010
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The following column appeared in the trade journal 'PrintAction' in July 2002. This is the second of two columns, the first one is also on the index page of this website. When Gary was asked by the editor Jon Robinson to wrap his head around the Baby Boomers phenomenon and predict how the printing industry may change, or not, as a result of the demographics of Canadian society in general, apparently, Gary collaborated with his son Rob and they came up with this weird title 'Dot Lovers versus Pixel Peepers.'
Dot Lovers Versus Pixel Peepers
Gary McDonald is a former printer, sales person, sales manager, co-owner, president and general manager of Arthurs-Jones Lithographing Ltd. (retired June 12, 1998), who can be reached at 905 846 5007.
In the fullness of time, printers as we know them -- I'll call them dot lovers -- will bend even more and give way to the onslaught of computer technology. The power people of the computer world -- who I call pixel peepers -- want to convince the dot lovers to leave more and more words and images on the screen for viewing by their target audience. As letterpress yielded to lithography and mechanical assemblies disappeared under the vicious and sudden Mac-attack of the 1980s, many traditional methods and providers of print are part of Canada's social and economic history.
Big printers get bigger while commercial printers fight for survival in a duel of the ubiquitous print broker/trade printer combination. A clear example of this battleground was the caverns of Manhattan in the mid 1980's where the owner of a web press, without a single employee to his name, manned the phone by day to find a few guys to run his machine by night (PrintAction, December 2001).
The above may have relevance to those strategists who relentlessly pursue all things wonderful except their next printing orders, but today's thoughtful business planner looks to the future to decide, which path will bring them the riches they deserve and expect. Technology changes, but let's not forget that people change as well. The human drive for technological change will always force its way into the marketplace, but it is also vital to realize how demographic shifts can alter the arena. The population -- coupled with its technological following -- provides the clues to survival and prosperity.
There have been countless examples illustrating the rapid adoption of technology by the consumer. Trends that are too often taken for granted. Consider that within the past few years nearly half of the households in North America, instead of a tuned-in few, now use the Internet. A White House report states that 700 new households in the United States are being connected every hour. The same reports state, that since 1995, more than a third of all U.S. economic growth has resulted from information technology enterprises and more than 13 million Americans hold IT-related jobs, and the rate of growth is six times as fast as overall job growth. At one point in this amazing growth Bill Gates so aptly pointed out that the world now buys almost as many PCs as colour TVs.
People access information from a computer screen where there are a gazillion pixels that need no translation onto paper for reading or archiving. Saving your documents is just a click away. Sending to another pixel peeper is just a click away. Learning -- just about anything you want to know -- is just another click or two away. Buying is a visa card number and another hesitant click away. Investing is yet another nervous, but certain, click away. The clicks will eventually become more and more a part of our lives, just like the stinky noisy automobile rose despite the familiar clipity clop of the insouciant horse's hoofs on cobble stone city streets in the twentieth-century. And it will be the consumer's accessibility to the technology -- like the sudden mass production of the car -- that leads this industrial change.
According to Statistics Canada, in the year 2001 there were 2,716,000 Canadians between the ages of 55 and 64. Stats Can's projection into 2006 for that same group is 3,651,800, in 2011 there will be 4,329,600, in 2016 to 4,839,900 and the 2021 projection is 5,127,900. That is a percentage increase of almost 90 per cent over 20 years when the total population of all age groups will jump an unwalloping 16 per cent (31,081,900 to 35,381,700) over the same 20-year period.
The century's aging superstars will be everywhere, both in and out of the workforce; this august and demanding group will resist massive changes and insist that the world be presented to them on paper. And they'll have it their way, and why not, these graying citizens will be custodians of the lion's share of the wealth in this country. They'll be invested in the old economy while tampering, they'll tell you courageously tinkering, with the new economy. Give them their newspapers, annual reports, travel brochures, advertisements for cheaper and more powerful computers, instruction booklets on how to do just about anything and print it on paper just as it has always been.
Market your services to this group of aging, but healthy, consumers as they flourish in their remaining years. They'll be buying upscale cars, looking for the latest cure for their trick knee recently re-injured on the tennis court, buying the best health can offer in food, drink and advice, and of course the condo and the vacation package to-die-for will be on their lists. But, keep a sharp eye on the younger generation -- with their increasing purchasing power as they inherit and create their own wealth -- and follow their parents in business and society looking for processes that are BETTER, FASTER and CHEAPER. They always do. And this is how I see the future when the trend to an older monopoly begins to reverse itself around 2026:
Every scrap of information is created and stored on a computer. Every one who reads has a computer. Years ago our magnificent Canadian banks had reduced their normal paper transactions costs from $1.48 each to $0.04 each for electronic transfers of our sacred money. These kinds of electronic savings will now dominate the process of buying and selling; we'll be ever so close to a cash less society. Instructions on how to build or repair anything, where and how to travel with an e-ticket and all the classic or trashy books we wish to read are described, opined and ready to ship in an instant are only a click away.
Huge conglomerates, various industry leaders, followers of the better, faster, cheaper ideology have discontinued providing the magnificent glossy printed annual report to their shareholders and followers. Now after years of begging its customers and shareholders to let it be so, it's here, it's all on the Internet. The demand for speed needs the systems already in place and begs for more of the same -- only better and faster. Film has already been 'bettered out of existence.' How fast will the press makeready actually get?
Slowly, but surely, more and more pixels will stay as pixels and not be converted to dots for plating and printing on paper because it's just too slow and costly based on the return on investment in more, but not all cases. Text and imagery will be available exclusively on the screen. The men and women who manipulate images and text on their computers, along with its owners and clients, will dictate the media used to transmit the message. Oft times more than one media will be used to garner an improved response, but only until the best pay back media is absolutely known to the seller.
The companies that understand the most profitable media for their customers will be Canada's multimedia tycoons and earn enormous riches as a product of their wisdom. Printing on paper will be glorious, almost reinvented by the process of de-selection, where original art, photographs and text are chiseled, manipulated and saturated with colour alongside the jewels we once knew as diamonds in black type.