Powering print's future: will the new age print CEOs walk the talk?

Rajesh Kejriwal, founder CEO of Kyoorius in this comment, places his bet on what he calls the new age print communicator who should go beyond the realm of print elements to keep print alive.

11 Jul 2013 | By Rajesh Kejriwal

A question that is often asked – what is the future of print? And by extension –what is the future for printers?

Why has this question become more prominent in the last five years; what’s changed around us? Smartphones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, cloud computing… they’re now such a familiar part of our daily life that they seem to have been around for a lot longer.

What is apparent now is that there is a very cluttered and crowded effort to communicate information in supposedly real-time, which is also archived. It has become such an overload that I am almost ecstatic that print still commands attention. Digital is great but digital is not just a cluster of tweets, blogs, mailers, animated gifs, pop-ups, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media.

Marketers who shifted focus to the electronic noise over the last few years in an effort to be innovative, modern and show savings, have eventually come back to print – cut down maybe, but, ‘do not move away from print’ is the new mantra. And cut down on useless mass print communication, use more targeted and personalised means even in print.

But the truth is that the format will change and the traditional high profile print formats such as magazines, catalogues and definitely newspapers will fade to the background. Did I say magazines – well most of them! Cutting through information overload will be the focus for print medium and whether its signage, promotions or other mediums – the implementation will focus on how to stand out – generic is out

Digital printing will dominate for its flexibility and its adaptability to databases and personalisation and also maybe digital content. I also think inkjet will have made sufficient technological advances and analogue production processes will reduce or slowly fade away. Digital printing with apps that can modify what you read/see to your sensibilities or taste will be innovations that help print stand out

When I entered the fine paper business in 1999, I understood a moot fact – I was not in the paper industry but in the communication industry. Paper was the medium or platform that we embraced within this industry. This perspective helped me evolve the marketing of fine papers in India and also beyond mere papers to creating a platform for the communication industry – Kyoorius.

The commercial and publication print industry in India is headed towards consolidation and they will largely remain unrecognisable unless they change. But what does change mean to this industry? Change what? The change will be on how they define themselves. The change will be in attitude. They can no longer remain vendors who offer print services – they will need to start defining themselves as communication providers who use print as a platform. I am not sure how many printers even think along this direction or can transit to thinking along this line – but the transition will have to be made. This attitude shift will essentially then start helping them channelise their thoughts and move away from being just a converter.

Printers may move to enhance e-media services together with print or I think they should move towards this. Given the fact that social media is actually a bombardment of information, these new evolved communication providers can offer solutions to spectacular tactile campaigns using new, incredibly beautiful substrates and techniques that change dynamically and help marketers make the best impressions.

Having said this, the question remains - how would you define this new breed of communicators from print media? How do they transform to communicators from printer vendors?

Printers need to embrace social media rather than treating it as a threat. They should use it as a tool. They should use this “social” media for all the right reasons: to inform, to learn, to spread their own brand, and to meet people who are influencers in related fields. By doing so, they will achieve another goal – that of being left behind.

Why should one stop using social media for nonstop self-promotion? Honestly the only promotion that they are currently enabling is in their own minds and not consumers. Move on, it can become a tool to help strategise – use it to learn about clients, businesses, the challenges and threats that their clients face, how can they differentiate, what mode of communication can help their clients break through the clutter. Real estate is an apt example in India – the same old brochures with the same old stories and many a time the same stock image.

Why should printers take the same old route from A to B? Why can’t they evolve where the communication for the client is not just print but other media as well?

This means printers need to move away from their presses and must follow communication technology trends, must attend conferences on communication, and design and focus on electronic media as much as they do on print media. The new breed of printers will offer solution linking QR codes, augmented reality, social media integration and so on. Consumers today are also looking at solutions that are integrated through a single source.

Beyond that is the moot fact that printers do not walk the talk, they are not interested in anything beyond their own small world. But the new breed of what I would call print communicators would hold workshops and seminars and talk about communication solutions. They would be interested in educating customers; holding learning camps for the young and new audience on print media. They will need to start investing in the learning curve and start thinking and educating clients of how print can be integrated where necessary with electronic media.

This new breed of print communicators are achievers, enthusiasts, excited about doing more than just boring four- or six-colour print processes. They are the people who will see how can they integrate the overlap that can exist among different medias. They bring one thing to the table that clients love – ideas. They will have people on their payroll who are not from the print school but from communication schools. It’s not that they are shying away from their first love or business that is print, they have just widened the scope to include more roles for themselves.

Print will remain only if printers become special. Print will not die, traditional printers will. As they say – old bankers do not die, they just lose interest. Simlarly old printers do not die, they just fade away.

Since 2006, Kyoorius has galvanized the design community in India. A not for profit initiative by Transasia Fine Papers, Kyoorius has created and curated one of the world’s biggest and best annual conferences on design — Kyoorius Designyatra. Alongside, the Kyoorius Magazine is now the most celebrated publications on design. After 15 years of distributing and marketing premium fine papers, Papers by Kyoorius is Transasia's foray into launching definitive fine paper collections under the Kyoorius brand.