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Is the Commercial Printing Industry in Trouble?

It’s no secret that the commercial printing industry has been suffering a bit recently. With the rise of low-price, high quality home and office printers and ink cartridges, people aren’t really going to print shops that much to get their printing done any more.

The effects of the increasing dominance of digital over print in media and art, has also had a huge effect on the print and journalism industry. Circulation is down, advertisers are increasingly disinterested and people just seem to generally need prints less.

But does this trend mean that commercial printing itself is going to die, rather than just some of the industries it seemingly relies on? Could we see the true demise of an industry, much like video stores and Hi-Fi warehouses?

The Need for Print Shops is Definitely Shrinking

In the US, total revenue in the industry shrunk about 3.4% in 2014, with an annual growth going into the negative, at -3.6%. But while the print industry has always been a sign of larger economic growth (which it obviously isn’t any more), it has always been a bit of challenging one for the participants.

Even the biggest printing industry players typically don’t have more than a 25% market share, work under razor thin profit margins and smaller print shops have an average of about 17 employees. The decline will probably squeeze smaller, less-adaptive competitors out. Larger commercial printing organisation will likely diversify into other profitable avenues that are experiencing rapid growth, such as 3D printing, specialised branding and organisational material printing.

Industries Don’t Die, They Transform

The world will never be 100% digital. Online and digital will inevitably take over the information transfer needs have. However, the need for a permanent duplicate that doesn’t disappear when a battery dies will always exist. And having a printed display continues to be a more engaging and cost-effective form of marketing in a real world environment, than digital- which is inescapably opportunistic.

The only thing that ever really gets affected is the profit model for these industries. It becomes increasingly difficult for providers to make the same money for the same task. For example, how Torrent downloads are affecting the film and TV profit model.

However, the need still remains. People didn’t stop buying horseshoes because they didn’t need to get around anymore. They just didn’t need horses to do it. And similarly, the need to duplicate and physically transfer information from one person to the other also still remains. Some companies survive this transition through development and diversification, and some just fold. That’s the natural cycle of any industry, and economy at large.

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