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This column explained

Mar 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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There's a difference between a magazine column and an article. This is a column. It incorporates opinion and experience. An article, on the other hand, is intended to be impartial, helpful and informational.

Of course, writers interpret various content differently. There's the debate surrounding the possibility or impossibility of achieving impartiality in an article, try as one might. Some writers take pains to explain their perspectives. Others resort to humor. Some never explain themselves. I've been a columnist for graphic arts publications for many years and, before this month, have never taken the time to explain my objective(s) or perspective(s). Here goes.

An industry in transition

If there ever was a coherent graphic arts industry, that day is fading rapidly. It is an industry that defies easy (or even difficult) description. The U.S. government wrestled with this dilemma before deciding, in 1989, that printing is the output of manufacturers called “printers.”

My perspective becomes more understandable when the graphic arts industry is compared to a similar industry to which everyone can relate: health care. Except for a somewhat different definition of “spoilage,” the similarities between the industries are remarkable. The quality of information communicated between patient/customer pertaining to the illness/job is critical. Both industries are characterized by customized products and services, long-term relationships, and buyers who want and need to spend time with a provider despite the latter's size and larger corporate affiliations.

The singular issue is the customer and the customer's good health in physical and financial terms. This column tries to be focused on that issue, remembering that, with rare exceptions, no two customers or scenarios are the same.

Shared management expertise

Unlike industry economists and some trade association executives, I do not pretend to offer all-purpose truths or observations about trends. The past has relevance only to the extent that it is relevant to the future. I'm hard-pressed to understand the relevance of monthly government economic reports to the average C.E.O. or manager other than to confirm that misery (or prosperity) loves company. A report's irrelevance is magnified when government statistics are subject to revision 90 days or so after being issued. The objective(s) of my column:

  • Open discussion of key issues facing small and midsize graphic arts companies that are seldom aired elsewhere. AMERICAN PRINTER devotes time and space to these everyday practical management issues.
  • Discussion of management issues in a thoughtful, occasionally entertaining manner.
  • Providing insights and a real-life perspective to readers while understanding that there might be disagreement and the subject matter might not be universally relevant.
  • Presenting insights and perspectives based on my consulting experiences. I represent no industry supplier and “take flak” from all quarters. In my many years of industry experience, I have never accepted a gift, meal or favor from a supplier.

Competitive differentiation is a major and growing issue to every reader of this column — and it's growing increasingly important as the industry fragments, segments and becomes more difficult to define.

Those who have written or called me through the years always received a response. Hopefully, this column has provided a context for better understanding my monthly wisdom, truth and knowledge. Finally, I want to thank you, the loyal readers, and AMERICAN PRINTER for its ongoing appreciation of its readers' needs and for moving this column toward “the front of the book.”

Dick Gorelick passed away on September 12, 2010. Dick was a prolific writer who always worked far ahead of his deadline. While Gorelick & Associates has formally suspended its operations, Dick's writing remains timeless.

Dick Gorelick's marketing expertise graced the pages of print industry trade magazines for 25 years. See our tribute as well as Dick's past columns at