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Lean & mean

Dec 1, 2010 12:00 AM

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While the country begins to emerge from the “Great Recession,” the print industry remains in decline. As of August 31, sales were down 19.9% from their pre-recession peak and 22.5% from their all-time peak, according to NAPL economists. Further, their latest data indicates approximately 7,200 establishments — or 20.5% of the industry — have disappeared since 2000. Productivity has increased over that time period as technological advancements and efficiency strategies reduce the manpower needed to run print operations profitably. NAPL's Andrew Paparozzi and Joseph Vincenzino ( note that sales per employee have increased nearly 40% in the past 10 years.

Wisconsin catalog printer Arandell Corp. ( has a diverse client base that help ensure its ability to survive tough economic times. With customers exercising extreme caution during the recession, CEO Donald J. Treis says growth was difficult. “Having said that, we have clients who've had the best year in their history,” he notes. “So we still believe in the catalog as a marketing tool. Circulations can be reduced, but you can't keep doing that to the point that you don't have any business. Historically, catalogs drove business for retail stores, and now they're driving business for websites.”

Magazine launches outpaced closures in the first nine months of 2010. Though the sector showed less activity than last year, this marks a departure from the same period in 2009, which saw 124 more closures than new titles. According to Oxbridge Communications' MediaFinder (, 176 magazines launched in January through September, 2010, vs. 259 in the first nine months of 2009; while 127 magazines folded in that period this year vs. 383 in 2009. Magazines tied to the real estate industry declined along with some manufacturing sectors, while the food magazine category saw the most new launches. Publications continue to migrate to an online-only business model, but at a slower pace (26 magazines in this period, 2010) than 2009 (64).

According to the MPA's “2010/11 Magazine handbook” (, “Eighty-seven percent of magazine subscribers interested in a digital version still want a printed copy (source: CMO Council, 2010).” And magazines are credited with driving at least 50% of their readers to websites for further information.

In the newspaper sector, Asia shows the strongest growth globally, according to the World Assn. of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) (

With relationship-driven products such as variable content, database management, mailing and websites comprising nearly 40% of print business revenue, today, Paparozzi and Vincenzino note the promise of opportunity for printers: “We're getting involved in our clients' work earlier, staying involved longer and satisfying a broader range of their communications needs. That doesn't sound like a dying industry.”

Arandell has close ties with customers that incorporate websites, postcards and other channels such as e-mail in their catalog marketing campaigns. Treis says, “We were able to get through 2009, and 2010 [has been] a better year, dramatically. There's still a lot of caution, but we sense that there is a little more aggressiveness in people's marketing plans for 2011.”

As Paparozzi reminds us, the economy is no longer the primary bellwether for the printing industry. Be on the lookout for NAPL's next “State of the Industry” report, which will offer insight on potential strategies for growth through 2011.

Denise Kapel is managing editor, AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at