Create a storefront. Offer standardized products. Push complimentary products (sometimes third party or affiliate). Squeeze out production costs. For the last several years, this has been a highly profitable web to print business model for a number of companies. The Print 2.0 business model, which coincided with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, has been adapted to suit direct to consumers, business to business, and even trade work implementations.
In terms of customer acquisition, Print 2.0 still relies heavily upon marketing to attract paying customers. The marketing techniques have, no doubt, evolved to include topics like search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Adwords, but the constant fishing for customers prevails.
The Web is not static, however. The underlying technologies are evolving to include HTML 5, data in the cloud, location aware services, augmented reality, and more. The way we access the web is rapidly changing to a mobile experience, whether that be with an instant-on smart phone or tablet device. The amount of information, especially user generated content, is exponentially growing. We are tagging pictures, writing blog posts, updating our status, sending tweets, self publishing books, designing printed keepsakes and gifts, recording personal interest videos, and sharing our knowledge and experience with others on a daily basis. Fortunately, the platforms that make our digital lives possible are typically not isolated islands of data.
What is done today has to be different from yesterday for there to be a tomorrow.
Services from Facebook to WordPress allow data to be extracted, based upon user preferences, for other purposes through the use of APIs. Your Facebook profile can then suddenly be printed to a Personera calendar. Your Twitter stream can be printed to a Tweetbookz. Your printed blog becomes your new favorite coffee table decoration. Becoming a yet-to-be-discovered published author is even possible with services such as Lulu. Your digital life combined with the Printernet (Print 3.0) is where your digital creations become tangible.
For business professionals, the possibilities are also exciting. By pushing presentations, business cards, and any other printed collateral into a cloud document management service like Scribd or Evernote, the documents are always accessible. The documents can then be used for collaboration and distribution, whether electronic or in print.
Two types of print companies are uniquely leveraged to take advantage of cloud based printing – those with distributed physical networks and those highly leveraged in technology. Companies like FedEx Office, with its vast network of retail outlets, is in a unique position to offer individual, automated printing from the cloud. The company appears to be aggressively marching down this path as indicated by the recent collaboration with HP and Canon. Any printing company which does not have a huge physical distribution network, but instead knows how to harness their technical expertise to build similar print ecosystems is also well positioned. Mimeo is an example of a printing operation with two physical locations, Newark and Memphis, that is using its technical expertise to further its growth. The company recently opened up its technology platforms to other companies and announced a partnership with Scribd for printing from the cloud.
Unique services and applications that transform digital bits into tangible products will drive the growth of the Printernet and their profits because this is the next stage of rapid growth for printing.
If this sounds complicated, consider these two questions:
- Can you develop your own product offerings from cloud or social media platforms?
- Could you act as a trade partner to a company who has already developed the technology?