The commercial printing industry, once the dominant communication medium of the United States has been changing constantly for the last 65 years. Since the end of the Second World War, the commercial printing industry has lost market share for a number of reasons. Unimagined technological advances brought continuous innovations, new media challenges, a changing culture and increased domestic and foreign competition. The result of these changes is an industry that’s been forever altered and is facing an uncertain future.
Commercial Print, an Industry in Decline
I have been employed in the printing industry for the last 20 years, most recently as a project manager. During that time I have worked for six different companies. I didn’t always change firms by choice. Four of the six times I sought a new position was due to the company I worked for failing or being absorbed by a larger firm. Though the management of the failed companies played a part in their end, I came to see that their demise was a reflection of greater forces at work in the market place. The industry in which I worked was and is in a state of decline. The numbers from the last census “show that from 1997 to 2002 the total number of printing establishments closed rose to 17 percent, from 30,416 to 25,412”. (Graphic Arts Monthly, 2004) The decline has persisted, “U.S. corporate profits, an indicator for corporate demand for printing services fell 7 percent in the second quarter of 2008 compared to the same period a year ago.”(First Research, 2009)
“Printers have long been considered the epitome of the skilled blue collar craftsmen.” (Wallace & Kalleberg, 1982) The job of putting ink on paper was once the domain of highly skilled individuals possessing a broad base of knowledge that covered all aspects of the print production process. Job functions were complex and the technology of... [continues]
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