All the news that's fit to print

March 1, 2006

Johnson’s World by Steve Johnson

If you read AMERICAN PRINTER from front to back and at least glance at the stories on each page, each issue, it is a pretty safe bet you’ve seen the following:

The last item sounds gratuitous, because it refers to my own company. In fact, Copresco has very little in common with the others on the above list. Some might say the only thing we have in common is that everyone on my list is related to print.

Or are they? Yes, but often not in a way that matters to you.

‘Lost time is never found again’

Let’s look at my humorous addition to the list, Ben Franklin. Clearly a printer, as he himself wished to be known, he also is undeniably dead. Everything he has done that impacts you and me is finished already. Some of his actions were timeless, but they also are old news. I find it interesting that despite Ben’s reputed invention of swim fins, he isn’t mentioned in scuba diving magazines.

Ben Franklin is fun to read about. So read about him. Pick up his autobiography, which is great reading and still in print after nearly a quarter of a millennium. But skip the articles about his birthday.

Let’s look at some of the other names on the list. Does what they did last month relate to you?

Of big and small fish

Quad Graphics appears to be a successful, well-run web offset and gravure printer of mass market publications. Great, but I don’t print magazines like Time. I never will, because that isn’t the business I’m in. I can safely say that neither will 99 percent of the readers of this column. That isn’t a guess; that’s a statistic.

Quad has some good practices and strategies worthy of study, but so do General Electric and Augustinos, the deli down the street. If I can learn from Quad, it won’t be from a press release announcing yet another magazine contract. How about the world’s largest printer, RR Donnelley? I’m glad it’s doing well and has opened yet another facility. I’m sorry for the workers in whatever plant has recently closed.

I occasionally do printing for parts of Donnelley. Believe it or not, I compete with other parts of Donnelley. In my home state of Illinois, the company is a 900lb. political gorilla, lobbying the general assembly on all print-related legislation. I monitor Donnelley, but—as with Quad—the news that appears each month doesn’t relate very much to my business.

Consolidated Graphics’ name describes its mission with more truth than poetry. If your company is into commercial offset with over $5 million dollars in annual sales, it might want to buy you. So you should keep an eye on it. If you don’t fit that description (not more than one in 10 readers does), then reading about a publicly traded holding company is a waste of your time.

Read with a purpose

I remember reading Inland Printer and such magazines as a child. (Yeah, I was a really weird kid.) Even at age 10, I could tell Dick Gorelick had good ideas, and I’d be wise to read his articles and put his advice into practice.

I also wondered (sometimes aloud) why each issue included coverage of such companies as Hallmark, a purveyor of greeting cards, and DeLuxe, a seller of checks. They did put ink on paper, true, but they were (andstill are) basically inplant operations with a business model wholly unrelated to that of the commercial printer.

Your time is valuable. You get a lot of businessrelated mail. If you are like me, you probably tackle six months’ worth of magazines at one time. I know I simply cannot read everything that crosses my desk.

As you examine each news story, ask yourself, “What does this really mean to me?” Is the story about a direct competitor whose activity you must monitor to keep one step ahead? Is it about the manufacturer of your equipment, or about a potential customer? Then read on!

If the story is no more than a bit of industry gossip, buy a People magazine instead. The pictures are much easier on the eyes.