Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Newspapers should get out of the dog food business

Since the 1890's the business model for mass market newspapers has been "aggregate eyeballs and sell them to advertisers."

The people paying the bill (advertisers) don't care about the product, they care about the eyeballs. When the user doesn't pay the bill, that's a dog food business. In a Google Mart economy, every dog food business is under severe stress. The worlds of education, health and government are replete with dog food businesses.

Just three examples to illustrate:
1. Consider the effect of tying textbook purchases and educational outcomes to the compensation of school boards members.
2. Or the compensation of hospital and HMO administrators to public health outcomes.
3. Or the effect of disqualifying all political appointees and elected officials from government funded health care plans.

Anyway, under Google-Mart rules the better business strategy is to produce stuff/service that people willingly buy. It is a revenue stream from the user, not the advertiser nor the stock price nor the ability to convince an administrator that it is a good idea. It gets the incentives aligned to create a product improvement feedback loop. A business that sells well designed products produced efficiently and priced appropriately are much less bubble prone and much more open to the small improvements that lead to big innovations.

Models are evolving in the world of successful web spaces. Amazon, ebay and WalMart don't focus on aggregating eyeballs to sell to advertisers. Sales force.com, basecamp, pbwiki.com don't aggregate eyeballs. They sell service/stuff to people who willingly buy that service/stuff.

The necessary, but not sufficient, business rule for selling stuff is "better, faster, cheaper search and delivery." For service it's "try it for free, pay for an upgrade when you want to upgrade." For everything else it's keep the cost of production to an absolute minimum and price appropriately. If the appropriate price is free, figure out additional revenue streams. (Consider Google and free newspapers.)

The paradox is that while there is lots of talk about how "newspapers need to embrace the web," that part of the ecology is actually developing nicely.
Although print newspapers--especially big metro dailies--appear to be locked in an irreversible long-term decline, newspaper Web sites have had big increases in audiences. In October 2008--the last month for which data is available--newspaper Web sites attracted a total of 68.97 million unique visitors--up 64% from 41.96 million in October 2004. The October 2008 figure represents 42% of the American adult Internet-using population--up from 28% in October 2004
They are having a bit more problems with Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 to come. But they are smart people, so I believe they will figure it out if they can buy enough time.

Newspaper websites are getting traffic. They are attracting an audience of viewers and some advertisers. But the CPM for web advertising is so low you need a billion hits a month before it gets interesting, if you have a high overhead. Cutting overhead is very painful for both good and bad reasons.

The problem is not "nobody reads" or "the web is eating our lunch." The problem is that advertisers are no longer willing to pay high prices for unmeasured results. Sad to say, the advertising business grew in an environment of unmeasured results and arbitrary pricing. That works when there is lots of money floating around. That era has passed.

Meanwhile "search, scan and read for free, pay for stuff" is the evolving norm for content on the internet. The New Yorker seems to get it. The viewer can "read for free" everything that is in the Print edition. But you have to pay for the magazine. Meanwhile, they continue to create new stuff/events they offer on their site and in Print.

For a good newspaper this should be a no brainer. They are either blindsided by their tunnel vision focus on advertising or don't really produce content that people would buy.

Another possibility:
Imagine a series of paperback books approximately 96 pages. They will be produced in close to real time based on the news cycle. The content would focus on any complex problem; immigration, economic redevelopment, local government, local community health or safety, that first appeared in a serial version.

1. First, the series of articles on the website and in the regular print publications.
2. Then an open blog discussion with some experts discussing the issue from different points of view.
3. Then an edited Print edition, with carefully selected parts of the discussion included.
4. Then sell the Paperback version on the website, at events or offer it as a benefit to subscribers.
5. Then repeat as long as the issue is still to be resolved.

Given that barriers to printing a book are so low and that newspapers presumably have the staff that is capable of telling an understandable story about a complicated issue, it should be as easy for a good newspaper as it is for Costco to private label anything they find appropriate.

But who is going to pay for it?
1. Niches of viewers who have followed the story as it was being assembled.
2. Tribes of viewers who need the print version, because "people like us" buy the book.
3. Politicians who have little time to understand complicated stories.
4. Every school system in the United States that needs timely relevant stories about our common situation. (That's the textbooks piece)

Oh yes, maybe certain advertisers - non profits, advocacy groups and government agencies, and businesses with a good brand - might be allowed to underwrite a series, in the interests of educating the public.

Here's a column I did about dog food, textbooks and printing back in 2006.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Blablabla about Newspapers

When established institutions have to play by Google-Mart rules it generates lots of blablabla.

Take newspapers for example. The public discourse is all abuzz with "saving newspapers." Since the public discourse is mostly controlled by journalist types, the blabla focuses on the "news" and the threat to democracy if newspapers disappear.

Give me a break.

Most people never bought newspapers for the news. Even in the latest surveys, 70% of Americans say they get their "news" from TV. Most people bought newspapers for the sports or the classifieds or the weather or the cartoons or the ads from local stores. Every once in a while there were stories that masses of people cared about; national elections, wars or financial meltdowns. But mostly, most people are too busy living their lives to focus on "general news."

Pre Google-Mart, newspapers lived in protected markets and captured 20% gross profits. But then Craiglist took away the classifieds. That was 50% of the advertising revenue. Then came the internet. This year the internet overtook newspapers as the source of "news."

Meanwhile, newspapers are in the logistic business. The business model is aggregating "readers" and selling them to advertisers. Same business model as TV. Same business model as many websites. But that's not the business model for amazon, ebay or wall-mart. They were the three most visited websites this Christmas season. Those websites are in the logisitics business. They make it easier to buy stuff. The business model is to get people to buy more stuff.

Most of the blabla I've seen, heard and read is about doing better news so that a news organization can aggregate eyeballs. Nowadays, the talk is about well defined groups of eyeballs with special interests, that can be sold at higher CPMS to advertisers. The problem with this approach is that large brands are still having a hard time figuring out how to scale advertising to niche markets. The other problem is that there are many competing ways to speak to niche audiences.

So . . . instead of closing print plants and laying off printers, newspapers might be alot better off trying to figure out ways to outsource the finding and writing about the news and concentrate on their unique defensible advantage: printing and delivery. That's a business with high barriers of entry, a long manufacturing tail with every improving ways to print and deliver.

Consider that Rupert Murdoch is building a state of the art newspaper manufacturing facility in the U.K.

Here's one I found this morning. The link is in Dr. Druck's Shared Items in the side bar.
Parade added 71 new newspaper partners, with a circulation of 2.42 million, to its national distribution. The addition of scores of new newspapers--most of them local dailies serving small and mid-sized cities--brings Parade's total circulation to 33 million, with distribution via 470 newspapers nationwide. Parade claims to reach 73 million readers every week.

Doing a bit of competitive boasting, Parade noted that 53 of the 71 new newspaper partners had switched from USA Weekend, another leading newspaper-distributed magazine. Owned by Conde Nast, Parade added newspaper partners including the Connecticut Post, based in Bridgeport; the Journal Star of Lincoln, Nebraska; Iowa's Sioux City Journal; North Dakota's Bismarck Tribune; and the Napa Valley Register.

The scarcity of big-city papers in the list of new partners isn't a drawback--quite the opposite. Unlike most big metro and regional dailies, which have seen circulation and ad revenue plummet over the last couple of years, newspapers serving towns and smaller cities are faring surprisingly well in both arenas.

It seems that Parade and "newspapers serving towns and smaller cities" are still in the logistics business. They haven't drunk their own kool-aid about newspapers being the important source of news.

Journalists, on the other hand, are gathering around Cloud based functionalities to find and deliver "news." Consider politico.com, the Huffington Post, Open Secrets.org, the hundreds of local blogs and social media sites around the country. If newspapers learn how to outsource the journalism and focus on the core values, they will probably do just fine.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Printers are Part of the Education Business

But they don't realize it. Printers print. Commercial printers print for people who pay them. In the era that is now ending, many commercial printers were in the power of marketers/advertisers who bought Print because it was the easiest way to sell stuff.

Today, Print is no longer the only way to sell stuff. Some printers are having a hard time figuring out how they are going to get paid for the books, news(letters) and posters that they print.

Advertising/marketing is moving to Search and social networks. On the internet, that means Google, Microsoft,Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter. In the real world Search and social networks happen in families, stores, at events and from whatever information emitting products are present in physical environments. That usually means Print.

In the days of information inequality, it was easier to persuade people to buy things. These days persuading is being replaced by being accessible. When people search, they now expect to find what they are looking for.

But Printers, like newspapers, are having a hard time looking past marketing and advertising. There is still lots of money on the table. But until they change their focus, they are going to struggle to get a piece of an ever shrinking market.

So, if "starve the past, invest in the future" is a plausible business approach, printers need to understand their role in learning. Learning is part of life. Once freed from "educational" institutional restraints, it's a growing market. When the global need for learning is considered, it may turn out to be the biggest market Printers have ever had.

A printed piece is either a tool, a toy or a token. Toys amuse. Tokens make the invisible, visible. Tools are "must haves." Highly designed beautiful things are toys. Self published books, family calendars and photo books are tokens. Books, news(letters) and posters are the most highly evolved tools for learning.

Everyone on the planet needs to be learning. As civilization starts to come up against physical constraints on growth, everyone has to get much smarter to figure out ways to use less to make more. The only way to get smarter is to learn. In that context it's not surprising that President-Elect Obama is going to invest heavily in education.

In a world of information inequality, formal institutions have been the place where knowledge is transferred and learning is supposed to happen. In a world of information equality, they are losing their competitive advantage. Now it's possible to eliminate a lot of overhead in buildings, physical proximity, time spent on Tuesday morning from 9 to 11:30 sitting in a "talk and chalk" presentation.

The technology allows asynchronous communication that generates it's own data stream. Feedback loops that measure and inform the process are both possible, scalable and very, very inexpensive. Feedback loops encourage natural improvement. But, contrary to the conventional wisdom in media, people live in the real world, not in hyperspace. Even the active minority that communicate via Screen - computers, cell phones and ebooks - live in physical space.

Once in physical space, Print is still the queen of the media. Signs (posters), news(letters) and books are the information products of physical space. Until now, Print was too slow to market. It is not anymore. Until now use based data streams were not generated by Print. It's not anymore. Once the hurdles of time and data stream generation have been overcome, the intrinsic advantages of Print can re emerge.

In the first edition of Edge Conditions, I selected and published to the screen some bytes about how Print can talk to the Cloud. In the post, TransInfo, Not TransPromo, I talked about publishing the information in the Cloud to Print in the service of changing behavior.

The most important behavior that needs to be changed is to learn how to make better decisions. The most important outcome is smarter people - the operational indicator of education. Until now the efficiencies of communication, which are at the heart of education, have generated excess money that has been captured by institutions. Consider textbooks or standardized high stakes testing or the cost of higher ed or the cost of career technical education.

But the drive to educate faster, better cheaper is leading to new approaches that can distribute that value to the users. We are seeing: cheaper, better, faster alternatives to textbooks; discussions that are starting in the Federal Government on the cost of higher education; and outcome based measures of high school and technical education.

Never underestimate the blind spot that technologists have to the value of Print. Unfortunately it's part of their DNA. But people on the ground understand that the Book is a perfect tool for reading, not scanning. (Kids love to scan. Smart people - kids or adults - love to read.) The Poster - sometimes in the form of a postcard or a club card - is a perfect way to bring information into the physical world. And the News(letter) - the Church bulletin, the New York Times, or the non profit's brochure - is the perfect Search product in the physical world.

Printers make books, posters and news(letters). In a world of information equality, the amount of information that is in the Cloud is growing exponentially. Much of it wants to appear in Print. The only hard part left is to figure out how to make money from publishing it to Print.

Keep in mind that Gutenberg never figured out how to make money. That needed Fust. Figuring out how to make money is called "business development." That was Fust's job. As long as everyone does their job, things usually work out very nicely.

People talk. Designers design. Printers print.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Newspapers are in the Education Business

Now all they have to do is realize it. The real job of newspapers is to educate, inform and entertain. Lately they thought their job was to aggregate "eyeballs" and sell them to advertisers. Now that advertising is moving to Search, it's hard to make a dollar selling eyeballs.

It's the railroad problem.
Papers now seem to be the equivalent of the railroads at the start of the twentieth century—a once-great business eclipsed by a new technology. In a famous 1960 article called “Marketing Myopia,” Theodore Levitt held up the railroads as a quintessential example of companies’ inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Levitt argued that a focus on products rather than on customers led the companies to misunderstand their core business. Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letting other companies dominate. By extension, many argue that if newspapers had understood they were in the information business, rather than the print business, they would have adapted more quickly and more successfully to the Net. from the New Yorker
But, it seems that at least one paper, has started an "Institute." Sooner or later someone at a newspaper will notice that the education business is the most profitable business in the USA.

Found this at Editor's Weblog
A California daily has formed "The Oakland Press Institute for Citizen Journalism," in response to the "changing face" of the industry, according to an editor.
. . .
The course, instructed by Press staff, is open to anyone, "from high school students to retirees," and upon completing the course participants will be considered for freelance positions.
The natural next step is to restrict admissions and get some school to give them cert cover. Or to make it a Charter Technical Education High School. Or to replace the textbook industry that is ready to fall, anyway. If they deliver education, the cert giving school gets a small piece of the revenue, the newspaper has a new source of income, the kids get a really useful education. If newspapers replace textbooks, the revenue stream is pretty clear.

Advances in communication makes much of the educational overhead less necessary. Higher Ed lives in a protected market. The State controls the right to sell certification. The cost of producing learning should be going down. But it's going up. No doubt, there is a top tier of schools that are doing the traditional sort 'em out and nourish the smart ones. But there are also many schools of Higher Ed, that talk the talk, but don't really do their jobs. Not doing their job does not mean not making money. Consider newspapers in the 70's,80's and 90's.

Meanwhile, everyone "knows" that everyone needs a college degree. The market naturally renews every year. More money for "education" is Mom and Apple Pie. My bet is that after January 20, the Federal Government is going to be in the market for lots of Apple Pie. Meanwhile, adjuncts teach most courses at low salaries. Buildings and overhead go up. The spread between cost of learning and the price charged is captured by the institution as opposed to shared with students and teachers.

Sooner or later, a newspaper will realize that the value of learning is the activity and the teacher. Newspapers just have to hire the teachers and change the activities slightly, and they can get a piece of the action.

It may well turn out that as newspapers search for new revenue streams, it's going to mean the end of the textbooks industry and the end of Higher Ed as we've known it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TransInfo not TransPromo

I got into a thought provoking discussion over at Transpromo Live about the recent InfoPrint TransPromo campaign. Since I've hated the word Transpromo from the first day I heard it, when Lee Gallagher explained what it really could mean, I was happy.
Lee said,
"To me, TransPromo is based on predictive analytics which allows the marketer gain a deeper insights into the their existing customer and their potential needs. Leveraging the predictive modeling, you are better able to target the needs to the customer as well as what messaging, promotions, and or information that may be of interest or drive a call to action. As Pat indicates, and I support, its the data analytics which drives the content and the result is relevant content which grows the customer relationship and loyalty." You can scan the rest of the conversation here.
If "based on predictive analytics" is changed to "can create predictive analytics", that's the thought that was provoked.

If you use a Purl based campaign in combination with personalized Print, you can find out who is interested enough in your offering to go to the website. As important we can know when that interest occured. Then you can use SEO techniques to see what they do once they are at your website. That's a lot of useful information about some people. Those "some" people are people who want to talk to you. In niche marketing, all you can expect to get are "some." If you treat them with respect, "some" is good enough.

An active "some" is the key to word of mouth and viral marketing. That's why some companies focus on evangelists. That's why Wal-Mart set up a mommy's blog. That's where you find the mavens and salesman that Gladwell describes in the Tipping Point. That's where you find the people who are twitter leaders. That's where Obama found the organizers for the ground game that got him elected.

The trick is that once that "some" have raised their hands, they need to be nurtured and supported, not with money or stuff, but with attention. Promo is about one type of exchange - money for stuff. Info is about other kinds of exchange - attention for attention. A click to a website is measurable form of attention. Posting to a blog is another. Adding to a twitter is still another. Every exchange throws off information about the time and motion of people who want to talk to you. Once you can analyze the time and motion of those special someone's, it's much easier to understand how they think and when they think it.

"TransPromo" is about promotion. "TransInfo" is about using exchanges to create new information. Everyone loves information. If the information created by tracking exchanges in real time are stored and analyzed, predictive analytics will get better. Predictive analytics is a discussion that can be held with the CMO or the CTO or the CFO or the CEO.

If I ran IBM or Xerox or Oce or Kodak or Screen, I would do the Printing, but sell the systems that store and analyze. If I were Mindfire or Xmpie, I would help with the Printing and sell the systems that store and analyze. Then I would price the systems based on the number of "somes" and how many times they exchanged attention. Instead of looking at ROI, I would focus on Return on Time, ROT. - Dr. Joe Webb

Since I believe that advertising is a shrinking market and education, health and government (EHG) are the growing markets, consider the organization value that could be created by better predictive analytics in schools, communities and hospitals. Could one use the tech to predict those students likely to be at risk? Or those patients likely to be non compliant in self administered medications?

Consider RFID, QR codes, Cell phones that read bar codes and take you to a website. More at Edge Conditions.

Now, consider the amount of wasted time and the long response times in EHG. Then consider the effects of late responses on desired outcomes in the education, health and government spaces.

More in later posts....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Edge Conditions

Innovation happens at the edges between two or more activity spaces.
Communication happens in physical space and information space.
Information manifests in the physical space in Print or on the Screen.
When it moves to the internet cloud, info is sliced and diced.

Once sliced and diced it can recombine to create new information.
The new information is re inserted into physical space.
Once back in physical space, information affects behavior.
Real life happens in physical space.

The following were picked from the Cloud as of December 9, 2008
Cell phone is barcode scanner by Motorola
"One of the long awaited success products is integrating the cell phone with a fully functional barcode scanner and Motorola did it with the Symbol MC70 and has integrated it with other models.”

iPhone hears music
Shazam, that wonderful program for iPhone that allows us to point the phone at a sound and await identification.

Multi Function Printer sits between the Cloud and Print
The full range of ACDI devices, including stored value card and currency systems, card dispenser and encoders, credit card terminals, online card systems and document output tracking solutions, are made available through the partnership.
Google Maps track disease
This is cool: Google has set up a page with a map to track search requests for terms like "flu" and "flu symptoms" around the country (using IP address data to provide a geographic fix). Voila: A map that should show very quickly how this winter's flu viruses spread from state to state.
Speech to text translation coming of age
Online video has made major strides in 2008, largely thanks to universal search. Speech-to-text translation, mobile video, and full movie/TV shows on YouTube are just getting started.
Physical space in Baghdad to the McClatchey Cloud
As usual, the work day ended and it is sunset and I am heading back from Baghdad to Fallujah.
I was in a taxi with two other passengers, and we had to wait for one more. The other two men were not going to Fallujah, but to villages along the way. One of them looked upset. I asked him, Are you ok? He answered with tears, "I want this car to start moving. I want to receive the dead bodies of my two brothers.

Printer organizes the Cloud and back to Print
ChromaGraphics is a commercial printer that has expanded into the rapidly growing market for electronic document retrieval, distribution and on-demand printing with the acquisition of a Santa Rosa company last month. They are a 24-employee company with $4.5 million in revenue last year

Picking up AOL Cloud storage accounts
ElephantDrive Inc. has announced a free and automated file transfer from AOL’s Xdrive to ElephantDrive. The offering is designed to make it easy for users of the Xdrive service to migrate to ElephantDrive before their existing accounts are closed. In the first week of availability of the automated transfer tool, ElephantDrive has delivered over one million files from Xdrive to new ElephantDrive accounts.
Bar Code scanners are one pathway between Print and the Cloud
Did you know there are more then 20 different brands of bar code scanners? The Metrologic bar code scanners are one of these brands. Many of these scanners come from over seas and are sold as cheap barcode scanners with little company backing behind them, but this is not the case with Metrologic.
Writing in physical space, up to the Cloud, back down to Print
The students participated in the third annual Océ Future Authors Project summer writing workshop, where they compiled poetry, short stories and essays into a book they named, “Confessions of a Teenage Author.” The book was published and digitally printed by the program’s sponsor, Boca Raton-based Océ North America Production Printing Systems Division, a leading provider of digital document management and delivery solutions. http://www.graphicartsonline.com/article/CA6620021.html?nid=3827
German Post Office and personal newspapers
December 4, 2008 – D. Kulenovic) The new web-to-print portal run by the German Post Office, www.titelhelden.de, has been online since October 6. The portal, developed by People Interactive GmbH, a Cologne-based agency, places particular emphasis on usability. The new online service from the Deutsche Post (the German Post Office) permits anyone to create their own newspapers for various occasions. Layout, printing, and delivery are all handled by the Deutsche Post. The portal integrates all these processes.
RFID, another path between Print and the Cloud
Source: UPM, 2008-Dec-04 Japanese publisher Shogakukan Inc. has implemented RFID technology in its operations to substantially reduce the return ratio of unsold books. A reduction in waste volumes was also critical.
Don't waste time on convincing people. Focus on the ones already convinced. CRM in politics.
Seth Godin has written a fabulous piece about the Obama presidential campaign and the marketing lessons we can learn from it. I believe the lessons learned provide great insight into how we can dramatically influence the educational process and how students learn as well.
QR Codes: another path between Print and the Cloud
John Carnell, founder and CEO of Harrogate-based Bullying UK said: "We are proud to be recognised by TalkTalk as one of the UK's most innovative charities. Eighteen months ago we identified QR codes as being key to the uptake of the mobile web and the filling in of another bit of the digital divide. Even if people are in a rush they can snap the code from the poster with their phone and get immediate help from our mobile website."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Googlezon + Google-Mart is the Global Activity Space

Google-Mart is a business environment defined by (1) an expectation of total informational transparency and accessibility and (2) a requirement for flawless logistics and operations. Named for Google and Wal-Mart" . . . coined by Josefowicz Associates, LLC in January, 2006.
Googlezon is described in the video below . . .released in November 2004 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson with original music by Aaron McLeran. The video is 8 minutes. If you would prefer to get the story in 30 seconds, the typographic version from Wikipedia is here

Josefowicz Associates republishes selected news about Google and WalMart @ The Google-Mart Economy.

Google-Mart in the Communication Ecology
Print in the Communication Ecology

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Print Lives Outside of Time Part 2

Motion Graphics

Printed to the Screen

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y'all

War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

Ohhh, war, I despise
Because it means destruction
Of innocent lives

War means tears
To thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives

I said, war, huh
Good God, y'all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain't nothing
But a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Ooooh, war
It's an enemy to all mankind
The point of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die
Aaaaah, war-huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
War, huh
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y'all
War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War, it's got one friend
That's the undertaker
Ooooh, war, has shattered
Many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled, bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious
To spend fighting wars these days
War can't give life
It can only take it away

Ooooh, war, huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there's got to be a better way

Ooooooh, war, huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for
You tell me
Say it, say it, say it, say it

War, huh
Good God y'all
What is it good for
Stand up and shout it
Same articulation, different activity space.

So, if war is anger-as-violence between nation states and tribes, what is crime? What is anger between friends? What is violence between husbands and wives and children? What is anger directed at your self?

Who benefits? Who loses? How do you eliminate anger between nation states and tribes? How do you manage anger between everyone else? How do you do anger without violence?


Monday, November 24, 2008

Compare and Contrast: Money

Is it this?

or is it this?

Is it this?
The correct answer is yes.
It depends how you look at it.
You think what you think because you see what you see.
You see what you see depending on your operative information space.

Humans move through activity spaces.
Activity space is information space plus physical space.
Humans have a repertoire of information spaces.
At moments of focus one emerges.

At moments of stress only one can be chosen.
The manifested information space becomes a lens.
At moments of peace different lenses are available.
Using different lenses is how you get to "it depends".

Articulated information spaces capture more of messy reality.
Logical articulated information spaces help predict the future.
Brains transform logical narratives into logical lenses.
Print is the easiest way to communicate logical narratives.

Or is it this? (thank you, CN)
Q. Which is true?

A) Money make the world go 'round

B) The world will keep on spinnin' with or without money

A. Both

- - -

And here's why:

The answer is relative to what you perceive (your information space)

What you perceive creates what you think.

Humans have a repertoire of information spaces.

Focus = choosing to perceive a single information space

Stress focus = being forced to perceive a single information space

Contemplation focus = being able to perceive multiple information spaces

Contemplation focus is how we arrive at relativity ("it depends").

Diagrams and narratives of an information space (what you perceive) capture one (messy) reality.

Diagrams and narratives of multiple information spaces capture relativity.

Diagrams and narratives of information spaces help predict the future.

Diagrams and narratives create focus.

Print is the best way to capture diagrams and narratives,
and therefore, the best way to create focus.

I say that on the most general level, money is a conceptual construct and sometimes a designed artifact that signals the exchanges and creates strings between activity spaces. How that plays out in the space/time of the real world depends.

What do you say?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What did you learn in school today? Not much.

Following the suggestion of Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, industry analyst, I added this email after the original post:

Me to her:
"Given the discussion about education over at WTT, I thought you might find today's post interesting. My take is the problem is not Print training. The problem is in the design of education. Same thing about admonitions for training budgets. Given that there are a gezillion sales training programs out there. How come we don't have a gezillion great sales people? Given that you can spend $750K shouldn't real training come with the box? Given that we as country spend a gezillion dollars on education, how come everyone isn't smart?

The consultants blame the customer - "If only you would give me money to train you?." The vendors blame the customer." If only they would let us educate them." Teachers blame the kids or their parents. "If only I had a better kids" or more likely "If only their parents would X, Y or Z."

Meanwhile, the printers don't want to spend money on "training" because it mostly doesn't work. And kids play hookey. And both secretly blame themselves."

Formal education was not designed for learning.
It was designed for sorting.
Separate out the smart ones.
Let the others find blue collar jobs . . . or not.

It does well what it was designed to do.
The smart ones got accepted to the top schools.
They met other smart ones.
They joined networks of smart ones.

Now the schools have to be redesigned for learning.
It's not just about skills.
It's not just about curriculum.
It's about reorganizing time and space in schools.

The problem is that it's also about power.
The currency of power is controlling time and space.
People who are used to power want to keep it.
They keep the conversation about skills and curiculums.

They focus on what to teach.
The paradox is that it's impossible to teach.
The best you can do is to maximize the chances of learning.
Only students can learn.

There is teaching on demand.
But there is no learning on demand.
Learning happens all the time in many spaces.
But it's hard to make it happen every Tuesday between 9 and 11:30.

What to do?
Consider kindergarten.
They play in groups all day doing stuff.
They acquire lots of deep skills.

In kindergarten, they learn language.
In kindergarten, they learn skills.
In kindergarten, they learn how to play nicely with others.
In kindergarten, they learn who they are.

Little kids and chimpanzees are learning machines.
They learn to live and live to learn.LinkChimpanzees are sometimes put in zoos.
Kids have to go to school.

The future is now, just not evenly distributed.
Some schools are great.
Most school people are smart and hard working.
But bad design is bad design.

Suggested reading:
Print in the Communication Ecology
Print Stops Time
For Print Technology Education go to IGAEA, follow the link to VC journals from here

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dr Joe and Graphic Arts Education

It's usually worth getting into a conversation with Dr. Joe Webb. Even if you disagree that chances are that you'll learn something. This morning I found Dr Joe talking about Graphic Arts Education.

Since I was both an admin and a faculty member at a prestigious NY design school, I'm going to put on my educator hat. Since I no longer have to walk the walk, it's a lot easier to talk the talk.

Title of the section is Stepping Back... Where to Focus. You can read the full column here.

He says: If yesterday is being starved, what kind of tomorrow must be fed? The latest trends in our industry are fairly clear.

Printing is becoming more digital in every aspect, and that's not a surprise. Web-to-print, digital workflows, plate imaging, printing devices and process management, and postpress are more digital than ever. Postpress is the area facing the greatest digital challenges. Slow adoption of JDF and other automation does not help the situation. Graphics programs must become more saturated with information technology management, including both automation and the production of new media, highlighting integration of new media with print from strategic and tactical perspectives.

I say: "Graphics programs" is no longer the best word, even though it's the one we all use. I suggest Print Technology. That's the word they use in India. From Vinodh Kamar at PrintCeoBlog

I am from India and the discussion posted in this thread is of more interest worldwide to young professionals like me in the industry. To give a breif background, I have done a engineering degree in Printing Technology and relatively a young professional(27 years old) with five years of experience in the industry.

The thing is that while art and production are meshing in the real world, in most schools the "art" faculties or "design" colleges have little respect for production. A University is an organization like any other. Groups fighting for respect and resources. Since the explosion of enrollment in Graphic Design, the Graphic Design or Communication Design Departments get the benefit of larger enrollments. In the University, those who put the kids in chairs are those who get attention. Those who get attention get resources.

Thus the recent title change on my blog. Forget Graphic Communications and Graphic Design. Replace it with Print Technology and Commercial Art.

If Print Technology concentrations have a track called Commercial Art, the "art" schools won't mind. And we, educators, could get some of the benefit of Graphic Design. And the industry could get the benefit of artists who really understood commercial.

Otherwise, I've got little to add to Dr. Webb.

He says: Other areas in the print supply chain are growing as specialties of their own, including print management and logistics. Companies such as InnerWorkings coordinate multiple production specialists under a single management system using computer networking and communications.

I say: Most certainly yes. Think of Business Process Outsourcing, print brokers on steroids. The hard part here is that the real qualification to get into this career is to be smart, a great team player and have a good hard working attitude. That's not something schools are used to teaching. It can be done. There are some great examples. But in general, it's one of those nice to haves, but relatively hard to find.

He says: Print management courses must also focus on environmental issues, emphasizing the actualities of environmental compliance, trends in legislation, designing workflows that not only comply with laws but exceed their requirements, and anticipation of future changes. Students would study new ways of using and implementing print, and develop a proactive awareness of the role of print in what will be an undoubtedly more highly regulated business environment with a bias for electronic media.

I say: Most certainly yes. But it's that darn education problem again. To really get this done, that means history, economics, writing and math. What is supposed to happen, but often does not, in a Liberal Arts education. Now that our industry needs it, Print Technology departments will have to take the lead. It's a hard job, but somebody has to do it.


Print in the Communication Ecology

It's like a galaxy.

It's like an embryo.

It's also like a pencil.

Humans live in activity space.
Activity space is physical space and information space.
The internet is the world's information space.
Information strings connect natural and built activity spaces.

The Screen is a physical window into information space.
Print is a physical window into information space.
The computer screen is in real time.
Print lives outside of time.

Exchanges connect activity spaces.
Information space becomes more articulated.
That's the ecology of money. That's the GDP.
That's Wall Street.

Exchanges connect activity spaces
Physical space becomes more articulated.
That's the ecology of real life.
Machinery, communities, people and the real economy.

Repeated exchanges create threads.
Bundles of threads create strings.
Tensions on strings organize new spaces.
New spaces disrupt and integrate with old spaces.

Time and motion are are full of noise.
When motion stops, some of the noise stops.
Outside of time, some of the noise stops.
A signal can make it through.

Books? Newspapers? Posters?

Are the best ways to capture the Other's logical narrative.
Logical narratives become lenses.
Lenses separate signal from noise.
Using different lenses is the most hopeful way of predicting the future.

Having a narrative is an operational definition of being human.
Control of logical narratives is an operational definition of smart.
Time and space are the independent variables.
Everything else is signal and noise.

In a recent thread over at The PrintCEO Blog Andy M said "Like a cartoon that appeared in a recent MAN Roland publication - two Gen-Y-ers looking at a newspaper and one says “Hey this is really cool - they’ve downloaded everything and printed it out for us!”

In Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman says "Typography has the strongest possible bias towards exposition: a sophisticated ability to think conceptually, deductively and sequentially: a high valuation of reason and order; an abhorence of contradiction; a large capacity for detachment and objectivity; and a tolerance for delayed response."

Manuel Castells in The Rise of the Network Society, says, ". . .TV appeals to the associate/lyrical minds, not involving the psychological effort of information retrieving and analyzing. . . .While print favors systematic exposition, TV is best suited to casual conversation. "
I say, "The internet is interactive TV + search"

What is a Publishing Center ?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's not Graphic Design. It's Commercial Art.

It's time to stop saying graphic designer, unless you mean it. If you are training to become or educated to be an Art Director, (see below) say that. Besides, these days "everyone thinks they are a graphic designer."

Everyone else who gets money for their art is a commercial artist. Commercial art is how you make a living. Your mother understands commercial art. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has it pretty right.
Artists create art to communicate ideas, thoughts, or feelings. They use a variety of methods—painting, sculpting, or illustration—and an assortment of materials, including oils, watercolors, acrylics, pastels, pencils, pen and ink, plaster, clay, and computers. Artists’ works may be realistic, stylized, or abstract and may depict objects, people, nature, or events.

Artists generally fall into one of four categories.

Art directors formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications.

Craft artists create or reproduce handmade objects for sale or exhibition.

Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original artwork, using a variety of media and techniques.

Multi-media artists and animators create special effects, animation, or other visual images on film, on video, or with computers or other electronic media. (Designers, including graphic designers, are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook.)

You can check out the what else the BLS has to say about Artists here.

The related occupations:
Other workers who apply artistic skills include architects, except landscape and naval; archivists, curators, and museum technicians; commercial and industrial designers; fashion designers; floral designers; graphic designers; interior designers; jewelers and precious stone and metal workers; landscape architects; photographers; and woodworkers. Some workers who use computers extensively, including computer software engineers and desktop publishers, may require art skills.
I would include one more: The Bullshit Artist. More commonly known as the Sales Person. The BLS calls it Sales Engineer.

It's funny. Design schools used to be Art schools. Then they became all focused on "professional preparation" and forgot that they were Art schools. Maybe because Art was a hard sell to parents. Or that no self-respecting admin wants to say their outfit teaches commercial art. Or in the rush to teach "computer skills" they forgot the point.

More recently the buzz is Liberal Arts. "We've got to teach the students theory." Meanwhile there are very few in the liberal arts faculties who understand what theory is anyway. And "talk and chalk" teaching is pretty broken. And the reality is that the most efficient way to get learning to happen is 1. doing 2. thinking about what and why you're doing it. 3.Do it some more. Sounds like making art to me.

But whatever the reason, Art schools stopped using the right word to describe what they do.

It's ironic that the successful professionals are Artists. And every kid who wants to get in the field wants to become a great Artist. And the most sustainable path going forward is to be a self - employable Artist.

Some schools have figured it out. Sooner or later all the schools will figure it out. Or they won't be able to charge $30,000 a year to learn to be a graphic designer, much less a commercial Artist.

Is it this?

Or is it this?

The correct answer is yes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Secret of Business Development . . Pt.1

If you don't get it, try these: On the web, here. In a book, here. In the Language of Communication Ecology, here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If I were a printer . . . Pt 1

If I were a printer, here's what I'd do.
If I were a printer, I would set up a school.
Lots of money, no measurable deliverable.
If things go wrong, it's the customer's fault.
"Give me more money and I'll get it right next time."
"Give me the right customers and I'll get it right
. . .oh and I could use some money."

Meanwhile, Kids need to learn how to think.
That's education.

Meanwhile, Kids need to learn how to do.
That's apprenticeships.

Like days of yore, kids will work for nothing to be apprentices.
They compete for the opportunity to work for nothing.
Sometimes, they even pay for working for nothing!
In "higher ed", they call this "graduate education."

Sometimes, they have to be paid.
But always for a lot less than the value they produce.
They will work, 60 hours a week.
And say, "thank you."
They will love what they are doing.
And say, "thank you."
They will come up with the "next big thing."
And say, "thank you."
In high finance and law, they call it "associates."
In medicine, they call it "interning"
In commercial art, they call it "interning.'
In everything else, it's usually called "new hire."

In days of yore, it was called "apprentice."

But whatever you call it, the deal is
"Teach me how to do what I want to do
and I will give you a couple of years of my time, for cheap.
Then move on. Or get on a track to be a "partner."
Or start their own business and raise their families.
That's what Ben Franklin did.
That's what Gutenberg's apprentice did.
That's what the founders of American newspapers did.

Meanwhile, K- PhD is an awesome business.
First, it's mostly a protected market.
That's how they get to raise the price every year.
Second, Everyone "knows" that "education" is a "must have".
Always good to be selling a "must have."
Third, hardworking parents and politicians willingly pay almost any size bill.
If they can't afford it, they will borrow to buy it.
If they can't borrow it, the kids will borrow to buy it.

Meanwhile, nobody knows if it works.
It's like the old days of advertising.
Remember, "If you could only figure out which 50% is useless. . ."
But that was then, this is now.

Meanwhile, printers are looking for business models.
Every business is in the same business.
The business of making money.
But, what you deliver is not always how you make money.
The Ivy League: non profit hedge funds who deliver education.
GM: a bank that makes cars (Thanks, Joe)
HP and Xerox: toner and inkjet companies that make hardware.
K-12: Baby sitting and filtering out the good ones that delivers "education."

So . . .if I were a printer, here's what I would do.
Become an education and community development company that makes Print.

Darn! There really are no new ideas. The future really is here, and really is not evenly distributed. Thank you to Erik from Canada for pointing me here. I hope they are getting some of the ed money floating around.

The Version Dad, The Printer Loved

Same story, different places.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sales is Not Business Development is Not Sales

The purpose of sales is to find buyers for products.
The purpose of business development is to find products for buyers.

Sales is a linear process.
Define the steps, so they can easily be measured.
Model the mechanism of how X gets from Step A to Step B.
Make the purchase as frictionless as possible.
Deliver the product as promised.
Collect the money and repeat.

Business development is a network process.
Define the activity spaces.
Define the threads and strings connecting activity spaces.
Clarify the focus of the customer's activity space.
Catalog the transformation mechanisms in your activity space.
Discover the ways that possible transformations are consistent with your customer's focus.
Those transformations are the kernel of products.
Prototype, test and evaluate new products within an addressable market.
Have a path to scale.

Sales - Define the steps, so they can easily be recognized.
Suspect - ("target customer") is a person who potentially needs Print.
Prospect is a person who has requested information
Customer is a buyer who has completed a transaction.
Client is customer who has completed a number of transactions.

Business Development - Define the nodes of the network
A node can be said to exist in two spaces:
The Environment Space and the Actor Space.
E - The Environment Space
A - The Customer Space (in the context of Print sales)
B - The Printer Space (in the contest of Print sales)

The Actor Space and the Environment Space is further divided into
PS - A Physical Space
CS - A Cognitive Space

Model the communication exchange mechanism.
A= Customer Space
B = Printer Space
E = Environment Space
POV = point of view
CE = Communication Exchange
ITO = input - transformation - output is the primary mechanism of communication exchange

Actors can be either individuals, communities or organizations.

Increase the number of communication exchanges.
No. of CE = Actor's perceived risk/ Actor's perceived rewards
The proximate risk is lost time. The secondary risk is delivery failure.
The proximate reward is time saved. The secondary reward are defined by the Actor who purchases the product. They may include increased status, reduced stress, or increased income.
Exchange events are the result of proximate pressures.

Communication Event "Moving X from Suspect to Prospect"
POV from B = Printer Space
Event: Printer needs prospects
Output to Customer Space: Information sent (email, marketing brochure, sales call, web site)
Transformation in Customer Space: Decision made to ask for information.
Input to Printer Space: Information request - (estimate request, paper sample, production question)
Feedback: If request is estimate request, B moves to prospect bin. Anything else moves B closer to prospect bin. No request for info keeps B in suspect bin.

POV from A = Customer Space
Event: A problem has entered the Customer Environment Space.
Input to Customer Space: Customer Actor needs information.
Transformation : Customer decides to ask this printer for information.
Output from Customer Space: Information request
Feedback: Was the risk/reward ratio acceptable? The risk is wasting time. The reward is getting the information required. If the time spent in getting the information was less than the time saved by getting the information, the "brand" of the Printer goes up. If the "brand" goes up, the likelihood of further exchanges increases.

Communication Event "Job ordered and delivered"
POV from A = Customer Space (business)
Event: A need that must be met has emerged
Input: Internal or external client has requested X
Transformation : Information is collected from clients and transformed into a collection of digital files, pricing, specifications are formalized.
Output: Files and purchase order sent to printer.
Feedback: If the time/money invested is less than the value to the customer of the delivered product, another exchange is likely. If it is more, another exchange is less likely.

POV from B = Printer Space
Event: Product has been purchased.
Input: File sent, specifications agreed, price agreed.
Transformation: Printer turns information into product
Output: Product delivered as promised.
Feedback: If the time and money invested is less than the price received for delivered product another exchange is worth pursuing. If the time/money invested is less than the price received, another similar exchange is not worth pursuing.

More to come....
The Defensible Value is the Network.
Designers + production + business mangers = business development.

Too busy with sales to do business development?
Business development is the operational definition of innovation.
Print Injects Information into Physical Space.
The Web Injects Information into Information Space.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Surviving and Thriving..

Found this over at Dot.Life.com. It's aimed at Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs, but applies to Printers, and other businesses just as well.

John Doerr came armed with a list of 10 top things that chief execs should do to help them come out the other end of this downturn.

Mr Doerr is with the famed VC company Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and when he speaks, people listen. That's because his early investments in companies like Google, Amazon, Intuit, Compaq, Sun and Symantec have earned him some serious kudos."

So here are his tips...

1. Act now. Act with speed. Raise money. Get a loan. Focus, cut or sell.

2. Protect the vital core of the company. Use a scalpel instead of an axe. Be surgical.

3. Make sure you have 18 months or more of cash on a conservative revenue forecast.

4. Defer any facility expansions. Don't spend money on tech infrastructure, such as new computers or software if you don't need it. Re-evaluate your R&D priorities.

5. Renegotiate any contracts that you can. Everything is negotiable.

6. Everyone in the organisation should be selling, from the receptionists to the engineers. It's a noble profession.

7. Offer people equity instead of cash as bonuses. You can do this with outside vendors as well.

8. Pay attention to where your cash is. Treasuries, for example, are more secure than money market funds.

9. For your revenue plan, pay attention to leading indicators.

10. Over-communicate with everyone: employees, investors, key customers. Let them know your resolve and don't sugar coat things.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Print and Starbucks

In a previous post I argued that a good way to look at printing is in traditional terms of producers and retailers. Another way to look at is a somewhat different business model that combines some aspects of production and retail.

My favorite example of this model is Starbucks. To see how this applies to Print, consider the following excerpts from a blog at Harvard Business Publishing.
Why Traditional Recession Tactics Are Doomed To Fail This Time
Posted by Umair Haque on October 21, 2008 1:11 PM

How should boardrooms respond to the macro crisis? Is it just a case of recession-as-usual: budget-paring, personnel-slashing, and portfolio-trimming?

Not a chance. The tactics of recession-as-usual are neither necessary nor sufficient for firms to weather the global economic superstorm - because it's no ordinary squall, but a once-in-a-lifetime gale ripping up the very foundations of the global economic order. Rather, the macro crisis requires decision makers to confront fundamental transformation on three levels.

The first and simplest level is a change in global patterns of savings, investment, and consumption. For too long, the poor have financed the rich. China and other emerging markets have lent to the US so Americans could buy Hummers, McMansions, and Frappuccinos. But this never made sense -- it was deeply unsustainable; the macroeconomic equivalent of a giant planetary fossil fuel engine. The days of export-led growth -- and it's flipside, force-fed consumption -- are numbered.

Strategists in the boardroom face a new global macroeconomic picture. Overconsumption in developed countries must slow sharply, and capital must be redirected to long-run investment, especially in public goods. Conversely, emerging markets must shift from financing consumption in developed countries, and begin investing in the basic institutions of a vital microeconomic environment and power long-run growth.

What does that mean, concretely? Let's take a simple example. If Starbucks wants to grow in the States via new stores and new products, its corporate strategy must support the clear macroeconomic need to shift overconsumption to long-run investment. That means relying less on Vivannos, and more on, for example, Starbucks as a platform for communities to build and invest in local resources. Conversely, if Starbucks wants to grow in developing countries, it cannot just rely on a handful of new stores serving fatter-margined deluxe water to a new global bourgeoisie -- rather, to make growth sustainable, Starbucks must reinforce and support fair trade, responsible relationships, and account not just to count profits -- but to gain insight into long-run value created.

If ABC Printing wants to grow via new products, its strategy must support the clear macroeconomic need to shift overconsumption to long-run investment. That means relying less on advertisers and direct mail, and more on, for example, ABC Printing as a platform for communities to build and invest in local resources. Given that one of the best ways to build local resources depends on vibrant local conversations and that Print is still the best way to facilitate public conversation, it's a real opportunity.

Let's go back to our Starbucks example. Starbucks tried to grow by selling us more junk we don't need -- music, mugs, and mouse pads. That was orthodox, textbook, industrial-era strategy: grow by seizing share in adjacent markets. But it's also defunct in a world where we don't need more useless junk.

What do we need in the 21st century -- not just as brain-dead consumers, but as global citizens? We need opportunities to grow and amplify our capabilities. For Starbucks, that might mean, instead of hawking mugs and chocolates, training baristas to teach classes in coffee-making, letting communities use Starbucks as a venue for local government, or, at the limit, training local suppliers from developing countries as Baristas in developed ones. How cool would that be? Very.
Let's go back to ABC Printing. ABC tried to grow by selling us more junk we don't need -- more color, faster color, bells and whistles. That was orthodox, textbook, industrial-era strategy: grow by seizing share in adjacent markets. But it's also defunct in a world where we don't need more useless junk.

What do we need in the 21st century -- not just as brain-dead consumers, but as global citizens? We need opportunities to grow and amplify our capabilities. For ABC Printing that might mean, instead of hawking more, faster cheaper color, training pre press people to teach classes in file prep, letting communities use ABC Printing as a venue for local government, or, non profit organizations. How cool would that be? Very.
On the third, and deepest, level, strategists must rediscover entirely new sources of advantage as old ones fade and decay. Once we rediscover how to create value, we must learn how to sustain and maintain it. But the sources of advantage we teach in business schools and boardrooms alike were built for an industrial-era -- not a hyperconnected, hypercomplex 21st century. For example, brands ain't what they used to be -- and, as the investment banks just showed us, neither is scale, proprietary knowledge, or top-notch relationships.

Tomorrow's sources of advantage aren't like yesterday's. They're not built on being able to exploit, dominate, or coerce more strongly than others -- they don't result from being harder, better, faster, stronger. They're about exactly the opposite: being softer, better able to fail, having the ability to be slower, gaining the capacity for tolerance and difference. Ultimately, they are about a true advantage -- one that accrues not just to the corporation, at the expense of people, society, or the environment; but one that accrues to all.

Let's go back to our Starbucks example. If Starbucks wants to survive the 21st century, it must get radically experimental, learn to tap the power of network effects, shift to becoming resilient, develop and live a sense of purpose, or learn to occupy the creative high ground. It is only through new economic avenues like those that Starbucks can make sure its own advantage isn't just the flipside of Detroit's, Dar es Salaam, or Dhaka's disadvantage -- that it's not just, like the investment banks, building an economic house of cards.
Let's go back to our ABC Printing Company example. If ABC Printing wants to thrive in the 21st century, it must get radically experimental, learn to tap the power of network effects, shift to becoming resilient, develop and live a sense of purpose, or learn to occupy the creative high ground.

That's incredibly difficult -- because industrial era DNA is built to power a nakedly competitive advantage; one that's deliberately blind to being unfair, unsustainable, or flat-out imaginary.

There's a different way to say that. Discovering new sources of advantage depends on new DNA -- on building new kinds of institutions with entirely new capacities. Because, at root -- and as we'll discuss at length shortly -- the macro crisis isn't really a financial crisis, an economic crisis, a liquidity crisis, or a solvency crisis. It's an institutional crisis: the economic institutions of capitalism are in shock.

And though it's a scary, frustrating time -- the cool part is this: it's up to us to reimagine, reconceive, and reinvent them. We get to rethink the institutions of capitalism for a new century.

What could be cooler than that?
Discovering new sources of advantage depends on new DNA -- on building on new kinds of printing manufacturing and sales with new capacities. Because, at root -- and as we'll discuss at length shortly -- the macro crisis isn't really a financial crisis, an economic crisis, a liquidity crisis, or a solvency crisis. It's an institutional crisis: the economic institutions of Print delivery are in shock.

The old notions of "trade secrets," "owning the customer relationship" and rejecting anything that is "not built here" are over. The new notions are open shared information, helping the customer make the best decisions for them and finding the right capability and get it to the right person at the right time (which is usually pretty close to now.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Advertising is the contracting market

I've argued for a while that new opportunities for Print are not in the world of advertising in the service of selling stuff. The conventional wisdom is that the crux of the problem is the internet and multi-media. Another take is that advertising to buy stuff is no longer sustainable. When things aren't sustainable, sooner or later they change or disappear.

The following is from a post at Harvard Business Publishing.
How Marketing The American Dream Caused Our Economic Crisis
But underpinning the collapse of the housing bubble is a demand-side problem - the American Dream - that has been hijacked in countless political speeches from an embodiment of America's core values into a crass appeal to materialism and easy gratification. . . .

Right wing politicians touting the American Dream consistently advocate lower taxes.. . .
Left wing politicians are equally guilty of framing the American Dream in material terms. . .
Politicians on both sides have been equally culpable in defining the American Dream in material terms, in encouraging Americans to live beyond their means in its pursuit, and then putting in place policies that enable them to do so. Hardly any politician has had the courage to call for restraint.

Americans need a refresher course on the American dream. The Constitution speaks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not an automatic chicken in every pot. The American Dream embraced by immigrants over the past two centuries has been the opportunity to set one's own goals and pursue them honestly to the limits of one's ambition and ability. Too many Americans have been expressing the Dream through the acquisition of stuff. Others see the Dream as raising a family in a land that delivers Franklin Roosevelt's (and Norman Rockwell's) four freedoms. Still others dream of their children accessing the highest possible level of education, living healthy lives, being good citizens in their communities.
So... if Obama wins and he does what says, it makes sense to believe that there will be new opportunities in education, health and government. Actors in those spaces have to speak to everyone. When you have to speak to everyone, Print is not a "nice to have," it is a "must have."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sales or distribution? Wholesale or Retail?

Different players in the print business look at it from different points of view. It's the blind men and the elephant story. If you're trying to earn a living from Print, the only really important point of view is the end user. Only the end user brings new money into the production network. Everything else is just an expense.

At Graph Expo print manufacturers are the end user. But in the real business of print, they are just an expense. The money they bring to the table is earned from the customer at the end of the process. If there are lots of customers, they have lots of money to spend. If not, then not.

The focus at Graph Expo is how to manufacture print - better, faster and cheaper. Every year the vendors showcase great new tools to improve manufacturing processes. Every year successful printers can find the right tools for them.

But further improvements in manufacturing only have an acceptable time to value when there is not enough capacity. Under capacity - too much work, not enough time - is a high class problem. High class problems are amenable to better manufacturing solutions.

Over capacity - not enough work - can become a question of survival.

So...the question at hand is "how to get more work?" That means more sales. Which is just another way of saying "increase the efficacy of the customer acquisition process."

When Print was the default method of communication customer acquisition was an ill defined problem. What worked in the past was still working. Sales were often accomplished with a couple of stars and commonly accepted pricing.

Another approach was the "trade printer." Those firms cherished their place as manufacturers. They understood that manufacturers had to deliver good enough quality, in acceptable time frames at low enough prices. They left the sales process to sales experts who spent 100% of their time talking to customers.

When work started slowing down, some "trade printers" thought the best way to capture extra margin was to "sell direct." It was just common sense. But what many overlooked was an appreciation of the mechanisms of the sales process. At the time it seemed so intuitive that the idea of standards based process was not necessary. Some "direct" printers started doing more work for the trade. But it was hard to adapt to the rules of good enough, fast enough, cheap enough.

Meanwhile, new words are emerging to describe the emerging business of print. The overall business model is well established: manufacturers and distributors. It's not different from manufacturing clothes, food products, lighting fixtures, or copiers or forms.

Being a manufacturer or a distributor doesn't sound as good as being a solutions provider or a marketing partner. But given what a bad rep salespeople and printing brokers have always had, it might actually be a step up.

The good news is that there is a deep and wide knowledge base about what a "distributor" needs to do. It's pretty much the same thing as running a Starbucks or a TJ Maxx.

Just got this from a press release at GAM:
Graph Expo opened yesterday with brisk attendance and vendors announce a steady stream of equipment sales, despite tightening credit markets. Trade printer 4over, Inc. took the occasion to announce it was purchasing six Komori Lithrone presses for three new plants it will build in Florida, New Jersey and Texas. When the massive expansion is completed, the Glendale, CA-based trade printer, annual sales of $80 million, will operate five locations allowing it to ship to 90% of the U.S. market via two-day ground service.
I guess they haven't heard that Print is dead.

To see what this looks like from the distributors point of view check out the Print Services Distribution Association. They just completed their trade show in Baltimore.

The Print Solutions Conference & Expo, the only national show for the trade, has long been understood to be the premier show in the print distribution industry, designed to unveil and demonstrate new and exciting products, services and technology. Top executives and decision makers, along with their sales managers, see the Print Solutions Conference & Expo as the one show during the year where they can learn about new sales channels, new products, and network with other like-minded individuals.

A description of PSDA from their website:
Our association is comprised of the largest network of print distributors and trade printers, collectively aiding in building better partnerships to advance individual businesses as well as the industry as a whole. Print distributors can easily connect with like minded business executives through an array of networking tools that PSDA has designed to facilitate business-to-business communication. While our events prove to offer the most exciting and beneficial personal networking experiences, our online databases, directories, listervs, and regionalization program are second to none.

Similarly, PSDA’s membership base of trade printers gives print distributors immediate access to printers who specifically sell through the trade. This network of prospective partners, allows our distributors to quickly and easily place the most common to the most discriminate order, build printer contacts around the world, expand the services they offer their clients, and build lasting relationships with some of the industry’s top printers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One more time: Time to Value.

When the US Print industry gathers in Chicago next week, many decisions are going to be top of mind. Some decisions will be made. In yesterday's post, I argued that a good decision making rule is ROT (return on time - Dr Joe Webb.) It works much better than ROI (return on investment.)

Today, I found a blog at Harvard Business Publishing that is managed by Navi Radjou. He works at Forrester and is focused on India. In one of his posts, he talk about "time to value" as a replacement for "time to market." Since the purpose of innovation is to get money in the door, everything else is secondary. It's just common sense.

He also replaces "value creation" with "value extraction." Printers at Graph Expo might be well served focusing on extracting the value already embedded in their firms. It's much faster than creating value for a new market. It will give the printer a much higher ROT.
I also showed how Indian companies like ICICI, Larsen & Toubro, and Asian Paints are exploiting technology differently than their Western peers. Instead of reinventing the technology wheel, the CIOs and CTOs in these Indian corporations transform and broker tech innovations across their global business networks. As such, these tech execs are redefining themselves as Chief Innovation Transformers and Chief Knowledge Brokers who are obsessed with accelerating value-extraction from emerging technologies.
And from another post by Mr Radjou,

Some senior European execs that I met with this week pointed this out and suggested that India’s patent filing prowess provides evidence that the country is becoming a world-class innovator. They're right: Indian companies indeed are emerging as top-notch innovators. But they're also wrong: What proves they're world class innovators is not that they are filing patents to protect the IP they generate, but that they are damn good at monetizing the IP they generate.

These European execs’ notion is indicative of a huge conceptual difference between Western CEOs and Indian CEOs in how they define and drive innovation, and how they measure its success. For Western CEOs, IP might as well stand for “intellectual pride.” Many American and European CEOs proudly report to their shareholders that their firm was very innovative the previous fiscal year because it filed scores of new patents.

But Indian CEOs interpret IP as “intellectual profit." Patents, for them, are just an indicator of how inventive a company is, not how innovative it is. What makes Indian firms proud is not the number of patents but rather their unique ability to rapidly transform their patented inventions into profit-making assets in the marketplace, in the form of new products, services, or processes.

Take Tata Motors: its 40 patents will be useless if Tata's factories can’t transform the Nano’s design specs into 250,000 real-life cars launched on-time and under-budget. That’s why, as CIO Manish Gupta points out, Tata Motors’ innovation metrics not only include number of patents, but also “time-to-volume" and "time-to-value” for new inventions.