Thursday, March 5, 2009

Print Delivery is Like Food Delivery

A great thread is spinning along at Print CEO blog. The starting point is a post by Andy Tribute called, Does the Print Industry Exist?

This morning I said



When you say “.. it’s such a commodity that it’s been incorporated into other companies internally, just like IT,…”

Here’s how I think about it. Print is a commodity business. The better the tech, the more automated, the more commoditzied. All the talk about fighting being a commodity never made any sense to me. It was a loser from day one.

But, commodity, if you have lean manufacturing and a maniacal focus on your market is a great business.

Computers and chips are commodities. Electricity is a commodity. Water and sewer are commodities.
Walmart and Staples sell commodities. When run correctly a Printer as commodity has a nice rules based, standard process business that hums quietly along whether the economy goes up or down.

Re the food business, I agree that trying to fit the complexity of real life into a simple category is a fool’s errand. Perfect job for Wall Street.

But here’s how I think it’s like the food business,

there is MacDonalds and Dunkin Donuts - multi location commodity companies - (Alphagraphics? Staples? Sir Speedy?) -

there are niche higher priced restaurants (Mohawk Paper? + Sandy Alexander?),

There are mom and pop run successful, but very hard working local restaurants (Highlighter Press? and the surviving independent printers?).

Then there are the caterers for enterprises (in house plants) and the school lunch providers (Managed Print Services?

And of course, my favorite food type :-), “take out” VistaPrint and MFP’s in home and work group situations.

It seems that the big boys - the vendors - are starting to see that they are the enabling infrastructure for a diverse, expanding “food-type” business. HP + MarketSplash + Staples and Tesco + Indigos at Conslidated.

VistaPrint with 17,000,000 customers for take out.

Alphagraphics in NJ installing ink jet newspaper press for deliver and Print of UK newspapers. And Alphagraphics on the west coast with a sophisticated commercial print piece.


  1. Please don't use Vistaprint or recommend it to your readers.

    Using Vistaprint could very likely lead to you being signed up to FAKE discount clubs and hundreds of dollars benig taken from you Visa/bank without your knowledge or permission.

    I have a huge blog post with all the details of all of the different scamming sites Vistaprint and Adaptive Affinity run and how best to get a refund.

    If you don't believe me check this blog and the scores of comments form people who have been ripped off!

    Or try Googling "Vistaprint scam"

    You can also sign this petition!

  2. Thank you for the info.

    I was not recommending them, just using them as an example of what's out there in the world of ground>cloud>print.

    Your comments are great for our visitors. I haven't yet checked them out, by I'll take you at your word . . . for now.

    But, it does mean Vista might be very vulnerable to some one who offers a similar service with a similar incentives, but delivers on the promise.

    In the food metaphor, it's a large successful operation that could give you food poisoning. I think I remember this problem hit one of the big chains - Taco Bell? Burger King? - I really don't remember.

    If it is as you say, and they can fix it, they might get through. If they don't fix it. Sooner or later a competitor - Staples + HP ? - will fix it.