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Printing Companies Should Become Development Companies


The phrase “A product is what a product does”, was first introduced to me in my 3rd year of university. My then lecturers claim was that most businesses don’t understand what their product actually is and this mistake ends up killing a lot of once successful companies.

The example given was of the now almost dead, Blockbuster video. “What is Blockbusters product?”, he would ask. We would eagerly answer, “DVD’s and video!” Of course we were wrong. The product Blockbuster was in fact selling was the thing DVD’s and videos did which was provide in-home entertainment to people.

Blockbuster sold in-home entertainment, not DVD’s. A product is what a product does.

I recently caught up with someone who works for a large Australian printing company. The person complained that business was slow and drying up. Immediately I wondered what a printers product is if it isn’t paper and ink. So I asked the question, what do printers products do?

Well, printers do a few key things:

  • Manage the often complex and messy process of taking artwork specified by designers and producing high quality final outcomes
  • Manage shipping and logistics
  • Provide specific expertise in production methods

It became quickly apparent that none of these points were specific to the printing industry and that there was another industry doing almost exactly the same thing in a different medium already. Digital development companies.

Think about any digital development company that builds websites. The overall process of working with one from a designers point of view is not that dissimilar to dealing with a printer: you come up with a design > send it to them with some instructions > they deal with the messy stuff > you pay them and you get the finished product to hand to your client.

Essentially development companies, ‘print’ websites and apps. They are modern day printers.

I think there is a good argument to be made for established print companies like Finsbury and Bambra Press (Australia) to consider making a move towards offering digital development/production services to ensure their business remains relvant.


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