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he moment is vividly etched into my
brain. I am sitting in a large conference room in Cupertino, CA, having
a pointed discussion with some very
smart executives of a large and respected paper company.
I am excitedly talking about the dynamics at play; technology, the Internet, the digital
transformation. I continue to chatter on about
our need to work together and the need to
innovate, but I am clearly not connecting. Instead
I am being lectured on the realities of the paper
industrythe realities of being a commodity.
Oh, how I hate that word, commodity. It Is like
someone saying to me, “You are nothing more than
average and you can never amount to anything
more. Ifyou work really hard, the most you can ever
aspire to is perhaps a bit better than average; but
even that won’t last.” Ugh, just kill me now.
I sit back for a second, reflecting and taking
in the entire scene. I look out the window and I
see building after building of some of the most
powerful and profitable companies in the world.
1 am sitting in the heart of Silicon Valleythe
Las Vegas of the business world, where big bets
are de rigueur and innovation is the mantra. As I
scan the conference table, 1 am absolutely struck
by the fact that each executive is either drinking
bottled water or a cup of Starbucks coffee, and we
are talking about the inevitability of commoditization. What’s wrong with this picture?
I remember a day when water was FREE and coffee was, too, or darn close to it. I’d say that’s about as
close as you can get to a commodity. That certainly
isn’t the case anymore, which is why I proudly and
boldly state that bei ng a commodity is synonymous
with bad R&D and bad marketing. Accepting commoditization is accepting mediocrityand there is
NO place in the business worid for that!
OPPORTUNITIESTHEY’RE OUT THERE
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about how we are
going to shake things up in the world of paper and
printing. There is an old saying, “Where there is
chaos there is opportunity,” which means there
must be lots of opportunity right now. The Internet is moving into its second generation, and
there has never been a more profound dynamic
Paper360° December 2007
R&D and had
Vice President &
in the history of the world, period. No country,
culture, community or company will be left untouched. There will be big winners and big losers.
Ifyou and your company want to survive-let
alone thriveyou will need to embrace this new
order, and you will need to innovate.
Let’s look at the numbers. Today there are approximately 49 trillion pages printed each year, 9%
of which can be considered full-fledged digital. It is
estimated that in 2010, total pages will be 33 trillion
and that 10% will be digital. The good news is that
the number of pages will increase, which I believe
is true because large portions of the world are industrializing at unprecedented rates. But come on,
digital pages only going up one percentage point? I
don’t think so. When was the last time you bought
a vinyl record or a VHS tape? How is that trusty
old typewriter of yours working? Why is it, again, I
need a land-line phone?
lust as digital printing has totally transformed
the home, the office and photography, it will
transform commercial and industrial printing
and publishing. Off-set printing and other analog approaches won’t go away completely in the
next decade, but they will be under increasing
attack and will find themselves more and more
relegated to very high-volume jobs that require
minimal to no personalization.
To drive this point home even further, let’s
examine three examples: books, marketing collateral and newspapers.
GO DIGITAL, GET PERSONAL
First of all, let me dispel one myth. The printed
document is not going to go away in our lifetime.
People tell me all the time that kids don’t print.
The heck they don’t. They print way more than
you or I did when we were kids. Besides that, be
careful about projecting what your kids do today
versus what they will do in the future. Otherwise
you might falsely predict the immediate demise
of the towel rack, coat hanger and vacuum cleaner
industries. But back to our proof points.
Marketing collateral is also known by the notso-positive name of “junk mail.” Why? Because
much of it goes directly from the mailbox to the
garbage can. And why is that? Because much of
what is, or used to be sent to us, was of no interest or of no value to us^junk. But as Bob Dylan
said, “The times they are a changing.”
Personalization of information is a fascinating new dynamic in our industry. The old carpet bombing techniques of shipping stuff out to
everyone with the hope that someone might be
interested are being pushed aside by much more
powerful techniques that bring you and I information that is pertinent to our lifestyles, our
tastes and our needs. Dang it, lam an individual,
treat me like one. Digital technology is now making that happen, and Madison Avenue could not
be more thrilled because it is scrambling to find
more effective ways to “grab our eyeballs.”
Consider books. Did you have any trouble
finding the last Harry Potter book? Of course
notit was everywhere. Those are not the books
I am talking about. 1 am talking about the other
98% of the books that are considered “long tail,”
the ones that lend themselves to production
volumes of five to 300, not five million. What
percent of all written matter do you think you
might fmd at your local Barnes and Noble or on
Amazon.com? While guesses might vary, most
Live! … and in Dallas
Glen Hopkins will be a keynote speaker at TAPPI’s PaperCon ’08 conference,
May 4-7, 2008, in Dallas, where be will speak on “Dealing With Digital Darwinism.”
Tbe business world is evolving at an unprecedented rateand only the fittest and
most adaptable companies will survive. Drawing from his experience as a leader with a
print technology innovator, Hopkins will discuss the lightning-fast rate in which the world
is “flattening,” the relentless move to digital, the enormous growth of the emerging
market, and how all these things will create tremendous riskand tremendous opportunitiesfor those willing to change. His observations will specifically address the paper
and printing arena.
PaperCon ’08 combines, for the first time, three conferences (PIMA International
Leadership, TAPPI Papermakers and TAPPI Coating & Graphic Arts) into one comprehensive event. To learn more, visit www.tappi.org.
would probably be fractions of a percentage point. Digital changes all of that.
We all know that newspapers are in
trouble. Do you think that they might
eventually go away? I don’t. Do you
think that someday they might be free?
I do. Why is it that ads in newspapers
and magazines don’t bother us at all
yet ads on the Internet drive us nuts? It
is all about the way our eyes and minds
work, and that is not going to change.
But some other things need to.
Publishers need to put the “news”
back into newspapers, and digital
changes that. I’d like a newspaper that
has stories of interest to me. It should
cover my favorite sports teams, have
my favorite comic strips, and give me
news on my old hometown, my current hometown, and the new town
I am considering moving to. And, of
course, ail the ads will be pertinent to
me and my family. And just as I don’t
want my neighbors reading my mail, I
don’t want them reading my newspaper. Digital enables all of this.
Now let’s talk about the value chain
in this brave new world. Electrons (the
bits) are very small, very fast and have
an unlimited amount of energy. As a
result, it can be very efficient and quite
inexpensive to ship these little guys
half way around the world and back
again. When these bits eventually get
converted to atoms, we can talk about
collapsing the value chain even further. We now find new ways of removing waste from the system, such as setup costs, people, planes, ships, trains
and trucks. Digital enables all of this,
too, thus creating new areas for value
and new expanded profit pools.
As we look to this final conversion
of bits to atoms, there are some very
powerful digital printing technologies
thatareemerging. There is dry and liquid electrophotography, as well as various embodiments of inkjet. All of them
will struggle, to various extents, with
the current open and closed media
available to them; makes sense because
these media were designed and opti-
mized for other applications, other
business models. But that was then,
this is now and that has to change. The
bottom line is that companies that can
envision and embrace the future will
have a future. We are now in the 21″
century, where digital will reign supreme. Innovation is the key, my
friends. Think ahout that every time
you take a sip of your latte or a swig
from that bottle of water. ^
Glen Hopkins is vice president and general
manager, printing & technology platforms
for Hewlett-Packard Co. Contact him at
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