April 8, 2012

Understanding the Changing Print Market

As in each of the blog entries I have done over the last few weeks, I need to qualify my work by pointing out the complexity of the print market and that I am defining and describing the market with generalizations that could easily be argued.  I am also doing this for the first time with relevant diagrams that are not meant to accurately reflect market sizes but instead meant much more as a tool of general perspective.

The first diagram represents the Vistaprint share of the market.  I would argue that Vistaprint created the "Consumer, Super Small, MLM Business" print market.  There were products being sold to this market prior to the 'Vista era', but those products are specialized and are still being handled by specialized 'high-service' companies and the trade suppliers that supply those local 'high-service' companies (ie: wedding invitations).  Vistaprint, I would argue is not in the printing business, but in the data collection and marketing business.  The real issue with Vistaprint is their presence and the perception they have created in the marketplace.  It is also without argument that their market share continues to grow faster than the market.  I would go as far as saying, they have played the Internet game as well as anyone.

The second diagram represents the local 'high-service' market.  Suppliers in this market include the traditional local independent printer/quick printer, the franchise quick printer and entering this market recently (last 15 years) are the office products super stores (Staples, Office Max, Office Depot) whom I will generically refer to them as McPrint.  I group these all together as they satisfy the exact same markets and their trade print suppliers are the same as well.  The local independent printer and franchise printer, whom I consider the 'high-end' of this market are obviously squeezed in the market by the "online mega-print website"(Vistaprint), the McPrints and now, add to that, the postal service stores most recently.

Finally, the last supplier of print, as depicted in this diagram, is that to Big Business and that Large Commercial Printer and Agency Supplier.  These are the least threatened by the Internet supplier, but are much more threatened by the Internet itself (ie: Britannica ending print versions this year, thinner magazines, etc.).  Where this does come into play in the local market is that many of these printers are the trade printers that supply products and services to the local printer.  Obviously a complex, complicated and convoluted business market - and I am only scratching the surface.  Add technological improvements, economies of scale and an abundance of used 'old-technology' equipment on the market and the business is beyond understanding and really 100s if not 1000s of different businesses.

So what will LightsOn Graphics business game be?  Making the 'local', whomever that may be, much more efficient and creating an advantage over the threat from Vistaprint.  Several big companies have Vista kill projects - We have the answer that makes this possible - which will save this local service market and ultimately keep quality up and prices in check for the consumer - stay tuned.


  1. These diagrams are right on. I always can tell if a customer used vista because of the size and quality of the cards!

  2. Methinks thou dost protest too much... just because you don't offer a DIY tool like vista, you don't need to belittle their printing with "not in the printing business, but in the data collection and marketing business". For someone not in printing business, they sure do a lot of printing. It's like saying that RRD are not in book printing business, but in money making business.
    Looking at your site, with a few statements like 16pt cards, precise manufacturing locations in specific geography, you are good print broker/reseller, pumping the "'high-service' companies and the trade suppliers ". I hope your trade provider and their Vistaprint like website treat you well so you can keep on providing us with this good search engine and link bait.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Comments are greatly appreciated. I will address each of your comments and concerns individually.

      “just because you don't offer a DIY tool”. Actually, we have and still do on several of our other web sites. We found that the business customer does not want to use that tool for one reason or another. It could be the time issue involved in creating the card; it could be the difficulty in duplicating the card for a second employee. The tool is perfect for the home business customer who cannot afford professional design and is “one” employee. I think I was very clear in this blog entry about this; I compliment and praise Vistaprint for creating and maintaining the B2C market. I don’t think there is any question that Vistaprint is in the “data collection and marketing business”; they do it well and I compliment them for that.

      “It's like saying that RRD are not in book printing business, but in money making business”. Business is about making money and regretfully RRD (R&R Donnelley for those not in the biz) is going through tough times with closing plants and many layoffs. They are trying, with some moderate success, to morph themselves into a company with a future. I would not want to be in the book printing or more specifically, the telephone book printing business today. Saving RRD is outside my business scope at the current time.

      Thank you for looking at the site and am glad you understand the benefit of trade suppliers. The business has worked this was for 100+ years with regionalized specialization (ie: trade binderies, trade typesetters, etc, etc, etc).

      It is very difficult to attack the Goliath of any market; it takes both time and pockets of which the local “High-Service” companies, which I do “pump”, don’t have much of either.

      The blog acts as a white paper for my business plan and looks for ‘in-the-trade’ feedback. I do not understand your comment “keep on providing us with this good search engine and link bait” totally, but thank you. Within a good business plan, you should always identify the market, the current players and the opportunity; I think I am on my way to doing that. Because I have a printing, Internet marketing, systems and venture background; I think I am the ideal person to make this happen.

      Again, thank you for your comments and feedback.