Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yet More From 1999: The Future of the Printing Industry

Another eerily prophetic item from that 1999 faux news column in Micro Publishing News:

Printing Industry Now One Company 
Arnold Ductman
In a development that many analysts feel will simplify the print buying process, all the printers in the country have been acquired and have merged into a single entity. Called ConglomoPrint, the new entity is based in Kansas at the geographic center of the United States and controls the operation of every print shop and plant in the nation. 
“We’re extremely excited about engulfing and devouring our every competitor,” says CEO Chester Q. Carnivore. “We will immediately begin eliminating those firms and people who are not cost effective. And if anyone reading this plans to open a print shop, prepare to be crushed like the weak little insects you are! Ha ha ha ha ha!” 
“We’re excited to be a part of ConglomoPrint, and we’re optimistic that this will help our division thrive,” says Arnold Ductman, former owner of It’s Printing!, a Ballston Spa, NY-based print shop whose firm was absorbed by ConglomoPrint following an armed assault by ConglomoPrint troops. 
Chester Q. Carnivore (artist's rendering)
It’s Printing! was the last holdout against the forces of ConglomoPrint. All of It’s Printing!’s staff will remain, with the exception of the vice president of marketing, who was killed during the takeover. 
“I’m the god! I’m the god!” adds Carnivore. (1998) 

More 1999 Flashbacks: Predictions

Back in the 90s—and even today—you can't go to any kind of industry or technology event without finding people making predictions, which are usually wrong. Even amidst the tech bubble there were always pockets of analysts (usually in the printing industry) who insisted that the whole "Internet" thing was a fad that was just going to go away (some people in the printing industry still say that!). So in that 1999 faux news column in Micro Publishing News, I had to include a panel of expert predictions, written from the perspective of 1996:
Panel of Experts Predicts Death of Web by 1998 
A panel of leading industry experts convened in San Francisco in January to discuss the future of computing. The leading experts in both the print and computer graphics industries unanimously agreed that the World Wide Web, which has seen tremendous growth in the past six months, will be dead by 1998.
“We really don’t see this continuing,” said Cassandra Doomsayer. “Who in their right mind is going to want to sit at a computer for hours on end waiting for graphics and text to load?” 
“I give it two years,” concurred Nestor C. Calhoun. “By ’98, the Internet will be but a footnote to the history of technology.” 
The panel also agreed that proposals to begin what has been referred to as “E-commerce” will fail dismally. 
“Oh, come on,” said Doomsayer. “Buy stuff online? Give me a break. These people are idiots.” 
The panel also recommended against investment in Internet startups. “Anyone buying stock in an Internet company will never see a profit,” said Calhoun. “They’re just going to lose a ton of money.” (1996)
That last paragraph, though, was eerily prophetic...

The "Illegies"

Maybe it's because there is an impending Micro Publishing News reunion in CA in August, but I am curiously nostalgic for the late 1990s (for a wide variety of reasons...), and I never succumb to nostalgia. Anyway, that September 1999 MPN column (see previous post) also featured a faux news story inspired by actual AIGA calendars we would get in the office. David G. and I often would talk of starting an actual award called the Illegies:
Design Firm Wins Award for Unreadable Events Calendar
San Francisco-based cAribA +/& Associates, a design firm specializing in advertising collateral and branding, recently won the award for Most Overdesigned and Unreadable at the Illegies, a Bay Area competition for illegible and unreadable design. 
The winning piece was the 1997 events calendar, created by cAribA +/& Associates for the San Francisco Symphony. 
“What made this events calendar stand out is that it is designed in such a way that it’s not only completely impossible to determine what is taking place on any given night, but it also isn’t clear without intense study that it even is an events calendar,” said judge Dennis Amoeba. 
“cAribA +/& Associates is proud to be so thoroughly incomprehensible,” says firm principal Usndeir Skhtysweyy. 
cAribA +/& Associates is a full-service design firm whose clients include…well, we’re not really sure. (1997)


Yesterday, I ventured down to NYC for the annual OnDemand Show, which used to be a showcase for the latest in digital printing and its associated technologies and paraphernalia. In recent years, a glut of shows and a declining printing industry, has shrunk the once-mighty OnDemand--and yesterday it was easy to walk the floor in less than an hour. In fact, it seems to have morphed into one of its co-located shows, Info360, with a focus on document imaging, document management, and cloud storage.

The heart-pounding excitement of document imaging always reminds me of a faux news story I wrote for Micro Publishing News a very long time ago. In September 1999, MPN was celebrating its 10-year-anniversary, and at the time I wrote--among many many other things--a monthly humor column. So for that issue, I did an Onion-like roundup of silly news stories from around the industry, which included:

Tedium Magazine Changes Name, Design
Ames, IA-based Tedium magazine, in an attempt to recover from three financially poor quarters, has decided to rename itself Document Imaging Today. The company will retain its editorial focus on hardware, software, and workflows in the document imaging field. 
“We’re very excited by the new developments,” says publisher Rupert T. Snoreman, speaking in a low, droning monotone. “We felt that the name of our publication was not effective enough at conveying the excitement of the subject matter we cover. And to that end we have also decided to completely redesign the magazine. For example, we will, for the first time in our history, add color. And images.” 
Sandor Queep, the new art director, is excited to be part of the team. “I felt that the page after page of dense, unbroken, imageless text was probably not going to capture the imaginations of readers, or advertisers,” he says. (1994)