Category Archives: Printing and Publishing Industry

Printing Industry and Publishing

We Go to the Ends of the Earth to Find New Readers

Here’s a brief promo for Printer’s NW Trader magazine. If you’d rather read musings, please choose one of my other posts. Thanks for humoring me…


Printer’s NW Trader goes where regular salesmen dare not go — remotest snow-covered Alaska, the deserts of Arizona, the mountains of Colorado, the rainforests of Washington, and small towns everywhere in our growing 14-state coverage area.

Many readers are small in-plants, garage shops, broker-printers, and mom-and-pop outfits who aren’t on the radar of the big equipment salespeople. Yet they are buying equipment and supplies and using trade partners to fill their needs.

Often the Trader is the one and only way these people stay in touch with our industry.  

Yes, it is expensive for us to mail this way. Postal discounts are given for saturating a zipcode, not finding the one lone printer in a small town in a remote part of the state.

But it’s important to us, and beneficial to you, to find these readers . . .  and to keep them.

Even if our competitors could find these readers, which they can’t, it’s not worth their while to pay extra for postage or to cater to a party of one.


This is the area where we really differentiate ourselves as a magazine for the printing industry. Each of our readers really is a party of one to us, and we know most by name.

We give them referrals, they tell us their challenges, we hear how they are fighting City Hall to put up a sign, they call to run ideas past us on transitioning their business, they ask how the business climate is “out there,” and much more.
When they move or leave their companies to join new ones, they let us know. Where other magazines might let a subscriber fall off the map, we track them down and make sure their Trader finds them wherever they land.


For this reason, our subscriber base has stayed stable in a shrinking market. Our readers consider their copies of the Trader to be indispensible. They keep them on their desks — reading, highlighting, and using them all month long.
Many people at one location might be referring to the Trader: owners looking to see who has installed what, estimators looking for vendor partners in the Trade Directory listings, sales managers looking for leads, and production managers looking for new and used equipment.


Another phenomenon we are seeing is that, due to financial necessity, some of our most loyal readers are taking jobs in other industries. However, they are keeping their subscriptions so they can move back when a job opens up.

In addition, we all know that many job changers are risk takers. By the nature of their personalities, they are influencers and decision makers, whether or not they are owners or managers.

They are the type of readers you want on your side, reading and internalizing your ad messages, and supporting you. Your presence in this challenging time will be remembered by these loyal readers.

To our hundreds of advertisers, thank you for your ongoing support.  Your success is our success! 

P.S. Advertisers! Are you on LinkedIn! I invite you to join my network. Please view my
profile and send me an invitation at


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7 Reasons I Want my Competitors to Thrive

As I wrote about last month, Graphic Art Monthly magazine has ceased publication. Some readers called to congratulate me: “You’ve knocked another one out of business!” I had to laugh at that mental picture. I am sure the Trader is not even on their radar. Plus, their magazine did not close due to financial problems or lack of advertisers. The parent company simply wanted to divest itself of a couple dozen titles (magazines and other products), and those serving the printing industry were among them. It was purely a business decision. Nor did the magazine close for any lack of editorial quality, since it had stellar editors, writers and contributors.

It’s probably hard to believe that I want my competitors to thrive. Here are a few reasons to consider:

1. First, your competitors are out there selling what you do. Talk about maximizing your sales force! They are selling the benefits of your product or service. When you make a call on customers who have heard from the competition, you don’t have to start at square one to educate them. You only have to dazzle them with why you’re a better choice.

2. Second, having lots of competitors keeps your product or service at the top of your prospect’s brain. We all know that repetition and multiple touch points help close the sale. Use competitors’ awareness-building campaigns to your advantage.

3. When your prospect is thinking about buying, no matter who he is thinking about buying from, it is a good thing for you. Getting prospects in the mood to spend money is hard. Let your competitors do some of that work for you!

4. Having someone to sell against keeps us all motivated. How boring would it be to be the only game in town? Competition creates excitement and keeps our edge.

5. Your competitors can be your allies. If you don’t believe me, look at the most successful print companies in our region. Their owners and key employees attend industry events, network with peers, travel to trade shows together, share ideas, and help each other out. Read David Archer’s article in this issue for more on this subject.

6. Having lots of competitors validates your existence. If there are lots of you, you must be a necessary thing, right? Without your competitors’ presence, you’d be spending a lot of time showing why your product or service is even viable. Let others help you do that.

7. Gives you a ranking. We all know it’s important NOT to say bad things about our competitors. However, we can certainly say with humility and generosity that our competitors are “very good” but we’re “better.” There can’t be a better or a best without someone to compare ourselves to!

Which brings me to my next point. Now that we’ve figured out that our competitors can be an advantage in our selling process, now we must figure out how to be the best, or among the best. And that’s a sales strategy as well. Being the best is hard, hard work. Being among the best sometimes is sufficient.

One way to do this is to change who your competitors are. It’s hard to be the best four-color printer in any market. But if you have a niche within four-color, you are going to reduce your number of competitors. You are also going to reduce the number of jobs you will be quoting, so you’ll have to make sure your closing percentage is higher. 

I believe it is easier to have a niche that targets a specific kind of customer rather than a certain kind of product or process. For example, it might be easier to wrap your head around selling to investers of private cardiac clinics than to think about selling forms to hospital chains. You can really visualize yourself walking into a clinic and having a successful meeting, catering to all the various needs of an affluent investor and a busy surgeon. Those happy customers network with their peers, and their referrals are golden. Carrying a bunch of samples into a hospital and tracking down a purchasing agent (who never networks with anyone) — that’s a tough sell! Being the best in that losing situation won’t win the job; only being cheapest and most willing to turn control over to the customer will.

So I am hoping you will entertain a new outlook about your competitors and where you stand in the pack. I am always happy to brainstorm with you on making your business more successful.


Filed under Letterpress Craft and Hobby, Printing and Publishing Industry

Consoliation Hysteria

Much ado about almost nothing

Acquisitions of local companies by large multi-company conglomerates have been the focus of media attention lately.

In the past, companies were acquired without much fanfare. Today, there is quite a bit of hysteria over the activity of “consolidators” — large firms who intentionally go out looking for companies to purchase. Many of these national consolidators are looking to diversify their offerings to print buyers. Rather than just specializing in envelopes, for example, a company would look at acquisitions as a way to reach a larger share of the entire print manufacturing market. Others are looking to diversify geographically to reach more customers, rather than more sectors.

While we hear a lot about the encroachment of the consolidators (after all, they can afford to hire publicists), the acquisition game really constitutes a very small share of the total number of printing businesses being bought and sold.

I’m not saying the movement of the consolidators isn’t significant, however.

Competition is a good thing in our industry, and it is compromised when these behemoth companies are able to negotiate for better deals from suppliers.

Furthermore, they can snag a print buyer who’s buying one type of item and then service him with their subsidiaries when it comes time to bid on other items. On the other hand, massive companies just don’t maneuver as deftly. Sometimes that can work to a smaller company’s advantage.

Either way, I would say the consolidation “trend” is worth watching but not worth worrying about too much.

In any event, I personally know how distressing is when your own company gets acquired. No one talks about how psychologically destructive it is to play the waiting game, wondering if you will be one of the employees chosen to continue on with the new company. Certainly, there are phases of the acquisition that must remain confidential. Still, employees often hear rumors and begin “stressing out” long before the sale is completed. Once the new ownership is in place (often with assurances that all employees will be retained), the not-so-gentle process begins — that of weeding out the people who “just don’t fit” into the new organization.
What do you think? Are the consolidators sending their shadow over the industry as they crest the horizon? Or are they much ado about nothing? I would enjoy getting your feedback.

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A Nickel a Word

“Newer, faster, better, improved.”

The folks who write press releases don’t choose one word to describe their products, they choose them all.

Each year, when we research the products for our Annual All Products Issue, we slog through stacks of press releases written by PR hacks for a nickel a word.

Some marketing professionals are great. They know who they are because I have told them what a relief it is to read their material.

Others, however, believe quantity is better than quality.

Their masterpieces include:

• Superlative-laden, man-on the-moon product descriptions

• Non-specific performance ratings (we love the phrase “up to” a certain number of impressions per hour. That could include one impression. Or none.)

• Protracted (and entirely fictional, in my opinion) quotes from corporate mucky-mucks who drone on about the company and its market position. Zzzzz.

And what’s the deal with product re-releases?

When manufacturers aren’t drawing enough attention with old products, they add a geegaw or doohickey, put a decimal point after the product number (version 5.137435A) and hold a press conference.

Or how about the PR writer’s favorite: the product “launch.”

I envision the Queen Mum, in white gloves and a floppy hat, christening the machine with a bottle of champagne.

What would I like to see in product announcements?

• Truth.

• Crisp, clean communication.

• Interviews with the behind-the-scenes inventors or developers, not the CEO.

• Down-and-dirty quotes from the folks who beta-tested it, not from the marketing department.

• Realistic assessments of how easily it can be incorporated into your workflow, not an engineer’s fantasy of super-compatibility.

What would I settle for?

• Short.

Put it this way, if I were paid a nickel a word for what I read each month, I could share the wealth, and we’d all be happier.

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Pressroom Villains and Heroes

(With apologies to the paper industry)

Zap! Boom! Pow!

When it comes to Ink, Paper is the considered the Arch Villain. It used to be that Ink’s nemesis was Water. These days, Water is simply Paper’s sinister sidekick.

Yet Paper is not inherently bad.

He had a normal upbringing, nice parents, a good education. But he got into trouble when he started hanging out at the printing plant. It got worse when he stopped doing acid. (He heard it would make him more attractive and give him a longer life . . . )

Somewhere between seven and 14, he changed his pH and began a wave of headaches that would plague all aspects of the printing industry, from cutting (and dulling precious blades) to printing (and affecting the formulation of the fountain solution from one end of the run to the other, causing toning, tinting and emulsification — not to mention cussing).

And then there’s the color issue.

When Paper fills out the “optional” portion of his voter’s registration, he checks the box marked “caucasian.” But he’s really 40 shades of white, some bluish, some yellowish, some grayish, some “off.” Ink doesn’t stand a chance of correct matching unless he knows exactly what shade of white Paper is going to be today.

And what about this: Paper has the audacity to have varying opacities!

A lightweight or not-so-dense sheet can make Ink look washed out. With the right tools — calibration, color proofing, densitometers, paper samples — we can overcome this audacity . . . I mean opacity.

And did we tell you about finishing school?

Yes, Paper can be coated, uncoated, or even (nightmare!) coated-one-side. Ink goes crazy, absorbing into the sheet on some jobs and refusing to dry on others — or doing one thing on the front of the sheet and something else on the back. And when Paper is feeling “dull,” his matte coating causes Ink a new set of problems. As Paper absorbs Ink’s solvents, varnishes and waxes, the pigment is left on Paper’s surface — causing smearing or scuffing. Ink gets blamed for the mess!

Should we even bring up the subject of hickeys (and the equally disgusting-sounding word “picking”)? Yes, sometimes it is Ink’s fault (tacky, tacky, tacky). But other times, these problems are caused by Paper dust, Paper surface material or poor pressroom housekeeping.

Luckily, Ink has some tricks to fight back. Your ink manufacturer can guide you on specific inks, formulations or additives that can help with these problems, as well as guidance on the proper measurement of paper opacity and other paper characteristics.

What does Paper have to say about all of this? Stay tuned for the sequel … in the never-ending battle between Ink and Paper.

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Eyeballing the E Scale

Right after I got out of college (with one major in Film Making and one in English), I moved near Los Angeles and took a job at a small printing franchise.

Every day I scanned the classifieds before I headed to work, looking for that elusive never-advertised film director’s job, never dreaming that the printing industry would end up to be more appealing than the bright lights of Hollywood.

Before the print shop owners hired me full-time, they sent me to a class to learn the basics of design, layout, typesetting, daylight camera work, plate burning, and printing on a duplicator.

Flash forward.

My husband and I are cleaning the basement. “Do you still want this?” he asks. Inside a musty box are two volumes and a notebook with dividers: my training manuals for the little print shop.

Needless to say, I wanted to keep them.

As I perused the notebooks, I came across a plastic organizer filled with my old supplies: a pica pole, a proportion wheel, a halftone exposure chart, my set of Exacto knives, non-repro blue pens, typesetter codes and commands, and my trusty E scale.

Seeing the E scale took me back instantly (oh no, now we’re having a flashback within a flashback!) to memories of my neighbor at the time, a bubbly actress who spent a lot of time at auditions and little time on screen. I won’t say she was ditzy, but you get the idea.

One day she picked up my E scale and held it at arms length. “What are you doing?” I asked. She squinted at the scale.

“This eye chart is easy,” she announced. “E . . . e . . . e . . . e . . . ”

I tell that to younger people in the industry, and they don’t see the humor. I guess I should explain that an E scale is a transparent sheet with a whole bunch of letters on it — all being the letter E — ranging from very big to very little. It helps you gauge what size type you need to match. An anachronism now, for sure.

When I look back at everything that little shop did to take a customer’s job from idea to printed piece, there were definitely some steps that we don’t have to worry about today. Camera work has evolved into customer-provided files; typesetting is a breeze these days; fonts issues are (almost) a thing of the past; and options for plateless printing are many.

Yet most of the concepts I learned in that course still serve me.

I still use a proportion wheel and a pica pole. I still use design principals for determining leading, headlines and white space. I still know how to copy fit, so when a writer submits hard copy for a story, I can quickly calculate how much room I need to allocate on the page.

As far as the E scale . . . I haven’t used one in years. But, then, I already know I’m nearsighted.

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Letterpress & Book Art Supply Company opens Sept. 15

Bartleby’s Letterpress Emporium opens Tuesday, Sept. 15 with a grand opening at 1236 SE Oak St. (corner of SE 13th and Oak, one block north of Stark) in Portland, Oregon. Phone is 503/922-2310. Let me know if you’re going — I’d like to visit when other friends will be there.

If you’ve never visited Oblation Papers’ Pearl District Store, you’re in for a treat. On-site letterpress printing and papermaking. Gorgeous cards and wrapping papers. Great gifts. Totally fun place to do your Christmas shopping. Put your favorite publisher on your shopping list!

Mr. Robert Basel – thanks always for your help in promoting Printer’s NW Trader magazine and

Welcome to Chapel Printing, who is advertising their letterpress services and expertise in our upcoming print and online edition.

Let me know your Portland area Letterpress news, classes and events, and I will spread the word!


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Filed under Letterpress Craft and Hobby, Portland Letterpress Fair, Printing and Publishing Industry