Financial, commercial printers continue struggle to survive

We love a good prediction as much as the rest of the world here at hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley, but when it comes to financial and commercial printers, there can be no doubt that at this point, basic survival is actually considered a win for both industries.

No prediction about this is necessary, however, as the facts have never been more clear.

For commercial printers, the newspapers, periodicals and books on paper they produce are no longer the most popular means of accessing information in the world today. The days when display advertising could pay for good-sized daily newspapers have come and gone faster than a person using a manual typewriter to bang out a mimeograph newsletter.

The writing is on the wall, err, tablet, for commercial printers.

Do I personally prefer reading newspapers and actual books? Sure I do, but the lack of immediacy in terms of when news actually happens and is reported, along with ad revenues being desperately in decline in favor of social media advertising, has ever hastened the death knoll for pulp and journalists.

Now consumers simply must decide between a full-sized tablet like the iPad or smaller screen devices like the iPad mini.

I will venture to say Apple does not make much on iPad minis as they do on even, let’s say, full-sized iPads—and the full-size iPads, while the pioneers in tablets, are giving way in terms of popularity to their little sibling–the mini.

We are an increasingly mobile society and we want our devices to reflect this lifestyle. The iPad mini fits into our even smaller bags and purses than the iPad does, and the screen real estate is found largely adequate by those purchasing them in droves this holiday season.

As I like as big a screen possible (forget my iPhone screen, even texting can be a chore for me) when viewing my news stories or feature articles, let alone streaming media like YouTube— the mini, while cute and more portable, loses out to its bigger screen family member, at least for me.

You need look no further than when you take an airplane flight somewhere. Newspapers and magazines are the severe minority—tablets, smartphones and small laptops rule the day there and everywhere else.

Financial printers, like their commercial counterparts, were slow in adapting to advances in technology. While financial printers worked in conjunction with commercial printers during their heyday of producing books in the hundreds of thousands, the electronic age, EDGAR (search hittingthesweetspot by Bob Skelley archives for “EDGAR”) and most recently the dreaded self-filer, are causing this old industry to be a third of the way into its death spiral.

As stated here many times, advancing technology and not people-driven efficiencies (read reductions in force, consolidation, and redundancy management) drive the overwhelming majority of today’s financial printing changes.

Next year’s annual report and notice and proxy season will likely be the last one of significant revenue streams for financial printers (10-Ks and Proxies have typically made up for lackluster year-round, quarterly compliance 10-Q reporting revenues in recent years with the move towards EDGAR and self-provisioning software by publicly-owned companies).

The quarterly reporting public companies must perform with the SEC is largely moving towards an inhouse process. Companies want control over these filings, want to own this function and do not want to risk mistakes that can come when third parties like financial printers are doing their SEC filings.

I generously stated that the move towards the self-filing company is a third of the way achieved. It is probably more than that, though. Financial printers must offer self-provisioning software if they want to remain in the financial reporting business at all.

As the move towards self-filing continues for public companies and people continue to use their tablets to do the majority of their reading on, sadly, these once former colossal industries that were commercial and financial printing can now be lumped together as dinosaurs that will at best spin off into the figurative, electronic recycling bin of technology.

The patients are on life support, the plug will be pulled shortly and although they may not go gently into the night—holding on like fingernails digging into skin, into the night they will eventually go—and along with them, a part of our storied, industrial past.


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