The deal for QuadGraphics to acquire LSC Communications is the strongest sign yet that fundamental changes are underway in print. The failure of Polestar in the UK that has allowed Wyndeham to acquire a dominant position was no surprise; the consolidation in mainland Europe is equally explainable as print easily crosses borders and size matters.
This though is a stronger sign of market shrinkage that anything in Europe. The collapse of major retailers such as Toys R Us and the decision to shutter the Sears catalogue both hit long run work and are set against the growth of Amazon. Vanishing newsstand sales and diminishing magazine subscriptions add to the potent mix that meant a debt funded business like LSC would find it hard to reinvest. And with the announcement last week, the inevitable has occurred.
But this is not a harbinger that the end for the printing industry is in sight. Far from it. It indicates perhaps that high volume, one size fits all print is disappearing, and Quad's promotion of its marketing services strategy suggests that Quad knows this. Instead print can flourish where it can offer custom, personalised or versioned print and has no time delays in production. Print that is enhanced through striking colours, foils, varnishes and other embellishments; print that lasts beyond a one time reading has a power that will mean that this type of print rather than print for print's sake, endures. So too will the printers that can deliver the sorts of product that gives print its power.