An INKISH Discussion with Morten Reitoft
In a short space of time, Inkish has become a key source of insight, inspiration and information for the print industry. In this article, we talk to Morten B. Reitoft, Editor/CEO to find out more about Inkish and his views on the industry, new tech and market development.
Let's start by asking about more information on your background?
I started writing and publishing a music magazine for synthesisers in Denmark in the 1980s. When you come from a country in Denmark the language is an issue - when you have to describe words in a written format then the correct language is important! And standard translation can be quite bad. I learned to interpret words in relation to technology and grew a passion for sharing insight this way. I worked on a magazine for 8 years and based on this I got a job for Roland (music) - it was a good investment in my own future and after 3 years as Scandinavian Marketing Manager for Roland, I got a job in a printing company. I was basically employed as a salesperson then after 2 weeks, I was promoted to be the manager of 21 person company. Personally, for me, this was a challenging time but I learned a lot and then went onto Xerox for a year. Throughout this process, I guess I found out I was not easy to work with! I needed to be my own boss. Then, I started a print broker business and this is where my finance came from to start Inkish.
Inkish itself is taking more time and becoming a small but important part of my revenue. The print business is quite consistent and allows me time to run Inkish. We employ 3 people, and it is a good business. I don’t think we want to grow much bigger - but we want to achieve our goals to promote the print market by profiling excellence in printing.
How would you describe yourselves?
We see ourselves as storytellers who happen to have a media channel. We don’t have advertisers. We like to share deep insight and get to the real stories. The storytellers perspective is to eliminate the need for advertisers who anticipate an ROI rather than focusing on the good story in itself. We like quality information and insight from an independent perspective and if it has a commercial value it’s really not our business, but the sponsor, the viewer, other media, or whoever care about that.
What is the vision for Inkish?
The vision for INKISH is to support and inspire people involved within the printing industry regardless of what part of the value chain people are working or what kind of print-related products produced. The vision is to support growth, innovation, and featuring beacons supporting the same vision really.
What new elements are you developing for Inkish?
We have just launched Inkish.one, in the past couple of weeks. All our services are productized. We look for partners for running Inkish locally - and we already have interest from USA, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium and France. We are looking for partners to help us make local stories as well as selling our products- and services, and share our message and mission!
All this started from the fact that I travelled so much, 100 days last year but we are still not global. This will come when we become part of the local print community making films and share these to the entire world, and this is new and exciting. Sharing insight and content has tremendous value for everyone.
Basically, the way we do it as we have a lot of ideas, products and services. For example, 3 years ago we introduced the largest paperDb.io - it is a API and service with more than 39,000 different paper types and it helps people source the right paper.
In August, we launch INKISH.NEWS, which is a self-service for stakeholders in the printing industry. Vendors, PR-people, and others can add their own news to the portal and it looks great. Most trade magazines are based on press releases and they are frankly speaking quite boring. The Press Releases were originally intended to be a teaser for editors but today they are published more or less unedited and we have made this far more innovative and interesting. The people are influencing this development. Everything starts with an idea as Richard Askam says. (One of our content providers on INKISH.TV)
Being secretive isn’t helpful anymore - we need to share information to get information back in order to know where we go next.
I’ll give you a great example. We have published a film from a company called ‘Command Digital’ in New Jersey. They are a big book printing company and were contacted by a small publisher 15 years ago. This publisher probably didn’t have much money at the time. Regardless of this, they wanted to support them, as they liked the book. This turned out to be a very good decision, as that book happened to be the first Harry Potter book! They shared all the ways they have gone through to get to that point and now it is a 500 people company and they are willing to share their insights and this is really important for the future of the market.
In your view what is the Biggest Challenge in the Industry?
Printing companies are mostly production companies. They are not marketing companies. They know how to put ink on paper, but I can’t see them adopting new tech to get a broader part of the value chain. They are mostly used to someone coming to them, and this is the key problem. The Industry continue to be more interested in technology rather than educating a future market.
So is web-to-print a good example of where printing should grow in the future?
No, not in my opinion. Sure, they’re convenient and I’ve used Vistaprint etc. Online printers offer convenience but also focuses mainly on low prices. Personally, I don’t think there is a need for low prices - they will still sell if the price is 10% higher? Why is the price so cheap that you nobody can make much of a profit?! This doesn’t make a lot of sense. Of course, Online Printers are here to stay, but my point is that not all printers can be commodity printers selling only on price. Therefore media and the industry ALSO have to focus on the majority of printers who have different needs!
I think that the future is to ‘value add’. Some customers need help to find the right paper, the right printing technology and even with the design - and maybe more important what turn prospects into customers. This is what smaller clients need from print, for those who haven’t an agency involved. Online printers will be factories and people will buy their print from somewhere else where they get the design expertise and marketing too because if you add in the extra value in design and marketing this helps greatly.
If you look at the likes of Vistaprint, Saxoprint, these guys are great but the value is functional, transactional. This is as it offers the cheapest in the market. Once you have made your order, so what? Where is the value, the connection? The experience?
If you are a small business owner you need help in pulling together a look that is professional. This commoditised approach has some value but doesn’t offer an entire solution. The big trends are for automation to bring the cost of print down. If you remove the core value, then the industry becomes weaker. Sometimes, the market and the way you operate is simply killing us as an industry slowly...
Have you begun to realise promoting your own profile is a good thing to do for the business?
Personally, I like to promote Inkish. I am not trying to sell myself that much but really Inkish and the content value of the website. This is a part of something that will eventually be great.
We are now venturing into publishing ourselves. It starts around a book. It will always be a square book, and always 48pp. It is easy to read and consume, that’s the format we want. The author then uses the book content to give speeches at local events. And then we will make a film to support the speakers and the way to do things. We want to help the industry to get ahead whether it is web to print, workflow. printed products all or some of them. This is one method to amplify the messages we want to project this energy into the market.
Who has authored the first book?
I can’t reveal in details, but it’s most likely some of the great people already involved on INKISH.TV like Richard Askam, Matthew Parker (The Print Champion), and myself. We want to sell the books to the print federations and associations so that they give them away to their members. We have an English version, and then we will licence them in each country. For example, the Norwegian Print Association should get the book out into the Norwegian market to initiate the conversation about important subjects like Sales, Technology, Prices, etc.
People are impressed by a book. This is down to the power of print, and I want to prove that print media has value and if we don’t take our own medicine and be creative with print then we are missing something!
Of course, I want to help our industry to be better so we have to do something. A few weeks ago we were with 2 companies in Germany and they use Scodix and turn their businesses upside down and they made money from it. This is great.
Does the print industry suffer from secrecy?
The people I see are way more open than they used to be. I think in the past the secretiveness was about the type of equipment they had but now it is how they use it and the business model they use. For that reason, they are way more open. When they talk about their successes they are talking more about the results. There are people who do really great things, but the key is are you good at executing ideas?
So, is the current print Business model out of date?
Demand is changing rapidly. Basically, we need new business models and new generations to take over and create something that aligns with today. If you want to hand it over- if you are 60 years old you should oversee the business, but leave it to the young ones.
If you look at businesses across the world they are predominantly all family businesses. When you go to India there are still 250,000 printing companies - you have strict family patterns in India you hand it down and though they experience growth now, they will eventually face the same challenges we do and they will be operating on the same terms as their fathers as it is a patriarchal model. The tech and so on are changing so you cannot do the same thing you have always done.
My opinion is that online print is just a platform - it is not important in itself - what’s important is that you need to be where your customers are.
But there is no single path for success. We made a film some years ago and it’s still relevant. Over a 7 year period a Swedish association surveyed 2,000 companies across the print industry to see who is creating value.
The results showed how publishers are out of scale, how commercial printers are competitive but not adding value. Print brokers are best to be competitive and at the same time create value and the same goes for Large-Format printers, however this market has also started to be commoditized and therefor less valuable than just a few years ago.
We bring smart tech to the market yet every time we have an opportunity to bank on it we give it away by behaving in the same way and focusing in the lowest value, doing it cheaper.
It seems the industry doesn’t want to make money!
What New Markets do you see as possible for print to play a growing role in?
I met Frank Romano at Print Show in Chicago last year and we talked about decor, textile and everything that is now possible to print. Frank refers to this as ‘New Print'.
Ron Gilboa from Keypoint Intelligence argue that textile printing has existed for hundreds of years. But when you talk of the digital revolution, it is important to note that we are moving print away from the traditional channels to new ones. People think it is interesting to move into packaging, textile, and 3D. But I’m not so sure! Because you can print a sheet of paper doesn’t mean that you can print a 3D model. The skills required are simply not comparable.
The question is, let’s say you have an HP machine B1/B2 and you want to go into packaging. One of the things that are certain for packaging is that you need new skills as the regulations are more complex than commercial print. Imagine the compliance issues for pharma and food! 2D designers are also not necessarily capable of 3D design. You need new skills. People want packaging and labels because they see it is a model that is appealing so they need to have a channel.
20 years ago I worked with Xerox at the time personalisation and versioning was the key for digital print. They are still saying the same but the issue is that most printers have not done anything in that direction. It is mostly a substitute for a conventional printing machine!
What is the key value of digital in your view?
Of course, digital printing is great for personalization etc., but look i.e. at the Share a Coke campaign. We as an industry hail this, but I don’t even think this is digitally printed - since it wouldn’t make sense. The cans or the bottles are printed in huge batches of “names” and then mixed up - you don’t make one “Marcus”, one “Morten”, etc. you make hundreds of each.
We also meet a lot of people who are in the packaging industry. They take a different approach. For example, laser dye cutting for packaging - what about digital print? No, as they see 250 boxes faster and more profitable for printing offset compared with digital. There is a breaking point for digital print to offset, but there is a role for digital finishing and maybe less for digital printing unless you want to versionalize or personalize. This is not because I am against digital print, I just think we need to be realistic of what gives true value for the buyers!
To what extent do print tech sometimes creates the wrong product?
Good question. HP make things that get faster and faster. They develop technologies for different segments and will develop a lot of different technologies. To some extent, people make tech because they need to as opposed to it being needed.
I made INKISH because I wanted to be able to find answers so if I have this problem the others do too. Some of these companies start because they are asked by customers to do it, and to some extent, I don’t think market research is done properly - you get somewhere with it and then I think people launch like software companies “we can make what you want”.
What tech do you see as being interesting?
Landa is obviously interesting but it is taking a really long time!
The interesting thing is if Landa will not be broadly shipped this year it will be Drupa x 3 without it. Their slogan was ‘who dares to invest in inkjet when nano is around the corner”? This statement is very bold when you look at what happened after Drupa, their competitors released capable inkjet machines which are on par with the nanomachines in terms of performance - or at least that what are to believe until we can put hands on the Landa machines. The big presentation of Landa kick-started others into producing inkjet tech very quickly! So by the time Landa comes, it might be too late or at least require an adaption to where the market has developed since the first presentation. If toner and inkjet solves the problem, why take the risk on new techology?
The answer we will see at Drupa and the months after. At Drupa 2020 they have to showcase something faster, cheaper and so on and be able to deliver it right away. They cannot do the same show once again for sure!
So finally, has print a positive future in your view?
Oh yes. Not only because New Print is a future for many. Not only because online printers are able to deliver to even individuals and therefore extent the market but mostly because with technology there is always are contra-reaction. Look at streaming - now bands are releasing Vinyl. Books are already having a renaissance. Magazine I am more worried about since it requires a distribution that isn’t good these years. Packaging, Labels are obviously winners. But the major reason why I believe in print is simply because GDPR, SPAM, etc. are so noisy and disturbing that print may be seen as an oasis in the dessert. I love print and I even love just to be surprised by designers and printers who actually care about their craft. So YES!