Author Archive for Thad McIlroy

HP Unveils Print 2.0 – a New Era for Printing

The title of this blog entry is the title of HP’s press release on the same topic. On May 30th in New York Hewlett-Packard announced “Print 2.0” at the company’s annual Imaging and Printing Conference.
According to the press material: “Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the company’s Imaging and Printing Group, described how HP will seek to capture a significant share of the 53 trillion digital pages estimated to be printed in 2010 alone – an opportunity valued at more than $296 billion.
“Joshi identified three key areas of focus of the Print 2.0 strategy:
● Make it easier to print from websites, such as blogs and travel sites, and bring new printing capabilities to online properties;
● Extend the company’s digital content creation and publishing platforms – for example, Snapfish and Logoworks – across customer segments spanning from consumers to enterprises; and
● Deliver a digital printing platform that increases print speeds and lowers the cost of printing for high-volume commercial markets.”
There might be something a little different in HP’s strategy here. I’m still not sure. There was a ton of video recorded at the event, and it’s easily accessible on HP’s site. I didn’t start with the videos of the executive presentations, but instead with the presentation by John Battelle. Battelle has had a unique (and eventful) relationship to both print and electronic media, making him a uniquely fascinating speaker on where publishing is headed. The third video, of his Q&A session, is particularly revealing of his unique perspective on the evolving relationship of print to electronic media.
After watching Battelle, I’m willing to spend more time here, even listening to the executive presentations. HP may be onto something.

Thomson Learning Sold for Big Bucks!

Well, Thomson Learning has finally been sold (subject to rote “due diligence”) to private equity firms. Everyone figured it would be private equity firms that would make the purchase, partly because these firms are buying just about everything these days except your old underwear, and also because the higher education textbook market is so concentrated that even George Bush’s “I’ve never seen a merger I didn’t like” administration would have had trouble fobbing this one off. Too many children would have been left behind.

The big surprise was the price. A whopping $7.75 billion, over 3 times the annual sales of the division, and apparently roughly 15 times cash flow (see . The same article points out that “by comparison, the average cash flow multiple paid in leveraged buyouts of $500 million or more last year was around eight times cash flow, with media deals typically in the low-double digits, according to buyout industry statistics.” The price is also some 50% more than company officials originally stated they thought they could fob the division off for.

Would we say there’s a little too much cash out there looking for comfy homes? Or would we wonder why this Thomson division, much maligned by management when the sale was first announced, is suddenly as valuable as DaimlerChrysler? (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/15/automobiles/15chrysler-web.html)

I guess we’re stuck with Thomson’s overriding stated view that higher education just wasn’t getting with the program fast enough in an online, electronic sort of way, and so the division had to be jettisoned. (Although Thomson CEO Richard J. Harrington admitted after the sale announcement that the company had no complaints about the educational unit’s financial performance. Textbooks are, by and large, a high-margin product ).

On the other hand, memory serves to remind us that Thomson was previously determined in a fierce way to get the heck out of the news business, and now it’s about to merge with Reuters.

What I’m most cognizant of is that Thomson shares had been languishing in the mid-$30s for years before the announcement of the bold move to get rid of textbooks. Now those shares are in the $40s. A lot of senior Thomson executives have made a whole lot of cash from these recent maneuvers (not to mention the Thomson family). No senior Thomson executive was left behind (as for the the operating staff; it is not polite to ask).
(To glimpse the stock chart:

OK, That’s $176 for the laptop, $3 for Windows and $500 for the Remote Tech Support

John Murrell, in his Good Morning Silicon Valley blog says that the price of the Negroponte laptop (http://www.laptop.org/) has hit $176 (it keeps climbing!), but as he writes, “the bigger news (is) that it may run a version of Windows in addition to the customized Linux OS and open-source apps designed for it.” )
The blog is here:

The Negroponte Laptop

There has been much speculation and lots of quick judgments on the Negroponte laptop project. I’ve found all of the articles and blogs I’ve seen to be so devoid of factual matter, while so packed with unsubstantiated opinion, that I’ve found it impossible to form any kind of judgment of my own on the topic.
Obviously addressing the huge problem of literacy in the third-world is essential to a bright future for publishing. Will this be part of the solution?
Read a truly excellent article here:
http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/apr07/4985
It’s that rara avis — an article full of both technical, social and political insight, and extremely balanced in presenting its ideas and information. Fascinating and provocative.

Gilbane San Francisco

Well, I’d have to say it was a very good conference. Attendance was up, San Francisco was sunny and warm, and I thought the sessions were very good.

I had the advantage/disadvantage of being one of the track chairs of the publishing track, which meant that I had to attend all six publishing sessions. I managed to catch the keynotes as well, which were jam-packed. But I’ll leave it to others to discuss the other tracks and sessions.

We tried to expand the publishing track this spring from a focus solely on automated publishing (we brought that topic down to one session). The subject is important, and very relevant to the rest of the Gilbane conference content, but we had the clear intention of making the publishing track much broader in scope than it had been before.

Steve Paxhia very kindly allowed me to lead off with what was really a dual session. I introduced my new web site: www.thefutureofpublishing.com, but also spoke more broadly on the subject. I’ve got a ton of material that I’m slowly loading onto the Web site, and nine years of research behind it.

We then moved to “Publishing Automation: What Can You Do Today?” and had three great speakers tackle the topic. OK, they were all book publishers, but each had a markedly different approach, and I decided, in the end, that listening to three approaches to a similar problem might be more interesting than three approaches to completely different challenges.

The topic “How Will Internet Communities and Collaboration Technologies Change Publishing Best Practices?” was a tough one, and Steve and his speakers handled it very well. This subject is so slippery. Do you need to create a community on your Web site? What is the ideal extent of collaboration? I was left with the clear sense that community and collaboration are essential to nearly all publishing Web sites.
We then featured two sessions on cross-media publishing strategies. Bill Rosenblatt is the expert. It struck me that there are still a lot of unanswered questions around cross-media publishing, but absolutely no question about the necessity and reality of this phenomenon — not only is it essential, but the tools are there today.

Bill Trippe wasn’t available to moderate “Publishing for International Audiences: Top Challenges and Best Practices” but he had selected two great speakers: Stéphane Dayras, technical services manager for Quark in Europe, and Ben Martin, senior analyst at Flatirons Solutions in Colorado. They were the perfect pairing. Stéphane introduced the topic broadly, and offered a true international perspective. Ben is “the scientist,” and showed extensive details of planning for this tough challenge. Most of the audience stayed behind for an extra half-hour.

Where do we go from here? I’d love to hear from attendees with suggestions. I think we still face a challenge effectively blending this publishing content into the broader Gilbane conference. But I think we’ve given it a home.

Is Adobe Really Going to Mars?

I’m becoming concerned whether Adobe is really serious about Mars. My evidence:

1. The FAQ has not be updated since 27 Oct 2006.

2. At the end of the FAQ it reads:

Q: When will the Mars format be frozen for 1.0?
A: A date for this has not yet been set.
Q: When will the Mars plug-in be available?
A: It is planned to be available before the end of the year.

This all seems very tentative.

As Joe Wilcox observes here:
“Adobe’s competitive response to XPS makes sense. PDF’s heritage predates the populist Web, and Adobe created the format for the purpose of mimicking paper documents. In the 21st century, however, digital documents are often containers that likely will never be printed. Paper’s relevance — and so the need to mimic — has greatly diminished.”
All of this is, on the surface, true (except perhaps the “makes sense” part). Does tossing high-fidelity page-oriented PDF into an XML container really address this issue?

I think even more significant is Adobe’s clearly stated, and obviously honestly intended, design to make PDF an ISO standard. My cynical blog entry is here: . But, as Adobe and others point out, subsets of PDF, very useful subsets I’d say, are already ISO standards, including “Several trade-specific subsets of the PDF spec are either ISO approved or in the approval process, including PDF/X for printers, PDF/E for engineers, PDF/A for archivists and PDF/UA for making documents compliant with Section 508 regulations.” (http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2088277,00.asp).

These aspects of PDF, including, of course, the entire spec, only serve to “encrypt” as standards that which makes PDF uniquely the “Portable Document Format.” PDF as an XPS competitor is not uniquely PDF, in the historic sense of the format, and with the entire PDF spec submitted to ISO, Mars needs to succeed within this process. Do we really think it can?

I think that Adobe is far more interested in Apollo (http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/apollo/). Although this is a very different beast than Mars, I believe Adobe knows that its future lies much moreso with this kind of technology than it does on the not-very-hospitable planet Mars.

Not All Newspapers Are Suffering

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) self-refers as the “Gold Standard in Media Audits” and is the place to go if you want to find out current U.S. newspaper circulation figures. Unfortunately, you have to be a member — they’re not giving this sensitive information away — and so it’s difficult to get up-to-the-minute data. You can find out the “Top 200 Newspapers by Largest Reported Circulation” ), but not what those circulation figures actually are, and how they’re trending.
But the ongoing decline in newspaper circulation in North America is not a well-kept secret, and if the ABC won’t spill the beans, others will.
According to a February article in Media Life Magazine, “in the U.S., the circulation of paid-for papers dropped 4 percent from 2001 to 2005, hitting 53.3 million. It also dropped 2.3 percent in 2005 compared to the year earlier.”
A May 2005 article in The Washington Post reported that “circulation at 814 of the nation’s largest daily newspapers declined 1.9 percent over the six months ended March 31 compared with the same period last year…The decline continued a 20-year trend in the newspaper industry as people increasingly turn to other media such as the Internet and 24-hour cable news networks for information.”
In the midst of this gloom, the February 17th issue of The Economist reported that in India there are some 3000 big newspapers, and they experienced a 12.9% increase in circulation last year. Competition is fierce, and profits substantial.
The article also made reference to a key factor that may explain this bright news: Internet access is available to only 1.2% of Indians over the age of 12.
I remember years ago at a DRUPA trade show in Germany (DRUPA focuses on the printing business) meeting Naresh Khanna, the editor of Indian Printer & Publisher magazine. That year everyone was speculating about the possible impact of the Internet, but Naresh said to me: “Oh, we don’t care very much about the Internet in India. We’re just excited that we’ll soon have color pictures in our newspapers.”

Usurious Association

What is your favorite industry association, the one you find most useful?

AIIM – The Enterprise Content Management Association is pretty good. As its site says, AIIM “has been a neutral and unbiased source for helping individuals and organizations understand the challenges associated with managing documents, content, records, and business processes. AIIM is international in scope, independent, implementation-focused, and, as the representative of the entire ECM industry – including users, suppliers, and the channel – acts as the industry’s intermediary.

“The AIIM community has grown to 70,000 professionals from all industries and government, over 150 countries, and all levels of management, including senior executives, line-of-business, and IT. With every organization in the world handling some type of paper or electronic content, the ECM industry will continue to grow. As the industry grows, AIIM can be counted on to provide market education, peer networking, professional development, and industry advocacy.”

They put on a big trade show, they publish a magazine and lots of resource materials. I think AIIM is alright. And I can join as a “Professional Member” for $125/year.

OASIS has more to do with standards, but doesn’t ignore education. I can join individually for $300.

IPA, the Association for Graphic Solutions Providers is “a community of premedia professionals within the creative, corporate, print publishing, packaging and in-plant sectors.

“IPA is a forum for peer networking and a vital source of business, technical, and management resources for graphic solutions providers. It’s where the industry’s leading technical managers turn for information on how to strengthen their graphics workflow competencies and increase profits. It’s where business leaders turn for tools that will help them grow their business.”

If I could pass myself off as a student, I could join for $30 a year, but instead pay the consultant rate of $400. It’s a good group.

CM Pros, the Content Management Professionals, a timely and hard-working association appropriately affiliated with Gilbane, charges me only $100/year.

There’s another association that I think does some good and interesting work. It’s the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), “a trade and standards organization dedicated to the development and promotion of electronic publishing.” (It’s the old OEB — Open e-Book group.)

“The work of the IDPF will foster and promote the development of electronic publishing applications and products that will benefit creators of content, makers of reading systems and consumers.

“The IDPF welcomes book, magazine, journal and newspaper publishers, booksellers, software developers, authors and other groups interested in digital reading to join our organization.”

Every year in the late spring they run a one-day seminar in New York that brings you up to date on what’s happening in this space. The seminar is very reasonably priced: only $89 for members. The problem is the cost of membership: the lowest price is $1,000 (except for non-profits at $650). There are no associate memberships or consultant memberships or student memberships: it’s $1,000 or get out of here. Now this isn’t the biggest nor most important trade group in our industry today. I don’t understand why they price their membership so as to exclude interest from the industry, rather than to encourage it.