Digital Print Market Growth—Good for Commercial Printers?

Fred Antoun    11-15-05  


In a recent report, PIA/GATF Chief Economist, Ronnie H. Davis, indicated that digital print (toner-based) had increased in 2004 by 4.8% over 2003 levels.  Other reports on the growth of the digital print market peg 2004 growth at 8% or more over 2003 levels.  These varying growth estimates raise two questions:  (1) which numbers are correct?  (2) More is better – right?

Davis’ numbers are accurate.  However, other reports showing digital print growth in 2004 at 4 points higher than Davis’ numbers are also correct!  The difference is the market surveyed.  Davis, concerned with the commercial print market represented by PIA/GATF members, surveys and analyzes digital print growth among commercial printers.  Standard digital printing reports usually include both the growth in the commercial printing industry and the growth in in-house production.  While the reports viewing the market as a whole may be of far more interest to equipment manufacturers, they can mislead commercial printers.

If commercial printers digital print volume increases by 4.8%, but all digital print production increased by over 8%, what does that tell us?  Very simply, it tells us that a more digital print is being produced in-house.  That is not good for commercial printers.  As the universe of printed products remains relevantly stagnant or declines, any print production taken in-house depletes not only the digital print market for commercial printers, but also short run traditional print.

The concern that commercial printers may get a smaller piece of the digital printing pie than the industry wants or needs has caused Printing Industries of America (PIA/GATF) to initiate an outsourcing promotion program at the local, state, and federal government levels.  It should come as no surprise that a significant (and increasing) amount of digital in-house printing is being produced by government entities throughout the country.  Although a number of studies over the years have shown that much or most of this work can be more cost effectively outsourced to the private sector printing industry, the allure of technology and offers of low cost or no cost initial acquisition continues to fuel in-house digital equipment purchases.

So if you are one of those printers firmly entrenched in digital printing technology, or just entering the market, take a look at the overall digital print market growth in 2004 and 2005, and then compare that growth against Ronnie Davis’ digital print growth among commercial printers, subtract the two, and you will have an idea of why promoting the convenience and cost effectiveness of outsourcing is not only desirable, but necessary, as more work moves to digital production.

If you would like to become active in print outsourcing and digital print outsourcing efforts, or if you have a favorite in-plant operation that you feel should be placed on our outsourcing target list, please email me at 

Copyright © 2005  Frederic G. Antoun, Jr.

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