Is On Demand Another Victim of Hardcopy’s Growing Lack of Relevance?

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by Charles Brewer, President, Actionable Intelligence

Earlier this month, I attended Questex Media’s On Demand Exposition and Conference. The show, which was co-located with Info360 and SoMoLoNY, was held at the Jacob Javits Center on June 13 and 14 in New York City. In my humble opinion, the 2012 On Demand was a lackluster event if you were a print-for-pay professional in search of new gear in the Big Apple or if you were one of the firms with a booth featuring equipment or services that promote printing.

This year’s On Demand event failed to attract a fraction of the printer OEMs or others from the hardcopy industry that it has in the past. While some of the lack of attention is attributable to the fact that the New York show came just weeks after the massive drupa event in Germany, I think this year’s On Demand show has fallen victim to a larger trend: the growing of irrelevance of hardcopy in today’s marketplace. Even print shop owners seemed to be looking more at online marketing solutions, like those demonstrated at Info360 and SoMoLoNY, than at printing devices.

In the last decade, On Demand grew to be the big East Coast event for OEMs that market digital production hardware and other technologies for print-for-pay and reprographic applications. Various firms that sell media and other consumables to support these machines also participated in On Demand. When it barreled into Philadelphia in 2005, show management said more than 21,000 business and technical professionals attended On Demand and visited stands hosted by more than 350 exhibitors. Although no official numbers have been released for the 2012 event, I can assure you only a small fraction of that number came to the event at the Javits Center earlier this month.

I don’t want to single out On Demand as the only show in the hardcopy space to be in decline. There are plenty. For example, ITEX, another Questex Media event, has gotten much smaller over the past few years—although I must add it was much more lively this year than it has been for the past few years. Like On Demand, Graph Expo, the PMA (Photo Marketing Association) show, and many others don’t draw the crowds they once did, and often the people that do come are looking for ways to print less or avoid printing altogether. It seems that not many people are interested in learning how to print more.

The few shows in the digital imaging industry that are doing well—or are at least not doing poorly—are those that focus more on managed print services (MPS) than they do on printing. This is cold comfort because the expressed purpose of MPS is implementing processes that will reduce print volumes. I mentioned ITEX earlier. This year, the show management made a couple of changes and really put the focus on MPS. As a result, the event showed new signs of life in 2012. Likewise, I understand that Recharger’s World Expo is attracting more participants this year. I’ve even heard from several OEMs including OKI and Samsung that they will be participating. Why are OEMs going to an event for the remanufacturing industry? Because many of their channel partners are exploring ways to offer MPS programs, and World Expo booths are often hosted by firms that can help them.

I’ve always marveled at big, gleaming high-speed production machines, even though I’m not an expert on the print-for-pay space. It was sad that none of those machines were on display at On Demand. And, perhaps, they never will be again. What do you think—was 2012 the last year for On Demand? What are your expectations for the other shows? Does MPS offer ITEX and World Expo a new lease on life? And what does all this mean for the digital printer and consumables industries? Are we simply becoming less relevant in the age of iPads, GPS units, and other technologies that eliminate the need to print?

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