When a catchy phrase such as ‘Is Print Dead’ has caught your attention, you start to see it everywhere. Some see pregnant women and prams. I see print shops. In Thessaloniki, they were abundant.
A struggling economy recovering from failing infrastructure and hardships for both businesses and private indviduals: Greece illustrates that print is still the carrier of civilization and growth.
What is the best course of action when your finances are tight?
Most people would answer: You cut back on your expenses. But that does not help you out of your demise, it just helps you stay in the mud without sinking any deeper. At least for a while. But what if you choose to grow your own money tree – or rather develop new ways of working that alter the course instead of treating the symptoms. In the case of a business – or a country – the way forward is not mindless cutbacks but disruption, innovation and finding those new opportunities.
There is lots of room for improvement here, if you dive deeper into the European Commission 2017 Digital Progress Report which places Greece in 26th position (of 28 total) among European Union member states on the Digital Economy and Society Index (Greece is abbreviated EL).
How to disrupt, innovate and grow in a crisis
The answer seems obvious for anyone in the printing and business communications industry: We communicate and interact using the most efficient available channel of communication. In Greece, it seems, this is still print.
Since the ecnomic crisis in 2012-2014, the penetration of digital in small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), family-owned shops and public life as well as governmental instutions remains considerably lower in Greece than I have seen elsewhere in Europe or Overseas. There were no opportunities to make investments in the early days of digital in this harsh climate for both businesses and government. And SMEs were hit hard. The 2014 policy document The Development of SMEs in Greece by the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce states:
“According to the latest EU annual report on European SMEs for 2013, the SMEs of states which are vulnerable regarding public debt are facing serious problems related to liquidity, job losses and lack of value added. The only sector not affected by the above problems is the high technology (High Tech) sector. It seems that the countries which have established a solid and comprehensive approach to the implementation of SBA measures and policies are more able to support SMEs during the recession. SMEs in Greece are currently in the fifth year of the economic crisis. Despite the fact that Greek governments have implemented certain policies for SMEs (Investment Law No 4072, Creation of private capital companies, supporting self-employment, etc.), it is clear that Greek SMEs have been affected severely and to a disproportionately greater extent as compared to large enterprises.”
Now, you would argue, service providers like print shops are quite often classified as SMEs and should be as severely impacted as their buyers. But printing is part of the recovery.
A 2016 analysis of the value added annual growth of SMEs (non-financial) by EU member state shows a devastating -1.0% for Greece as the only contender below the line:
But if you dive deeper into the data, Greece also shows the highest growth contribution from business services which include printing: 46% annual growth in 2016 for SME business services (compared to the EU-average of 18%)
Print is not dead nor will it ever die
Walking down the narrow streets of Thessaloniki, my eye caught the numerous book shops, magazine stands, and posters glued to the wall of every building that had some available wall space exposed to the people walking by. Flyers were stuck into the door handles of every apartment building every morning – and just as often removed by the inhabitants – replaced the next morning with a new message, a new service, a new special offer of the day.
We were offered flyers, brochures, political pamphlets. And every 5th-10th shop was a copy shop, a small or medium sized print shop, digital or offset printing. There was a whole street with only print shops on top of the yet to be excavated ruins of Galerius’ Byzantine palace. And TYPO in Greek means what we think it should mean.
It’s not the print that is disrupting or helping Greece back on its feet, but it is the carrier of the messages that those who change, innovate and grow need to spread in the most efficient way available to them. If you are a small startup, if you are medium sized retail or manufacturing business, you cannot pay for expensive online advertising or TV ads. If you are a small non-profit or political movement funded by enthusiastic supporters, you cannot reach the masses through digital media alone.
You spread the news on paper.
Because paper is durable, flexible, ubiquitous. You can leave it on door handles, hand it out to people in the street, glue it to the walls of popular sites, send it as post cards, sell it as books. It does not disappear with the wink of an eye – or a click of a finger on a scroll button.
It still does not guarantee that your message is read or your acted upon. That remains the task of the content provider to ensure. But it certainly reaches your audience, if you know where to put it.