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Research, Business Intelligence and the Sustainable Growth of the Printing Industry in Nigeria

By Abdulrasheed Afolabi
Image Source: https://blog.shi.com
Image Source: https://blog.shi.com

Print investors should make decisions based on accurate, well founded information. Research provides that kind of information. A print business investor working without research is like a person aiming to hit a target in the dark; to what end?

Research for Sustainable Growth and Development

Some may be quick to link research with academics. Well, research should not be perceived as strictly and academic thing. Surely, there is an academic side to research but for business investors the purpose of research is to provide knowledge regarding the market, the economy and all variables concerned with making sound business investments. In the simplest terms, research means “to find out” or “to keep searching”. One expert describes research as a tool for answering practical questions in relation to business investments. Another says “the goal of research is to supply accurate information that reduces the uncertainty in managerial decision making”. (1)

Why the Need for Research in the Printing Industry?

The printing press is considered the first mass communication tool with revolutionary impacts in the annals of human communication. However, with the emergence of digital technologies, the printing industry is undergoing changes, brought on by demographic shifts, financial upheavals, and the pressure of new technologies.(2) Like other industries feeling the impact of digital technologies, the printing industry is in transition and how it is transitioning and the opportunities that are available in this transition should be of great concern to print investors and print industry practitioners. Central to this transition is the integration of new media technologies with print. As Graham Stamp puts it, “the challenge for print is to integrate itself with the digital channels and become as relevant, targeted and conversational as possible…”(3)

With the proliferation of new media technologies, there has been reduced demand for print. Investors and practitioners in the printing industry are expressing worries as media consumers seek new media alternatives, particularly the Internet, for meeting their information needs. Marketers and advertisers are also seeking greater relevance in the media landscape; so they are turning to digital channels. Consequently, the print publishing industry in the new media age has witnessed a decline in volume of print, leading to decline in profits. Not a few have laid the problem at the doorstep of the Internet. But Joseph Webb and Richard Romano disagree. They aver that print businesses' problems were caused largely by their inability to understand the Internet and the accompanying revolution of computing and communications. They argue that printers have failed to adapt to the new needs, agendas and trends in the prevailing media marketplace. The duo also argue that rather than the Internet being the culprit, bad business decisions by those running printing and publishing firms account for the business losses.(4) Indeed, the decline in print business was predicted by many, including Webb and Whittington in the TrendsWatch Forecast 2000 published in November 1999. They warned: “We believe that the years when print would be equal to slightly higher than real GDP growth are nearly over. …printers will start losing print jobs to the Internet…print jobs will be shorter runs and lower page counts…printers' customers will force them to provide Internet-base service and support.” The challenge for commercial printers is developing innovative business strategies that reposition them for a multimedia marketplace. As the Industry Science Resource Report (2001) succinctly puts it, “reliance on the way business has been done in the industry up to now is no guarantee of survival, let alone sustainable growth”. (5)

The Print Media Industry in a Competitive Media Landscape

The media industry, in the views of Annet Aris and Jacques Bughin, consists of a range of businesses with a core element of content creation and distribution.(6) Traditionally, the media industry is categorized based on the type of media used. Whether classified as print media or electronic media, all traditional media companies are rethinking their business models in the face of disruptive technologies; the Internet being the cornerstone.

Disruptive technologies throw up certain issues; they present media consumers with alternatives for seeking information. As Michael Porter, in 2008, notes, “when the threat of substitutes is high, industry profitability suffers”. (7) In contemporary media landscape, the print media has become a supporting media to digital media as less marketing budget is allocated to print. The impact of new media on profitability and by extension, the survival of the printing industry has therefore become a regular point of debates. While some are quick to pass the verdict of the death of print, some others have taken a more optimistic stance, arguing that no new media has brought about the death of the older media. The defenders of the print media, nonetheless, call for the transformation of the printing industry and repositioning of printers for survival in a multimedia age. This, they argue, promises to bring about a change of processes and practices about how print is produced and offered for sale. The emergence of the new media has been recorded to have reduced demand for print. The major industries that are the centerpieces of print media activities like the book publishing industry, the newspaper and magazine publishing industry, and the advertising industry, are feeling the heat through reduced income as a result of the decline in the use of print media by consumers of the media.

The Role of Research in Repositioning the Printing Industry in Nigeria

Without doubt, the survival of printing companies in an Internet age is an issue deserving attention more than ever before. In Nigeria, there are many printing houses with various levels of investments worth millions of dollars. Shutting down these print houses due to the disruptive effects of digital media like the Internet will be a minus to the nation's economy. Transformation and re-invention therefore becomes imperative in Nigeria's print publishing industry. As Joseph Webb in 2008 opines, change in the print publishing industry is inevitable.(8) Commercial printers in contemporary age cannot survive by living in denial of the impact of digital technologies. The strategy to reviving print in a multimedia age lies in the integration of print with digital media. In the past, efforts have been made (in the United States, United Kingdom and others) in the form of media campaigns to promote the use of print but this is not an enduring approach. In the views of Webb and Romano, this approach is lacking in logic and strategy. The appropriate approach, they argue, is coming up with ways to make print survive in the face of disruptive digital media.(9) Research, no doubt, plays a crucial role in reviving print. Some of the issues waiting to be researched into in the context of the Nigerian printing industry include:

(i) The structure and state of the printing industry in Nigeria

(ii) How the adoption of digital printing technologies position printing companies in Nigeria for renewal in a multimedia landscape

(iii) How printing companies in Nigeria can use the Internet as leverage for growth and development

(iv) The barriers to digital transformation and re-invention in Nigeria's printing industry

(v) The future for the print media industry in Nigeria

Without doubt, there is an urgent need for data that support print business intelligence in Nigeria as there is a dearth of information about the printing industry in the nation’s economy. At present, there is no Nigerian research organization, whether government, non-government or private, that is actively engaged in generating information for print business intelligence. Thankfully, the Chartered Institute of Professional Printers of Nigeria (CIPPON) which has a statutory function in this regard is gearing up to live up to expectation by constituting a 9-member research and development committee in October 2019.(10)

Toeing the Path of Transformation and Re-invention

The survival of printing companies in Nigeria would depend on their ability to transform by adapting and focusing on customers' changing needs. The improving internet penetration level and increasingly reduced cost of digital devices will further reduce the use of paper-based print media by Nigerians. The printing industry would need to open up to new areas that would help them compete favorably in a new media market environment. Business intelligence is crucial; information is the kernel of good decision making and research is the heart of business intelligence. As the Internet and other digital media make in-roads into the media landscape in Nigeria, print publishing companies must transit from being print-centric to being digital-centric in their operations.

Notes

  1. Zikmund, W., Babin, B., Carr, J., & Griffin, M., (2009). Business Research Methods (8ed). P.5
  2. Dizard, W, (2000). Old Media New Media. New York: Longman.
  3. Stamp, Graham (2010).The Need for Transformation within the UK printing Sector. A White paper from dotgain.org. Retrieved March 30, 2015 from www.techrepublic.com/resource-library/whitepapers/the-need-for-transformation-within-the-uk-printing-sector/
  4. Webb, J. and Romano, R. (2010).Disrupting the Future: Uncommon Wisdom for Navigating Print's Challenging Marketplaces. Harrisville: Strategies for Management, Inc.
  5. Industry Science Resource (March 2001) Print 21- The Printing Industries Action Agenda. Retrieved March 29, 2015 from www.cs.rmit.au/Printing_AA_Report/
  6. Aris, Annet and Bughi, Jacques (2009). Managing Media Companies: Harnessing Creative Value (2ed). West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd
  7. Porter, M. (January, 2008). The Five Competitive Forces that Shape Strategy. Harvard Business Review. Pp 79-93
  8. Webb, J. (2008). Renewing the Printing Industry: Strategies and Action Items for Success (2ed). Harrisville: Strategies for Management, Inc.
  9. Webb, J. and Romano, R. (2010).
  10. CIPPON Connect, Edition 4.

Afolabi teaches at the Department of Printing Technology, Yaba College of Technology. He is the author of the book Graphic Communication in Nigeria. Available for free download here . He can be reached via [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Abdulrasheed Afolabi and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."