Newspaper Club bridges two worlds – the web and the printing industries. We think we understand the web fairly well – that’s our background as a team. But printing is hard, and we need to understand printing technologies and logistics to the same degree if we’re going to build products and services that pay to both world’s strengths.
Ipex is the largest printing technology trade show in the English speaking world, and it’s on at the moment. So I decided to go.
I knew it was going to be big, but nothing quite prepares you for 11 halls of the Birmingham NEC. It’s absolutely huge.
That’s not surprising when you get inside. There are companies that must have relocated their entire industrial operations into the NEC for a week. Vast stands, with massive machines churning out demo print after demo print. Robot arms lifting parcel after parcel of newsprint. Conveyor belts with box after box going round and round. And it’s all shiny, clean and, dare I say, beautiful.
Technology trade shows are the same the worldwide. There are suited men wearing wrap-around microphones demoing hypnotising high-speed lamination machines. Huge bags of publicity materials to avoid. Branded 32MB USB sticks. Prize draws for obscure pieces of technology.
I came away slightly surprised that the technology is still marching towards printing more copies, faster and glossier. I guess that’s valid for certain section of the industry, but that’s not what we’re trying to do.
We’ve made it no secret that we’d like to be able to print one copy of a newspaper, on demand, shipped to you, preferably in colour. If we were called Glossy Magazine Club, we’d be there. But the thinner paper of newsprint is still an issue for many of the short-run machines.
That said, there are a handful of companies making strides, and at risk of breaching our strict “under promise, over deliver” policy, hopefully we’ll be there before too long.
And it made me more excited about Newspaper Club. At its simplest, we wrap all of these amazing technologies and systems in a friendly face; something that the printing industry finds hard to do. And printing is going from strength to strength – presses are still being bought, and they’re getting smaller, less polluting and more efficient.
Overall, despite leaving the NEC smelling of toner, it was a day well spent.