The sad fact is that most people in this industry have never seen or read any of these studies, so it’s not as if they have suddenly become unpopular. Once someone has seen or purchased a study, they become a great spokesman. In 25 years of publishing these studies, we’ve garnered hundreds of great testimonials. These studies deliver way more than they promise, and yet for some reason they have never been popular enough to produce even modest profits.
This year’s pricing study was published solely by my company Q.P. Consulting, Inc. We received financial support from three sponsors—NAPL, Printer’s Plan, and printLEADER. While we greatly appreciate their financial support, it is no where near enough to justify the costs of producing these studies, let alone the risks involved, no matter who publishes them.
Ironically, if these studies cease to be published, the folks who will suffer the most are those who spend the hours necessary to complete these surveys and submit them by the deadline. These are the true heroes since they contribute far more than they receive in return. Most others will never know what they have lost, since most have never seen these studies.
I seriously question whether we will ever see another operating ratio survey published for this segment of the industry. The simple reason for the pessimistic forecast is that as incredibly valuable as these studies are, there are simply not enough firms willing to purchase them. Some have suggested that participants should actually be charged for participating. But other trade associations have tried that approach and the results have been nothing short of disastrous.
Could corporate sponsors help pick up the tab for these types of studies in the future? Yes, but sponsorships can’t be sold on the basis of the number of participants or copies to be sold or distributed—the numbers are simply not there. Nor can they be justified for other than purely altruistic motives. And most corporations can’t afford to be very altruistic these days.
I’ve always believed that fundamental research is a core responsibility of every trade association, but I am also realistic enough to know that times have changed. Industries are smaller and trade associations are facing greater challenges than ever.
Unfortunately, my belief in the value of studies upon which NAQP built its core reputation for more than 20 years is not enough on its own to ensure their future. Here’s hoping. We shall see. As always, your feedback is welcome.
Senior contributing columnist John Stewart is president of Q.P. Consulting Inc. Contact him at 2110 S. Dairy Road, West Melbourne, FL 32904, call 321-727-2444, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to check out John’s blog on his website at www.quickconsultant.com where you can also order a copy of the 2011-2012 Quick Printing Industry Pricing Study.