Association Insights: Putting the Power of Information into Overdrive

Timely and accurate information can be a powerful management tool. Information based on original, primary research into critical industry management issues as viewed by hundreds of frontline printing business leaders is a management tool on overdrive.

The six-part State of the Industry Series from the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) puts this power-packed tool into the hands of printing executives who can use it to track industry economic and business trends, and leverage that knowledge for greater profitability.

All components of the series are built on proprietary data collected by the economists of the NAPL Research Center, who survey more than 500 members of NAPL’s State of the Industry Panel through monthly and special topic questionnaires. They also conduct follow up one-on-one interviews with scores of survey respondents, and combine this input with data from a wide range of outside sources to develop in-depth reports that capture the current state of the printing industry and provide a guide for industry success in the months and years ahead.

As NAPL senior vice president and chief economist Andrew Paparozzi has noted, “NAPL research gets behind the numbers to provide insight and context, and to anticipate the trends – whether economic, technological, or social – that will define the industry’s future.”


Year-Round Program

The NAPL State of the Industry Series is a year-long program comprising the annual State of the Industry Report, now in its ninth edition; the annual Strategic Perspective report; and quarterly Printing Business Conditions electronic reports. The NAPL State of the Industry Series is sponsored by Heidelberg. All NAPL corporate members receive the State of the Industry Series as a benefit of membership.

Each fall, as companies begin to plan for the coming year, the State of the Industry Report gives business leaders the latest information on current and expected business conditions in the commercial printing industry, including the economy’s effect on print. It frames the business issues anticipated to occur over the next 12 months and offers guidance on how to leverage them for maximum success. The report includes data and commentary on industry sales, pricing, profitability trends, and other key business indicators, as well as insight into industry structural changes that continue to redefine the printing business.

In the spring, the Strategic Perspective report presents a first look at the new year as reflected in first quarter results, including where business is headed in the industry, business concerns and expectations, and an expanded and updated discussion of structural changes and key questions and issues raised in the previous State of the Industry Report. It looks at how conditions have changed and provides direction on whether to stay the course or make adjustments in business strategies to address new industry questions and concerns.

Printing Business Conditions electronic reports provide quarterly mileposts that monitor and interpret ongoing changes in economic and industry trends and performance, identify developing issues, and sound early warnings of new cyclical or structural changes. With concise summaries of current business conditions, including trends in sales, profitability, prices, and other key indicators, they provide a quick-read benchmarking tool for setting company strategies.

The NAPL Research Center augments the State of the Industry Series with special topic studies on key strategic issues. In 2010, for example, it published the NAPL Capital Investment Study, sponsored by Canon, a landmark report on the capital investment process in the graphic communications industry. Previous studies have covered topics such as compensation trends, digital services, and environmental issues, among others.


Special Bond

What makes NAPL reports unique is the special bond the association’s Research Center has with the members of its State of the Industry Panel. “We build relationships with our survey group,” says Paparozzi, noting that nearly all its members have participated at least four years and many have contributed for a decade or more. “These panel members have developed a trust in NAPL that encourages them to discuss business issues candidly, including their strategies, successes, and failures. Because of those relationships, they share information and insights with us they will not share with everyone else.

 “Our surveys challenge industry owners and executives to think carefully about where their business and the industry are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there,” says Paparozzi. “And all our surveys are strictly confidential, but never anonymous. We need to know whom we survey so we can verify and probe responses.”

He points out that NAPL does not rely solely on its surveys. It also maintains a comprehensive set of business indicators, ranging from data on general economic activity to print-specific measures, combining them into statistical models that provide verifiable, independent checks on survey results. “We update our database regularly,” says Paparozzi. “Good indicators are replaced by better indicators, and new indicators are added, all to ensure the most accurate picture of what’s happening in, and what’s ahead for, the commercial printing industry.”

To learn more about NAPL economic studies, visit or contact NAPL senior vice president Andrew Paparozzi or senior economist Joseph Vincenzino at 800-642-6275. The NAPL Research Center welcomes both member and non-member companies of all sizes to join in its research programs. Contact Joseph Vincenzino for information on participating. To learn more about the full range of NAPL membership programs and services, visit


Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., is president and chief executive officer of NAPL. Reach him at 800-642-6275, ext. 6310, or