These teams’ hardware stars are the HP T series and the Prosper series, respectively. “These presses and companies are practically opposite in every way,” says scout/industry consultant Henry Freedman, who publishes the quarterly Technology Watch newsletter. Freedman, who spent more than 835 hours researching Kodak’s Stream inkjet technology in 2012, pointed out some of the basic differences: “The HP T presses are DoD (drop-on-demand) while the Kodak Prosper 5000XL is continuous inkjet,” he writes. “The HP has a long paper path, while the Kodak has a short one. With HP, all inks remain wet until they dry together at the end of printing. Kodak dries between colors during printing.”
Freedman went on to scientifically discuss even more detailed differences, such as print head structure, jetting paths, uniform dots versus random dots, low/high humectants, and digital front end design. To obtain a copy of the issue ($95), go to www.mytechnologywatch.com. (To subscribe to Technology Watch, email Freedman at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Knowledge is Power
Despite all the growth, there still is an alarming amount of inkjet ignorance. Among other challenges facing printers as they relate to these new business opportunities, customer education may be the biggest, says Aurelio Maruggi, VP and GM of HP’s Inkjet High-speed Production Solutions (IHPS) division. “The primary challenge for printing service providers, as well as vendors…is educating the market about these new technologies. This applies to publishers, brand owners, and business in general,” he points out. “While the early adopters rapidly embraced these technologies and are capitalizing on the benefits they bring in terms of supply-chain efficiency, target market communication, short-run, and quick turnaround, there is still a lot to do to create awareness at all levels.”
Health, fitness, and wellness publisher Rodale, Inc. is a prime example of such lack of awareness. No stranger to the magalog concept, the publisher has been producing the hybrid publications since the mid-1990s. Yet the lion’s share of its direct mail promotions still are printed using conventional offset technology.
“Occasionally, we do utilize inkjet printing for personalization,” Sue Sweeney, Rodale’s director of print production, told me. “This is done on the stitcher. Additionally, we have used digital printing on some double postcards. However, the majority of the work is still done with traditional, four-color offset printing.”
When asked if Rodale has any near-future plans to get even more customized content using customer data and high-speed, inkjet web print technology, “Yes, we hope to do this more,” Sweeney says. “I am working on some strategies and campaigns for it now.” But when pressed for details, she revealed that more inline inkjet on the stitcher was planned. Sweeney then admitted not even being aware of the hybrid imprinting possibilities available today. I explained briefly about putting inkjet heads on web offset presses and diplomatically encouraged her to read this article, once published, to learn more about the technology.
Zappos.com Catalog and eMagalog Experiments
Just because open minded customers are willing to try new things doesn’t mean they always work. But did Zappos.com’s experiments fail or were they merely ahead of their time?
After only about six months, the Amazon-owned online shoe and clothing store zapped the wi-fi connection on its “Zappos Now” (ZN) magalog iPad app midway through last year.
Launched in late 2011 to complement the Zappos.com shopping app, the digital catalog and lifestyle magazine app sounded like a great idea. ZN included editorial content on current fashion trends and the ability to shop directly within the app. The inaugural issue featured a report on color trends and an interview with a Zappos.com stylist as well as a holiday gift guide.
ZN users had the ability to purchase all of the products featured in the editorial pages, make notes about them, and create shopping lists of items to buy later. Previously available on iTunes, it also included social sharing features that enabled users to share articles and products to their social media pages. Early on in the campaign, Zappos ran ads on Google and Facebook to promote the app.
“With this app, we wanted to create more of an experience, rather than just drilling down into 60,000 products with search,” said Will Young, engineering director of Zappos.com at the time, who has since moved on to direct Zappos Labs, the firm’s research arm.