“Print in the digital world” Gravure industry's Annual Conference

“Print in the digital world” Gravure industry's Annual Conference

Delegates from publication printers from Europe and overseas, as well as their suppliers of equipment and materials and customers gathered at the  European Rotogravure Association’s Annual Conference in Nuremberg on 25-26 September. The delegates witnessed presentations from industry experts reflecting the theme of the conference “Print in the digital world”. The conference programme also included a visit to Prinovis’ publication gravure plant, largest publication gravure plant worldwide equipped with 4,32 metre wide gravure presses and a gravure capacity of   340 000 tonnes per year.


The conference discussed the future of publication and commercial printing against the background of ongoing structural changes in the media markets with continuing falling print runs particularly for magazines and newspapers. However positive signals come from the retail segment as print still plays a significant role in the marketing of the retailers. In publication gravure the consolidation process has continued with the merger of CirclePrinters and Roto Smeets in early 2017. “However, with an overall capacity of currently some 3 million tonnes gravure remains a force in publication printing in Europe”, stated ERA Secretary General James Siever.


The trend in publication paper demand over the last decades was the theme of Emanuele Bona of Eurograph. In his sombre address he pointed out that paper demand, which developed in line with the economy until the early 2000 years, has decoupled from the economy over the last decade. World demand for graphic paper has shrunk from 142 million at its peak in 2007 down to 109 million tonnes in 2016. Western Europe showed a decline from 37 million to 21 million tonnes during the same period. Among the world regions only India still shows growth in paper demand. This trend is expected to continue for the time being. In the first half of 2017 newspaper circulation in Western Europe has further fallen by 6,1 %, magazine circulation by 5,3 %. As the decline began parallel to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 it clearly indicates that the growing use of smart phones is a major reason for this development, summarised Mr Bona.


Print’s role in the marketing strategy of an international retailer was explained by Clemens Hadtstein, CEO of Metro Advertising. The Metro Group has been divided into two listed entities: Metro covering food and wholesale with a turnover of 37 billion euros, and Ceconomy including the consumer electronics stores MediaMarkt and Saturn with a turnover of 22 billion euros. Besides Europe their major markets are in Russia, Turkey and China. According to Mr Hadtstein printed advertising is still “the most important channel in the media mix”, but their traditional advertising media, TV for brand building and print for sales, are now competing with social networks for brand building and digital advertising for sales. However, the effectiveness of digital media is relatively low as an “opening rate of 2,5 % of the recipients of an email campaign is already a good rate”. Print on the other hand has a good measurability as sales and frequency lift resulting from catalogues and leaflets can be measured exactly. “Print will stay as the lead media particularly for quality whereas digital is for quantity”, concluded Mr Hadtstein. Concerning digital printing he expressed “one wish for free”: its high cost should disappear.


A plea for print’s effectiveness was made by Ulbe Jelluma of Print Power, an association to promote print as an advertising media. Based on quotes from leading advertising agencies he sees a “tipping point” in the rush to digital media and the “pendulum of advertising spending is beginning to swing back to traditional media”. Brand owners are “questioning the effectiveness of digital media” particularly as there are no independently audited figures to back up the claims of the digital media platforms. Mr Jelluma refers to a CNN report which says that “Facebook claimed to reach up to 41 million 18-25 year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data said there are only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range”. Mr Jelluma is convinced that print media will remain an important part of the mix, and he urged the advertisers “to evaluate the available evidence and use the print media”.   


“Considerations when going digital” were presented by Jörg Hunsche of HP. In the overall printing market digital printing still has a minor part. However, digital printing is growing much faster than the market as a whole. He showed examples of digital print products including individualised leaflets and personalized children’s books. The trend towards customization will favour the further development of digital printing.


Prof Markus Kaiser of Technical University of Nuremberg spoke on publishing in the digital age. He stated that since the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc., news distribution is no longer a sustainable business model. Publishers therefore have to expand their brands to include features and comment articles, but also to offer products such as books, wine etc.. To successfully transform print media into a digital platform requires to “use the advantages of print”.


The quality and environmental demands on heatset inks for the retail segment were discussed by Dr Michael Zenke of Sun Chemicals. In this connection he questioned the significance of standardisation and certification offered in the market. Environmental friendliness seems to be more a marketing feature than an environmental improvement.


An improved process standard for better colour communication between printer and customer was presented by Thomas Hebes of Prinovis, who chairs an industry project group on this subject. The first of the new standards is planned for release in January next year.


ERA’s co-ordinator for environment, health and safety Josef Bernard finally commented on the status of the still ongoing authorization process for chromium trioxide. The EU Commission has not decided yet on the ECHA proposal to authorize the use in the gravure industry for at least seven more years. Possibly a final decision will be taken in November.



To secure the future of print by attracting young talents for the industry was the theme of the impassioned speech of Prof Lutz Engisch of Leipzig University for Applied Sciences. He reported about the difficulties of the technical universities to fill their courses in printing engineering, which may lead to withdrawal of government funding. This would make it difficult for the industry to recruit a new generation of engineers and technicians. To address this problem Prof Engisch has initiated a campaign project to improve the image of printing among young people. His appeal to the industry is to support this project for their own benefit. He invited participants to an education summit in Leipzig in January 2018 where the project will be presented.