Printing biz changes partners; now dancing with DSF

October 2, 2011 by Dave Haynes

The Specialty Graphic Imaging Association, aka the printing business, appears to have changed dance partners for its annual trade show coming later this month in New Orleans.

The SGIA Expo had, in 2010, a focused industry zone that was pulled together with the Digital Screenmedia Association. This year, there is a zone once again but its partner is the rival Digital Signage Federation.

“The federation is representing the digital signage industry by providing education and developing awareness about how dynamic digital signage can complement the business of SGIA attendees,” says Digital Signage Federation Executive Director Brian Gorg.

The zone is set up so attendees can “learn how to implement digital display technologies, meet leaders in the digital signage field and establish contacts for future partnerships and business development opportunities.”

The Digital Signage Zone participant list is pretty weak, frankly, and that’s not meant as a slam against the companies who are setting up. They include Apollo Display Technologies Corp., Black Box, Digital Signage Federation, Ingram Micro and Variable Display. Last year, the DSA got Scala, Nanonation, Symon and some other firms involved.

I know from a few chats that last year’s efforts didn’t quite work, and with a wobbly economy squeezing market budgets, it’s not very surprising that the participation for this zone is so low. There are also lots of people who think the printing and digital signage businesses are just too different to ever sync up. It’s already hard enough getting the pro AV channel to effectively build in and sell digital signage.Just imagine the hurdle of getting the analog sign people moving.

However, the printing business is a massive one a footprint in every community and a customer list that extends to just about every small business. It’s also one that even its own people acknowledge needs to start learning and selling digital if it hopes to stop erosion.

The SGIA’s Dan Marx wrote in the association blog (and here, but lost in the recent hacker war):

For the specialty graphics industry, digital signage – like it or not – is viewed as a significant “next step” technology, an avenue toward new opportunities, new revenue streams and a totally new approach to conveying visual information.

That said, for the specialty graphics industry, nearly ten years after digital signage was announced as the next big thing, we still find that the deep opportunity of the technology is still just around the corner.

So why has it taken so long? Is it that the specialty graphics is moving slowly toward digital signage and just hasn’t reached the corner yet, or is it that the corner keeps getting just a bit further away. I think it’s both.

Unfortunately, the participation level and the speaker list for digital signage sessions at this event is not going to advance business or knowledge much. The stuff on the floor will be the usual vendor pitch and omnipresent Alan Brawn is the only guy doing any teaching in the education sessions.

At some point, there really ought to be some way to get those suppliers who are really set up to work with the small to medium businesses working with the print people. But the DS 101 intro and primer stuff that’s put in front of this crowd will not achieve much. They need to understand the business of it, how to sell it and how to make money from it.

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