Industry sees 15% decline in printing

This crisis will come to an end and there is no point in stretching this issue. We should look at its positive side Ahmed bin Hassan Al Sheikh, Printing and Publishing Group. (SUPPLIED)

The printing sector is not different from other players in media industry when it comes to the global economic crisis impact. The decline this year in the local printing market has reached 15 per cent, a rate that is not regarded as drastic as other sectors such as outdoor and general advertising that have been affected more, said Ahmed bin Hassan Al Sheikh, Chairman of Printing and Publishing Group.

Hosting the Dubai International Print Awards 2009 ceremony recently, the Printing and Publishing Group revealed that it saw an increase of 10 per cent in the numbers of entries for the award this year, mainly boosted by regional and international participants.


You mentioned in an earlier statement that this year's awards had received only 600 entries as against 800 last year. What are the reasons for such a decline?


This was the figure we announced prior to closing the deadline for entries. However, when the jury assembled, we had already received 871 entries. That is equivalent to about nine per cent to 10 per cent increase in participation compared to last year.

What I can say is that we originally expected the entries for the 2010 awards to exceed 1,000, especially that the award has expanded this year to include regional and international participants. Yet, the decline was mostly resulting from less participants from the printing industry.

This decline is perhaps caused by the decline in demand in high quality printing jobs during the past year due to the current economic situation, where companies have cut down their budgets. Thus bringing down the demand on extra applications. This is understandable regarding the circumstances, and I believe that printers were wary of participating with lesser quality projects.

On the other hand, we received entries from Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and India, in addition to the GCC. We see that as positive development and we are expecting a further growth in the regional and international participation next year. This growth will be influenced by the spread of word, the success of the awards this year and our efforts to communicate effectively with our industry peers in various countries.

Based on the high-quality entries this year, I hope several international and regional participants would win.

When the awards were announced last year, there were a lot of discussions on the impact of the global economic crisis on the industry. Now more than a year later, what is the your observation about the industry?

Let us divide this industry into several sectors. From our perspective, the sector that was most affected is that related to magazine printing. This is due to two different factors. First, the crisis has affected the circulation of magazines and therefore, the numbers of copies have declined. Secondly, many magazines have cut down on pages due to the retreat from the advertising which was imposed by lower advertising budgets this year and lower circulation leading back to less interested advertisers.

Yet, at the same time, other sectors have seen growth, especially the packaging business. This was fuelled by increasing demand mostly due to a shift in consumption habits of foreign and local brands.

In general, we have seen a decline of 15 per cent in the printing industry. Compared to other industries, this rate is acceptable and reflects better signs, not to mention that 2008 was an unrealistic year for everybody in this market. If we put aside the 2008 figures, our results indicate that the printing industry is at the normal levels.

What is your strategy to face these challenges in 2010?

As far as our dealing with challenges imposed by the crisis, we cannot change the situation alone. However, I believe that the printing industry in the UAE and the GCC in general will see faster recovery. This recovery will be influenced by the high quality that we have achieved, the decrease in production costs and the available capacity. I expect the year 2010 to see a period of stability. Any improvements to the printing industry will only appear in the second half of this year.

How about creating a special award for companies that bravely faced the challenges ?

I don't believe this is a good idea. This crisis will come to an end and there is no point in stretching this issue. We should look at its positive side.

What is your marketing plan to increase the participation from countries outside the GCC?

We have gone through roadshows in some of these countries to communicate the objectives of the Printing Awards. We are planning to have a wider exposure by visiting new countries in the following years to attract more participants. Meanwhile, we continue to communicate with industry players worldwide through our website, and we are accepting entries from all over the world.

Last year, complaints were made regarding the fact that a majority of the winners were members of the Printing and Publishing Group. What is your comment?

Unfortunately, we cannot stop those prejudices. But we have taken strict measures to prevent any partiality in judging the entries. The jury are from international circles and are not acquainted with the details on the local industry, which ensures that they are only driven by determining the best-quality work. In addition, the entries to the awards are usually received by an independent party which would code the entries so that they remain anonymous.

We have also requested the Dubai Chamber of Commerce to oversee the judging process and ensure its integrity. These are measures we take to avoid any allegations.

On the other hand, it is also important for us as members to be on the winners list. Otherwise we would not be fit to be members of the group and organisers of the awards. It is definitely our right as players in the market to participate, and to constantly develop our products to meet the best standards.

My company did not win any gold awards in the first two year. We have climbed year by year from bronze to silver and then gold, and this reflects our strive to improve ourselves.

Many experts are calling for cost-effective marketing and advertising strategies focusing a lot on online media. Does this mean that the printing industry will continue to decline? What are the options and solutions for the industry to sustain itself?

There are certain aspects that could be taken over by the internet, but this does not apply to all branches of the industry. It is true that more people are going online for news and information. However, I think, people still prefer a printed copy of a newspaper, book or magazine for in-depth reading. These segments of the print media will not be affected.

It is true that advertising revenue is also shifting towards the internet, but that is a matter of reducing budgets due to the current downturn. Once the economic recession is over, advertisers will go back to print as well as other media.

 

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