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Another decade

Jan 1, 2010 12:00 AM

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Can 10 whole years really have passed since so many of us gathered to party like it was 1999? Since much of the world was paralyzed by fear and consulting fees, panicked that the Y2K problem would mean the end of the world?

We all knew deep down inside (especially the calendar printers) that the new millennium didn't really begin until 2001. So what? We partied anyway.

I think there is something symbolic about celebrating a once-in-10-centuries event in the wrong year, just because it sounds cool. It fits well with an industry such as ours, whose pundits routinely extract erroneous conclusions from faulty calculations derived from flawed data.

Now even our own federal government, a pioneer in the field of lousy data collection and mangled statistics, has gotten into the act. The answer to all our nation's economic woes is, yes, printing! Printing money, that is. It didn't work very well for Louis XVI, but that doesn't mean we have to lose our heads over the economy.

But I digress.

A decade ago, the financial industry in particular, egged on by the aforementioned federal government, really was wondering if Y2K meant civilization as we knew it would come to an end.

Once again hindsight has 20/20 vision. The bankers were too early by nearly nine years. The world as they knew it would not end until the economic meltdown of 2008. As for civilization, I am quite convinced it ended long before 1999.

I've been observing the business of print for long enough that I occasionally repeat myself. I assure you I'll be repeating myself much more in the upcoming year. I'll keep on repeating myself until a lot more of you out there take some of these ideas to heart.

Until then, keep those cards and letters coming. It gets lonely sometimes here in Johnson's World.

Happy New Year, from Johnson's World.

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco (Carol Stream, IL), a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him via

My 2010 agenda

  • Printers must stick together | Print is under siege from all directions. We're putting up a good fight, but too often our fight is with each other. When an in-plant shop, the GPO or an Internet-based print provider lands work, celebrate a victory for print! When print is selected as the medium of choice, you always stand a chance of landing the project — if not now, then perhaps at some future date. When print is rejected in favor of other media, that project more than likely gone forever from your business and mine.

  • Color digital variable profits | I'll continue to beat the drum for full-color, full-variable printing, which I've called the “holy grail” of digital print. Even as I do so I'll keep pointing out that most printers (and certainly most pundits touting VDP as the answer to all profit woes) don't have a clue about what constitutes the value of VDP to end customers. Yes you can make a fortune in VDP. You can also lose your mule.

  • Mailing myopia | The irony of a huge segment of our trade betting the farm on the U.S. Postal Service, a government agency with the bleakest of futures, is too farcical to escape my barbed commentary. Yes, postal reform is crucial. No, the printing industry has not achieved even a bit of reform, choosing to attempt style in place of any substance. Yes, your entire future is in the hands of Congress. I'll continue to point out the dangers of a card game where one player makes all the rules and changes them as play progresses.

  • Common sense. Logic. Facts. | Where else will you find these precious commodities, if not in Johnson's World? A conversation needs two sides; otherwise it is just a lecture. I'm usually not even invited to the debate, so I have to be content with heckling the superstars from my spot in the audience. That means you'll continue to hear me shouting, “The emperor has no clothes!” for the foreseeable future.

  • Pithy criticisms | No, I won't let up on criticisms of people, practices and institutions that are damaging the rest of us. My intent is never to hurt feelings nor to embarrass, but instead to provide counterpoint over the deafening roar of conventional wisdom that is stifling the business of print.

I've previously quoted Henry Clay's maxim, “I would rather be right than president.” I'll probably never win a Nobel Peace Prize, either.