I was standing at the entrance to a printing trade show in New Orleans.  The atmosphere was electric.  People were streaming in, all smiles, much energy.  The floor was crowded, the booths all jammed. Live jazz was being played in the lobby. I had never seen anything like it.  I was finally swept into the convention center.  It was exciting.  I was pumped.

It was 1986.

In 2011 I went to the Web Offset Association national conference.  I went as we won a first place award, which is a very big deal.  I’d been before, ‘cause we win a lot of awards.  It was a good conference, it always is, but it was very staid.  Everyone was very professional, professionally dressed, very low key.  It was summer in Orlando and while listening to bad elevator music over the PA we all wore suits at the pool party.  The professionally dressed pool party pooped out promptly.

As I sit in the airport awaiting my flight back to home from Dscoop in Washington DC I can’t avoid the comparison to printing’s past.  We were excited, we were innovative.  Really, we were. What happened?

Most would say the Internets.  Competition from digital sources killed us. In broad strokes, that is true, but traditional printing has lost its Mojo.

Dscoop didn’t just showcase new technology, it filled 3,000 attendees with excitement about printing and about life.  They partied like it was 2099.  Dscoop didn’t just bring in an incredible band,  Burning Las Vegas, The VP and General Manager of HP’s press division Alon Bar-Shony played lead guitar with them.  I’m not talking stand in the back and play rhythm, I’m talking up front rock star lead guitar.  I ran out of steam around 1:00 AM, the ballroom was still packed when I packed it in.

Here is some really bad Droid Vid I shot.  Alon, the guy in charge of HP Indigo, is the long hair rocking the guitar.

The first act was The Capital Steps, whose actual motto is “We put the Mock in Democracy.”  Political humor and rock and roll.  Heaven forbid, the suits in Orlando would have coronaries.

Truth is digital is cool, but most printing is still done with traditional offset.  Digital will keep increasing market share, which it will take from offset, but offset needn’t roll over and die.  Offset printing must innovate, be creative and loosen up a little.  Keep an eye on Western Web to do just that.