How ink-and-paper printing can survive in a digital world

Posted On May 10, 2019

When your industry is disrupted by technological advances, how do you survive? You adapt, or else.

Our guest in the latest episode of “What’s Working With Cam Marston” is a valuable case study in this theorem. While digital communications tools threaten to make many printed publications obsolete, Gwin’s Printing continues to thrive after being in business for more than 100 years.

Mike Payne, whose family has owned and run the Mobile-based printing company since 1989, says he’s seen a lot of competitors fall by the wayside in that time, and his business has benefitted as a result. How did Gwin’s survive, while others failed?

“We changed; we didn’t stay the same,” he says of Gwin’s, which first opened in 1913 as an engraving business. “There was another printer in a Florida city very close to here that used to be a huge printer. They were much larger than we were. They did not adapt to digital technology. They stayed with offset, and that was their only form of printing. They closed that shop down about a year and a half ago.

“It’s gone, because they didn’t follow the technology.”

That’s not the only secret, of course. Payne says he weathered early storms, such as the loss of a major client that once made up nearly half his business, but maintaining and servicing his smaller accounts and being conservative with his purchases, avoiding debt when possible. The conservative approach helped him weather the storm when the national economy dipped in the late 2000s, and withstand the hits of business lost to digital competition.

Despite the ease and cost-effectiveness of digital tools, however, Gwin says printed material still holds value.

“It’s tactile. You can hold it in your hands. It’s real,” he said. “It’s something that you can hold, you can feel and you can look at that I believe will capture your attention more than the digital piece that is on your screen.

“People want to stand out. That’s what we do.”

Payne shares with us the variety of printing services his company offers and some of the inventive things they’ve done to help clients stand out, the outdated methods that still surprisingly draw some demand, the challenge of finding employees, and the growth potential he still sees in the printing business.

Categories: What's Working with Cam Marston