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Nimble Print finds new paths

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With the advent of digital communication, print has been routinely given the last rites, only to revive in slightly altered forms. Print continues to hold its ground while finding new paths.

People love print

It turns out that readers still like print – they like the feel of the page and the smell of the ink. In fact, neuroscience researchers at Temple University in the USA recently discovered that direct marketing is more effective if delivered by print.

And while we are growing generations that avidly consume their information, their education and their entertainment via a screen, the Huffington Post tells us that a recent survey of students returned a whopping 92 per cent in favour of old–fashioned books!

Future found

It appears we're arriving at a balance, thanks in part to the energy of print industry optimists. Here we find both industry veterans and relative newcomers continuing to share a passion for print that drives innovation.

Head of the Lamson Paragon Group, and this year's winner of the Media Super National Print Awards (NPA) Industry Legend award, Arthur Frost has been in printing for nearly half a century. He has watched innovation speed processes, while shedding jobs. In recent times, he saw large printing contracts sail away to countries that offered to do the work for a fraction of the cost.

And if they weren't heading overseas, they were being migrated to intranets all over town.

'Printing business forms was how Lamson Paragon was founded. What once made up more than 80 per cent of our income, now accounts for around 15 per cent,' he said. 'While it's easy to throw up your hands in surrender, there are still plenty of opportunities.

'Being nimble and exploiting new technologies has certainly worked for us. It allowed us to offer efficiencies for time–sensitive print needs that overseas printers aren't typically interested in,' he said.

NPA Young Executive of the Year, Murray Scott agrees. At 37, Murray has many years left in the industry and he is excited by the challenges ahead. In his short time at Perth's Picton Press, Murray has turned it into a lean, highly–efficient digital printing works that also specialises in niche printing.

'New technologies allow us to offer clients last minute alterations to timely products such as magazines and catalogues and still have it their hands well before any overseas operation can manage,' he said.

Murray is also an energetic advocate for the industry attracting young people. Because print is now almost wholly computer–based, he sees this as a magnet for school–leavers who might otherwise have dismissed it as a 'dirty factory job'.

The ancient art

Then there's Greg Rose. He found an old letterpress machine on a farm in Yackandandah, Victoria. Many hours of loving restoration returned it to a working life as the heart of Tiger Kelly Press.

These machines were engineered to last, and there is something about the product of this very old technology (Greg's press first rolled in 1919) – the slightly indented image, the not–quite–perfect impression, the singularity of every printed sheet, that appeals to the human in all of us.

When he is not at his day job as a graphic designer, Greg spends many happy hours churning out bespoke print jobs for those who appreciate the craft.

Small is big

While the major newspapers are having second thoughts about printing weekday editions, the magazine industry in Australia has reinvented itself. As the leading banners endure a slide in readership, magazines dedicated to niche markets are thriving.

These rely on small pockets of interest, with small print runs, and are almost always produced in conjunction with online options – websites and social media [always social media]. Australia's largest magazine store, MagNation, reports that titles addressing small market segments, often youth–based, are quickly selling out and readers are reserving copies weeks ahead.

Print finds its place

So print survives the initial tidal wave of digital uptake. To do so, it has become much more light–footed, keen to exploit new technologies and to recognise its place in the multiple opportunities for readers to consume information. And with the unrelenting energy of its advocates, it looks like it will continue to do so for a long time to come.