While each of the printing sectors has its own draws and specialties, lithographic printing is the largest sector in the US printing industry and has dominated due to lower costs than its other counterparts. However, in recent years it has seen a decline as digital printing is becoming a more prominent contender. (IBISWorld Industry Report 32311 - Printing in the US)
Digital printing is one of the fastest growing sectors in printing today. It is more cost effective for short run jobs because no plates need to be produced, reducing initial setup costs and time. Though quality may be lower than traditional lithographic methods, new technology is being produced that is closing that gap. This segment is expected to continue its growth in the next five years. (IBISWorld Industry Report OD5754 - Digital Printing in the US)
The biggest threat to the print industry is the digitization of content that would normally be printed. Popular books and magazines are being offered online for download to read on digital devices, and companies are ordering fewer catalogues for mailing purposes. These changes have impacted the advertising and publishing sectors the most, but the effects are seen throughout the industry. Printing revenue is expected to decline 2.3% annually until 2021. (IBISWorld Industry Report 32311 - Printing in the US)
To help combat the declining demand, companies have started to consolidate their services. If they only offered prepress and press work before, they may invest in postpress equipment to keep more jobs in house for as long as possible. By consolidating services, companies can cut their costs and still bring in enough revenue to stay profitable. Other companies have diversified and reached beyond the industry to document processing services, where a company manages a printed product from its creation to its delivery. Yet other companies have chosen to pursue the digital publishing market. (IBISWorld Industry Report 32311 - Printing in the US)
Where does this leave us?
The print industry has seen a very long and profitable life. As with any industry, it begins to decline. However, with new technology and ways of thinking, the print industry is evolving beyond its typical services. While its physical nature may be becoming less prominent, it is an industry capable of adapting to changing times and circumstances. It is hard to say for sure where it will end up in 10 years, but it is most certainly a trend worth following.