An Interview with Sandy Hubbard, Print Futurist
In spite of today’s predominantly digital world, the printing industry is full of interesting new technologies, intoxicating smells, tangible products, and creative personalities…that few people know. Championing for the recognition of the pervasiveness of print is Sandy Hubbard, a Portland-based marketer. Sandy spent 22 years as the publisher of Printer’s NW Trader Magazine, giving her an inside look at the latest equipment, technology, and more as the industry has grown and changed. Continuing her passion for print, she currently works for PrintMediaCentr.com as a Print Futurist – someone who is an excellent resource, networker, and blogger in the current print landscape while always being on the cusp of what is to come. Recently we had a chance to sit down and chat with Sandy about where the print industry is going and how not dead it is.
How did you get into the print industry?
I was introduced at an early age, my grandfather was a printer. My dad completed a formal apprenticeship program as a young man and worked professionally as printer after that. For a while they co-owned a small town printer in north Michigan when I was about three or four. My dad was also a reporter for the newspaper and would take me with him to events he was covering. The access he had as a reporter was appealing. He heard the secrets first, learned early on about new technologies, was privy to tours. He later ran the printing operations for University of Michigan. So I was exposed to several sides of the print industry my entire life. After graduating with degrees in English and Film, I worked as a film producer for ten years before a friend recruited me to do a project for Printer’s NW Trader Magazine. At the end of the project I was hired as the editor and have worked in print ever since.
Tell me about the magazine.
Printer’s NW was a magazine marketed to the western states for printers and related industries. It became the central go to place for industry-related news and included reviews of equipment, advertisements, lists of services. Being the publisher, I was granted much of the access to new technologies that so appealed to me as a little girl watching my dad. The magazine often broke stories of new technology long before it became mainstream. As the publisher, I was a neutral person for companies to go to for advice, be it services, machines, business plans, marketing ideas. Since I had no vested interest, I was a trustworthy adviser. Last summer, the owners decided to shut down the magazine and I moved on to PrintMediaCentr.
So what is PrintMediaCentr? What do they do, what is your role there?
PrintMediaCentr is an online portal with an international audience. It offers a directory of retailers and services but also stories, similar to the edginess of Printer’s NW magazine only online instead of in print. The magazine attracted many manufacturers while the site attracts more buyers. We blog, host webinars, design marketing plans for start up companies, and do our best to be cutting edge. The company is run by only three people, so we have to be really on top of our game. As the print futurist, I work to make printing exciting and relevant. Currently we’re working on our next big event at the Graph Expo Tradeshow coming up in October in Chicago. Our theme is “Experience the Printerverse” and we’re offering networking opportunities, speakers, activities, tweet-ups, and more.
Speaking of tweeting, you’re one of the most active tweeters in this industry.
Yes, about two years ago I started a twitter campaign with the hashtag #HelpPrintThrive. This was before hashtags were all that well known on Twitter. #HelpPrintThrive came about as a way to connect printers online. It’s there to help start the conversation, promote print, and for the good of the industry. It actually caught on by a few huge printing brands. I wouldn’t say it’s “my” hashtag but I do let people know if they abuse it.
And you’re also involved in #PrintChat.
I didn’t start that one but it’s another way for people in the print industry to connect. Every Wednesday afternoon (1pm PST) printers meet up on Twitter to chat about what’s going on in the industry.
How did you become so involved in the print community on social media?
I just started talking about it. When word gets out that one person wants to talk, others find you. I’m always finding people in the industry, people who were previously in the industry, people who are interested in the industry. I like to get the conversation started. Everyone has print in their lives, that’s how pervasive it is.
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting into the print industry?
Learn how to print real jobs, not just create it digitally. When you print actual jobs, you see what’s right and wrong, what works and what doesn’t. And get your foot in the door with a good company. Print is an industry where hard work, organization, and attention to quality are rewarded. If you show initiative, you can move up quickly in a job and they often have good training programs. I would also highly recommend on-going training. New versions of things are coming out all the time, new programs, improvements and upgrades. You have a personal responsibility to keep learning new things and doing so will take you farther in your career. Among the current generation, there is an amazing work ethic. Young people today are loyal, competent, conscientious, top-notch quality people. Between the technology they grew up with and their education, young people are more adaptable, collaborative, and engaged. They aren’t afraid of contract or consulting roles. These are the types of people you find in print shops that are thriving.
Any advice for those interested in the technology side of print?
Visit PrintMediaCentr.com and check out their online webinars. Pick areas that are well-suited for you. There is always information available in your area of interest, the biggest limit is your own time. Locally, there is a quarterly breakfast at Portland State University for digital marketers. That is a great place to network. The main thing is to find out who the authorities are in your area of interest, get on their radar, and learn from them.
What do you say to the idea that print is dead?
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It might be true that parts of the print industry aren’t as popular. The medium many people use to read or find their news is now dominated by the digital world. But look around you, print is everywhere. Road signs, advertising, menus – print is everywhere. This is a viable, thriving industry, and I want to keep it on people’s radar. Sometimes that means going mobile. Printing that print isn’t dead keeps the conversation in-house, so to speak. If you want to talk about print to mobile users, you have to use mobile.
Any other misconceptions you’d like to clear up?
That printers are backwards, out of date. In reality, the print shops that are doing well are the most forward thinking, the most collaborative. In the mid-90s, there was a change in the economy that forced printers to update or be phased out. Much of today’s technology was created for printers, print lead the way, which actually puts them at the forefront, not behind.
What do you see as the future of print?
This industry is fascinating, dynamic, and quickly changing. We’re going to start seeing technologies that already exist become more prevalent. Things like interactive printing, 3D printing, print embedded with chips, roll-fed inkjet printing personalized on the fly, things like that. This is definitely an exciting industry to be a part of, one that affects everything.