Initiative Online Print: representing the interests of online print providers – what’s behind all of this?


Every industry has a body that represents its interests and the online print industry is no different! But what is the Initiative Online Print and what does it stand for in this sometimes confusing market?

In times of consolidations, takeovers and coopetition in the online print market, businesses should know where they stand. Companies don’t get anywhere fast if they don’t communicate with their competitors and other market players. And that’s exactly the purpose of the “IOP” – getting folks in the online print industry, especially its movers and shakers, around a table talking to each other instead of sending each other warning letters.

A quick look back at the year 2007…

Yes, I admit it and most people know this anyway – I initiated the IOP back then. The reason for this was the substantive issue of the “web-to-print patent” acquired by Vistaprint and that was to be denied to all other users. That is what led to the IOP’s establishment in 2007 under the name “Interessengemeinschaft zur Förderung des freien Wettbewerbs Web-to-Print e. V.” by a large number of players in the still emerging online print market. Following the settlement of the patent dispute in 2010, the association was renamed “Initiative Online Print e. V.”, and has served its members as a communication platform for nine years now. The association‘s membership includes many German, Austrian and Swiss companies that are directly or indirectly involved in the online print industry. Our line-up includes print providers, machinery manufacturers, software specialists, consultants, subcontractors and last but not least the German print and media industry’s umbrella organization, the bvdm.

Communicating with each other and assessing market trends and developments – these are just 2 of the benefits that IOP members value; Source:
Communicating with each other and assessing market trends and developments – these are just 2 of the benefits that IOP members value; Source:

And why is the IOP important for the online print industry in D/A/CH?

In representing both the technical and commercial interests of the German-speaking online print industry, the association concerns itself with the collective development of online print ordering, production and delivery processes. And since some of the members also have international business dealings, these standardization projects also have an impact beyond the borders of German-speaking countries. Incidentally, internationalization will be one of the key topics of discussion within this industry in the near future.

As a CEO-level communication and networking platform the IOP links key decision-makers and promotors/sponsors – this enables conflicts and disputes that would otherwise be conducted in the marketplace to be discussed and settled face-to-face.

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“Active involvement in creating the rules and conventions governing online print processes is open to all. The Initiative Online Print is the right place to be for any company that wants its voice to be heard in this environment.” – Bernd Zipper

One objective of collaboration within the IOP is to flag up and publicize the needs of the industry using PR tools. Problems as well as the industry’s present and future are therefore discussed and solutions are generated at the two annual meetings. The Board handles implementation and also champions active lobbying.

What benefits does IOP membership provide?

The IOP has been able to report major online print players joining up almost every year since it was established. Well-known members, who engage in healthy competition with one another, discuss solutions and services that put all participants in the picture about current and future developments in the industry, based on first-hand information. The IOP is thus enabling its members to act as a closed community with common interests and to help shape the future of print, an increasing proportion of which is verifiably happening online.

But the IOP makes no claim to be an “official industry association”.  As far as the German print industry is concerned, that is very clearly the bvdm. The IOP sees its role as that of a mouthpiece, intelligently representing the interests of its members in respect of all issues affecting online print, and it also acts as a consultant, for example to other associations. However becoming a member is not that easy. The reason for this is that the IOP does not want to lose its key characteristic of being a forum for face-to-face communication – that’s why joining is a more drawn-out process. Companies interested in joining should just get in touch with the Board – simply via the website.

My take: We as the IOP provide all members with access to a network of market-dominating players, thereby creating an organization that is well able to represent the interests of our industry. Our meetings, which member companies take turns to host, provide practically relevant discussions and – depending on meeting venues and participant priorities – completely new insights into techniques and process sequences. And since this community of interests focuses on the development of the entire online print industry in D/A/CH – plus an increasing proportion of international activities – and not on the prestige or influence of individual players with major market share, beyond-print will soon feature a series of interviews that provide insights into the expectations and opinions of several IOP members about the business year just commenced. I do take a certain pride in having the honor of being chairman of the IOP – and am delighted that the brainchild born in 2007 is going places.

Founder and CEO of zipcon consulting GmbH, one of the leading consulting companies for the print and media industry in Central Europe. The technology and strategy consultant and his team actively support practical implementation in a wide variety of customer projects. His work involves developing visions, concepts and strategies for the players active in the print production process across a wide range of industries. His areas of expertise include online print, mass customization, strategy and technological assessment for print, and the development of new strategies in the print and media environment. Bernd Zipper is the creator and chairman of Initiative Online Print e.V. and, in addition to his consulting activities, is an author, lecturer and sought-after speaker, orator and moderator. His visionary lectures are regarded worldwide as trend-setting management recommendations for the print and media industry. (Profiles also in Xing, LinkedIn).

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