Some time ago, a friend told me that he would have given up his job as a publisher long ago if he still had to pay the printing prices of 2002. Over the years, he has kept the proposals and invoices from various print shops where he had his publications printed.

Price fluctuations from printer to printer have always been the order of the day, but there is a world of difference between the prices of 2002 and today. It affects print runs of 10,000 copies and above, as well as those around and below 5,000 copies. Prices today are simply half of what he had to pay in 2002.

Online print – you will now say. They have ruined the prices. But they haven’t. In 2002, online printers largely stayed out of the magazine printing business. So why then? The answer is to be found in the technology. Nowadays, no one delivers open files to print shops anymore, but PDFs. Computer-to-plate is an established process, 100 pages of film no longer have to be exposed and laboriously copied onto plates, and the error rate is much lower than ever before. Sure, wages and salaries have gone up and so have prices overall. But paper prices, which account for about half of printing costs, have declined – significantly, in fact – over this period.

An online shopping cart

How prices develop over a defined period of time is therefore also a reflection of what is happening in the market. This gave me the idea of launching something similar for online print. But systematically – and with the help of a price index, the rate of price increase can be determined.

A price index indicates how the prices of goods and services in a basket of goods change and whether prices are rising or falling. The Federal Statistical Office, for example, calculates the well-known consumer price index and other indices.

However, there is still no price index for online print products. That’s why the zipcon team started a survey among online printers, resellers and conventional printers at the beginning of last year. The result was clear: there is a general interest in a price index for online print products. We have taken up this request. The aim of zipcon is not to make a scientific claim – it is to show a trend and to derive from this indicator how well or how badly the industry is doing.

We have included in the online print shopping cart, products that virtually all online printers have in their portfolio and that are frequently requested at the same time. These are:

  • 10,000 flyers DIN A5 (4/4 coloured, 135g paper glossy),
  • 1,000 brochures DIN A4 (stitched, 32 pages including cover, 4/4 coloured, inside 115g paper matt and cover 135g paper matt) and
  • 250 business cards (double-sided dispersion varnish matt, 4/4 coloured, 300g paper matt).

This now creates a reasonably comparable portfolio.

What’s the point?

To determine the index, the zipcon team has developed a routine to query the prices of several online printers and those of a platform for print buyers on a weekly basis. Included are Vistaprint, WMD, Unitedprint, Onlineprinters, Flyeralarm, Saxoprint, onlinedrucken, Flyerunited and sourc-e. Since June 2020, zipcon consulting has been collecting this data with over 300 enquiries per quarter, evaluating it and publishing it quarterly as “ZOPI” (Zipcon Online print Price Index). Of course, here on, in beyondprint unplugged and in various partner media.

“Value for money represents a subjective perception of the appropriateness of a price compared to the quality of a product. However, price is a critical value in a polypoly market that we can use to judge standard products.” – Jessica Kelley, zipcon Financial Analyst

The ZOPI brings four advantages to the observer:

  • With its detailed price observation, it maps the price history of the products in the shopping basket.
  • The index is used to monitor prices and changes in the market. It provides the reliable answer whether prices are falling or rising.
  • The ZOPI also allows a price comparison. In this way, the position of one’s own company in the price ranking can be classified.
  • Ultimately, a price index provides a guide to the print or buy decision.

No price ranking!

It is important to zipcon consulting that the ZOPI is not perceived as a “ranking of the cheapest price”. This could be misinterpreted as a recommendation to buy. However, zipcon consulting does not make purchase recommendations as a matter of principle. Quality is also not evaluated. On the one hand, this is subjective for the customer (what is top for one customer does not necessarily meet the quality requirements of another customer) – on the other hand, the quality is also subject to the respective printer, if he acts for a print portal.

The products queried by zipcon are based on the common standards of the printing industry. For this reason, options such as proofing, shipping and the like were not included in the configuration of the products.

© Photo by zipcon consulting/

In June 2020, we started to observe the prices of a reference product from various online retailers. On average, the price has only increased slightly, although the demand for this product is currently presumably low. The table shows that the price at Unitedprint went up significantly and at Onlineprinters it dropped by a good 4 percentage points.

© Photo by zipcon consulting/

Since November 2020, we have observed a more extensive shopping basket. Here, the table shows that Onlineprinters is on the market with a lower price, while Unitedprint is on the market with a higher price. Generally speaking, the online printers seem to want to impose a gentle price increase.

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Some time ago a friend told me that he would have given up his job as a publisher long ago if he still had to pay the printing prices of 2002. Over the years, he has kept the quotations and invoices from various printers where he had his title printed.
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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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