The smallest drupa ever is facing the biggest challenges. Ever.

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Recently I had the opportunity to present my drupa analysis at the Intergraf “Print Matters” conference in Bucharest, and I noticed a number of offbeat comments on various online channels. As a “drupa veteran” (my first visit was in 1990), I’ll add my two cents. But before anyone here thinks this is going to be a “general reckoning”: absolutely not. I love drupa! But the trade fair, which has set the pace for the industry for many decades, will soon – in my view – need a pacemaker itself.

Measured by the number of visitors, it proved to be the smallest drupa ever. 170,000: drupa has never seen so few visitors. The “home team”, i.e. the trade fair visitors from Germany, hardly mattered. No wonder, really: drupa was already focusing on massive internationalization in 2016. That was – and is – not wrong per se. However, in the way it was implemented, it simply did not appeal to the domestic audience (D/A/CH). It is also noticeable in 2024 that drupa is very American in character. That’s okay too, but for many players from the D/A/CH market, there was no reason to go to the drupa themselves, after all, the messages from the Anglo-American region were constantly being thrown at them online. And, to be honest: It’s easy to argue about impact, depth and professionalism. On the other hand, our US colleagues will also be asking themselves why they should actually come to drupa, after all they hear the same messages there as they do at the trade fairs in the UK and in the USA itself. It would be like visiting your own bubble – and therefore hardly useful.

Like no other trade fair in the world, drupa is an icon. An industry barometer – or in view of the state of the global printing industry – rather an industry thermometer that sends signals to the world about the state of our industry. An important event for the economy, analysts and investors. Important for the entire industry. However, the “carbon copy of drupa 2016” that ended a few days ago no longer does this justice. The euphoric final report from Messe Düsseldorf hardly reflects reality. A jubilant report, but not a trace of self-reflection. Even that is fine with me, after all, everyone has to sell their topic. But some points were deliberately forgotten. For example, the fact that Messe Düsseldorf as a location now has a beautiful new South Entrance – but in terms of facilities it is more in the mid-range. Not to mention the costs for exhibitors to use the facilities. A stand at drupa is hardly affordable – especially for smaller companies – and some young companies are considering whether it makes more sense to use online channels instead of being present on site. Especially since almost all of the current cash cows are based on digital business models. What do you want at a trade fair?

Frankly, as Chairman of the Initiative Online Print, I was even a little appalled by the fact that many members of the IOP did not consider drupa to be important in the slightest. Statements and questions such as “that doesn’t interest me, which topics are ours?”, “oh, it’s drupa again – we used to go there too – it’s not worth it today”, or “yes, I’ll send our technicians there” and “it’s not worth the time investment, they only have the ‘old economy’ in mind”, were quite sobering for me shortly before drupa. Admittedly, I’m skeptical about the “remake of drupa 2016” myself – but that doesn’t mean that the platform can’t be used. Despite everything, my colleagues are absolutely right. Some of the exhibitors did present the “new print industry” – companies such as Gelato, Cloudprinter, ctrl-s, be.print and tessitura, to name just one example – but by and large, the “new print industry” is at best a topic at the Cube or at the special DNA show. And, to put it mildly, not enough – in fact, far too little.

The hope of receiving momentum from the USA in precisely this area was hardly fulfilled. If you look closely, almost all the innovators in the “print industry 2.0” tend to come from the D/A/CH region and Europe. Now you could say that software manufacturers don’t buy square meters at trade fairs – which is of course different for the big heavy metal manufacturers – but without the many small software providers, no differentiated business areas can be mapped and therefore there is no “fuel” for the big players. The pulsating topics of our time were hardly addressed by the trade fair. Yes, there were references here and there to mass customization, online printing and similar topics, but there was hardly any real understanding that our industry as a whole is changing. Another reason why companies that have long understood this change did not feel they were in good hands at drupa.

There are two essential questions for a trade fair organizer: How do you attract enough visitors to be attractive to exhibitors? And: How do you make your large exhibitors happy? After all, it is a kind of “law of nature”: if there are enough large exhibitors “at the start”, then the small exhibitors will follow – similar to a pull effect. But this is precisely where Messe Düsseldorf now finds itself in a dilemma: an eight-year break. Eight years in which the print world has changed. Eight years in which new rules were established that hardly anyone in the “old economy” took seriously. Eight years in which neither the drupa advisory board, nor the trade fair, nor the trade fair team understood that there is no longer an analog world – without the digital dimension. Eight years of innovations that have bypassed drupa. Eight years in which new market makers have created their own platforms. Eight years in which other trade fairs and events have been able to position themselves excellently around the globe. New events have been added, new formats. A great example is the OMR – here the focus is on the congress and dialog – one of the largest trade fairs in digital business has emerged around it. And: eight years in which the next generation of printers has grown up – printers who have never experienced drupa live before, and who have little association with it and who first need to be convinced.

It’s time for drupa to come up with a new, more innovative concept. It’s time for drupa to address target groups that have not yet felt catered to. Time for drupa to reinvent itself. Because: It’s worth it!

PS: And before some people say “Zipper just wants his old job back…” – Yes, I was once a drupa consultant (in the Manuel Matare team from 2000 to 2008) and yes, it was a great time. Today I want one thing above all: to use trade fairs as an effective 1:1 dialog platform and alternative to virtual communication – but my focus has long since shifted elsewhere.

Summary
The smallest drupa ever is facing the biggest challenges. Ever.
Article Name
The smallest drupa ever is facing the biggest challenges. Ever.
Description
Recently I had the opportunity to present my drupa analysis at the Intergraf "Print Matters" conference in Bucharest, and I noticed a number of offbeat comments on various online channels. As a "drupa veteran" (my first visit was in 1990), I'll add my two cents. But before anyone here thinks this is going to be a "general reckoning": absolutely not. I love drupa! But the trade fair, which has set the pace for the industry for many decades, will soon - in my view - need a pacemaker itself.
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Beyond-print.net

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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, Owner: (Registered business address: Germany), processes personal data only to the extent strictly necessary for the operation of this website. All details in the privacy policy.