The Printing Industry is Changing

Printing is still an important profession. Since the early 18th century newspapers, printing has been central to the dissemination of ideas and to social change. With the advent of the Internet and social media, it might seem to be a dying profession. So why would anyone want to have a career in printing? The printed product has a validity about it. There is something about print that gives us a sense of legitimacy, it has a credibility to it. The ads on the web can be overwhelming and the fear of spam and viruses is enough make people weary of clicking, but there is no imminent danger in a print ad. (“Print is Dead?…”) There will always be a need for printing and it will be a part of our daily lives, just that the future of it will be different. Ilene LaRue, a Prepress Technician (similar to Graphic Designer), and I discussed some of topics about the industry. Ilene has grown with the changes and continues to be successful. She is a model for a professional in an ever-changing printing industry.

Ilene LaRue has wonderful insight and information to share about printing. Ilene has been working in the printing industry for over 40 years. She also owned a successful graphic design and output service bureau company for 20 years. Ilene is very familiar with all areas of the industry, and has worked at several different types of printing companies. Her first position was in the layout and editorial department at a small newspaper, where she originally was hired as a typist, but that turned out to be a typesetting position. Using an old paper punch word processor, which printed out the type and then pasted it up into pages in the proper format, she would ready the newspaper for plating and then to press. Ilene saw the progression from the word processor to the very early computer, and then to the MAC (Macintosh computer), which made it easier to create the type and layouts needed for print. Learning editorial and graphics on the job, she said, “Luckily it was a small paper, and every time someone quit, you learned their job!” (LaRue). This only added to Ilene’s experience and contributed to her great career in the printing industry.

Ilene and I discussed the future of the printing industry. She believes, “The future of printing is going to be different, that the small shops will become a thing of the past, the larger shops that do books and magazines are thriving.” (LaRue). Everyone needs to remember that there have been changes, in the printing industry, but not all are negative. That the industry has changed rapidly, “In the last 50 years, it’s head spinning how it’s changed.” (LaRue). According to the recent data snapshot report released by WhatTheyThink, the total number of employees in the United States printing industry dropped by 1.3 percent from the previous year. On the other hand, shipments made in the industry increased by 1.1 percent. (“Print Businesses: Surviving…”) The future is digital, true enough, but misleading. In 10, 20, or 50 years, the information environment will be overwhelmingly digital, but the prevalence of electronic communication does not mean that printed material will cease to be important. (Darnton) Even though today’s trend is to transition to digital, printing still does have a future.

Ilene’s thoughts are, “The advent of the online printers, where you can go to their site and pick out a layout, you can actually tell it what type you want, has totally eliminated a lot of the small print shops, a lot of the family print shops. That’s, I think has added to the idea that print’s dying. You see print shops closing up left and right. What’s happened is that it’s become so automated, so much cheaper to do it at some of these shops online. You really don’t have to have a graphic artist, you’re doing it yourself.” (LaRue).

Despite hearing, the phrase print is dead over the past decade, at the min day summit in New York; several panelists say the print is still important and should remain viable for at least the next ten years. (Cools) According to an interview between “Mr. Magazine” and Paul Glader,

“Last year was actually the year we buried the phrase “print is dead.” Nobody is saying “print is dead anymore.” You’d have to be out of your mind to say “print is dead…” And you know, you hear now phrases like “print is changing.” Of course. Change is the only constant in our business. I mean, why would print not change?” (Glader).

It is true that change should be a constant for all industries, including printing, to become successful in today’s marketplace.

So is printing still a good career? Ilene feels, “I don’t know that I would say printing is such a good career. I know somebody has got to do it, I don’t see it as totally going away. If I was advising somebody going into the industry that they should probably look into the graphics end of it more so than the actual print end of it. The way that they have created these larger presses now, the only skilled labor you need now is the actually pressman.” (LaRue). In the publishing and creative sector, the number of newspaper workers declined by nearly 6 percent, whereas those working in advertising, public relations or graphic design saw an increase. (“Print Businesses: Surviving…”) “So if you’re going into printing, go to be the Pressman, go to be the Print Salesman, go to be the graphics person because that is where more money is going to be than some of the other positions.” (LaRue). An article in Printing Impressions advises, if you are in printing or a designer and you love it — Don’t quit printing. Work for a shop that sells on quality. Build your digital skills and offer complimentary print and digital services, but never lose sight of the advantages of print. (“Why Angela Quit…”) Ilene has taken this advice to heart and has stuck with what she loves to do as her career.

I asked Ilene if she agrees that people prefer to disconnect and unwind from the digital environment and relax with something in print? “I feel that it is the older generation that likes to do this, sit at the breakfast table with a newspaper or read a book or magazine.” (LaRue). People still trusts and get excited about the printed product. We still believe in the intrinsic and lasting value of print. Its digital counterpart will change what it means forever, but it will not obliterate it. We do not need to preserve what printing once was but discover what it can be in the future. (Parsons) John Sollar believes that there is still an allure to having something in print. (Sollars) More and more people are actively choosing to unplug, or disconnect themselves from digital media. Joe Pulizzi is doing this more himself, finding that he is turning off his phone and email more to engage with printed material. (Pulizzi) Many people I know also enjoy the feel of a printed book or magazine. It is a great way to relax and unwind from a fast-paced digital age.

What is Ilene’s secret to a successful career in this changing industry? “I attribute my success to being able to change. Being able to learn new programs and stay on top of the older program updates.” (LaRue). What is your advice for someone to have a successful career in printing? “You need to stay up with technology.” (LaRue). Early in our interview, we discussed that the industry is changing at a rapid pace. The processes, software and hardware are also changing and prepress technicians need to keep up with the technology to stay competitive in the industry today. Ilene’s husband Mike has recently self-published a couple of his own stories with her expertise on trends in the industry. Ilene has had the books printed as well as formatted for a digital environment. The internet has definitely made self-publishing a growing option, and to be successful today you need to be involved in all the areas of technology.

I have known Ilene for many years and she has been a great friend, and mentor to me. She has taught me many things that have helped me in my career and personal life. Today she continues to have a great eye, attention to detail and an amazing work ethic. Such characteristics are so important to maintain a lasting career in her field. As we discussed what her future looks like in printing, Ilene say’s, “I’m probably going to stay in prepress until I’m ready to retire. I think the production end of it is good and that’s where I’m going to stay.” (LaRue). In the many years of her career Ilene has held the positions of owner, supervisor, trainer and prepress technician with different companies. Now working for a major printing company, Ilene enjoys the different type of books and magazines she works on in the prepress department. The printing industry is changing. To be successful you need to be adaptable and ever changing as Ilene LaRue. She is a model for anybody who wants to have longevity in his or her career.

Works Cited

Cools, Ellen. “Redefining Success in Print Media.” Folio:, Access Intelligence, LLC, 12 May 2016, <>

Darnton, Robert. “The Digital Age Has Not Significantly Changed the Way People Read.” What Is the Impact of Digitizing Books? Ed. Louise I. Gerdes. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. At Issue. Rpt. from “5 Myths About the ‘Information Age,’.” Chronicle of Higher Education 17 April 2011, Opposing Viewpoints in Context, 15 Oct. 2016. 

Glader, Paul. “‘Mr. Magazine’ On Why Print Magazines Just Won’t Die.” Forbes, Forbes Media, 1 August 2016, <>

LaRue, Ilene. Personal Interview, 29 September 2016

Parsons, John. “Does Print Matter.” Seybold Report: Analyzing Publishing Technologies, Seybold Publications, Inc., 9 August 2007, Vol. 7 Issue 15, p2. EBSCO host, <>

“Print Businesses: Surviving in a ‘dying Industry’.” Wise, Wp@Marketing, 18 May 2016, <>

“Print is Dead? Not So Fast.”, Forbes, Forbes Media, 28 June 2012, <>

Pulizzi, Joe. “7 Reasons Print will Make a Comeback in 2011.” Content Marketing Institute, UBM, 8 August 2010, <>

Sollar, John. “Is Print Media Marketing Dead, or Just Different in 2015.”, Smedio, 2015, <>

“Why Angela Quit the Printing Industry and Why You Shouldn’t.” Printing Impressions, NAPCO Media, 5 Feb. 2013, <>