University of Memphis: A Case of Digital Feeding Print on Demand

Article ImageCompany:University of Memphis Athletic Media Relations
The University of Memphis Athletic Media Relations (AMR) office strives to promote the Tennessee school's various varsity sports teams-including softball, football, men's basketball, men's tennis, women's tennis, volleyball, and women's basketball-through a variety of methods, including print publications, its website, and social media such as Twitter.

Business Challenge
With more and more information going online, AMR has not had as much of a need to stockpile physical copies of sports publications, such as team yearbooks, as it had in the past. "We have gone more to online yearbooks and media guides, where before we used to print all those out, but print has kind of gone away a little bit," says W. Brandon Kolditz, assistant media relations director/publications coordinator for Memphis AMR. As a result, the department wanted to find a way to save money on printing costs while still having enough printed team yearbooks on hand for anyone wanting one.

Vendors of Choice: Issuu and Peecho
Peecho is an Amsterdam-based free service that allows individuals to sell their digital content as a physical product, and Issuu, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a leading global digital publishing platform that says it delivers "exceptional reading experiences of magazines, catalogs, and newspapers." In April 2012, the two companies announced the integration of the Peecho Cloud Print Button (CPB) within the Issuu website. Now, according to a press release, more than 2 million digital publishers on Issuu, such as Memphis AMR, have the opportunity to transform their digital publications, including magazines, glossy paperbacks, and hardcover books, into printed copies. All are printed on demand, regardless of size or the number of pages.;

The Problem in Depth
Ultimately, ordering physical copies of yearbooks for Memphis' sports teams amounted to a well-calculated roll of the dice. "Let's say for football or basketball, you have to print so many [copies] based on the media needs and fan needs. And depending on how the season goes, you don't know if you're going to need them for the postseason ... so at the end of the year, you may be throwing away a few boxes," says Kolditz.

For the last couple of years, AMR worked with a company that offered "print on demand where they set up an online store for us," says Kolditz. This gave Memphis fans the ability to order a physical copy of their favorite Tigers' team yearbook. But, in the last year, the company began charging a $3,000 upfront fee for its services. "We made a little bit of profit on each guide that was sold, but by the end of the year, we were still in the red; we didn't make up that $3,000," he adds.

In addition, there were strict specifications that needed to be met before printing. "With some of the other companies ... you have to send them the high resolution version, and it's got to have a spine and binding and stuff like that," says Kolditz.

The Solution
With the integration of the Peecho Cloud Print Button on the Issuu website, Kolditz and his department now have the ability to print yearbooks on demand without any upfront costs.

"With Issuu [and the CPB] we're not spending money up front, we are not losing anything by doing it, and it's still giving us a way to [cater to] people that do want to have the hard copy in their hands, that don't want to look at everything online," says Kolditz. "This way, what we do is we print some on the front end, and if there's ever more of a need, it's all on demand and you're not wasting anything, so it's more green friendly as well."

Peecho and Issuu executives both admit they still see value in printed publications-even as the rest of the world has feverishly trended in the opposite direction.

"Everybody's going from print books, p-books, to e-books," says Mik Stroyberg, director of consumer engagement and US sales at Issuu. "There's a great value to having a book or a magazine in your hand; what I would like to do is go from digital publishing to print publishing to get the best of both worlds."
Martijn Groot, CEO and co-founder of Peecho, agrees. "We do believe in the fact people will still want tangible products of certain content."

According to a press release, the CPB connects digital publishers who use Issuu "with a large network of the world's best print production facilities. By analyzing the specifications of any digital document in real-time, it automatically calculates the accurate, lowest price for a printed version and displays the price comparisons."

Due to the "diverse nature" of Issuu's publications, transforming its pixels into high-quality print has been really complicated-until now, according to Stroyberg. "The Peecho Cloud Print Button does an excellent job by offering a service that used to be impossible. We look forward to providing our digital publishers with a fast, cost-effective way to receive their digital content as a physical product," says Stroyberg.

Most online content is not print-ready because there is "a bewildering range of digital publishing file formats, and print facilities all require their own specific values for size, spine, cut marks, margins, and more," says Groot. "This is the reason that there are plenty of sites that let you print a magazine or book on demand, but most services only print specific product sizes via a single print facility. A lot of titles are never published in print because the volume isn't large enough. Peecho aims to be the long tail of print publishing: professional printing for the masses."

According to Groot, Peecho and Issuu became acquainted via one of the latter's investors. "Of course, because of the fact that they have got so many publishers, they were immediately a very interesting company to us," adds Groot.

In fact, Issuu is the fastest-growing digital publishing platform in the world with more than 52 million monthly visitors. More than 210,000 publications are added each month, and Issuu has more than 4 million original publications and serves more than 3.5 billion monthly impressions.

With such a large and quickly growing audience, "it was a very logical match," says Groot. Every day Issuu has 20,000 new uploads. "So there are 20,000 new publications on our platform each and every day," says Stroyberg. "And when they upload and open their publications for the first time, they will have the opportunity to actually make a physical print of it with the Cloud Print Button."

Kolditz, like Stroyberg and Groot, also sees the value of a physical publication. "There's a lot you can do digitally with adding videos and stuff like that, but there's definitely something about having an actual hard copy in your hands and being able to flip through it and having it on a coffee table to show others," he observes.

The Outcome
In the future, consumers will also have the opportunity to print on Issuu with the CPB, says Stroyberg. "What we are hoping for is that publishers can go into our system, and they can actually say that if people want to print [their publication], ‘We would like a cut of it,'" he says. "And the publishers can start earning money on the publications."

Kolditz says he couldn't be happier with the results of the CPB on Issuu. "One of the first things I did was use the print button to get us a copy of one of our volleyball yearbooks that we put up on Issuu, and the quality is great," he says.

Kolditz adds he would recommend the service to other publishers. "You can share all of your things with the people who want it but aren't losing anything in this digital age, where there is still a need for hard copies people want in their hands."

While he didn't have an exact dollar amount on hand, Kolditz says the ability to print team yearbooks on demand saves his department "several thousand dollars" per year in its budget; those funds can be used in other areas, such as hiring staff.