Peter Coleman: How the world changes as DRUPA, INMA events fall



The 'postponement' of DRUPA in June - effectively a cancellation - signals another tectonic shift, as significant as that during the global financial crisis (writes Peter Coleman).

Then, press manufacturers discovered that they didn't need to assemble and run massive presses at a trade show; chairs and tables at which they could talk about them would suffice.

Few companies place even a press unit on their stand these days, and in a changed world, even these - and perhaps the "networking and hospitality" areas - are at risk.

One speaker at a Local Media Association event (with Borrell Florida) in the US last week joked that it could be "the last conference ever on Earth", and while that's unlikely, change is almost certainly inevitable.

INMA's World Congress in Paris and PNA's America East event in the chocolate town of Hershey are also among the latest casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of which will be partially replaced by video and streamed events. INMA's award presentation, for example, will be streamed.
Not that we're saying that a video link-up in any way compares with face-to-face networking, but in so many circumstances this has already ceased to be an option.

Global air travel is increasingly frowned upon on environmental grounds, and when Greta Thunberg stepped ashore from the catamaran in which she had sailed from the US to Spain, she was in a sense daring us all not to cut it back.

Donald Trump has also jerked two fingers at those who would risk bringing the "foreign" virus to American shores.

As for DRUPA, most of the demonstrations have been - and would have been - of digital printing equipment, admittedly of various sizes, but relatively small and light enough to be moved around the world to local demonstrations. At the other end of the scale, Australia's Currie Group has been trucking its own print and finishing demo around the country in an expandable semi-trailer for years in a show that literally comes to you.

Elsewhere, "heavy metal" becomes increasingly irrelevant to a digitally-focussed newsmedia industry, despite the fact that this is still where four-fifths of revenue is derived. In that scenario, better ways of printing newspapers have become the DRUPA focus and talking point

The former joint venture that is Shanghai Electric's Wisprint had hoped to use DRUPA for a global launch of the brand based on what was known as Goss Graphic Systems China. The Shanghai factory - which closed for a few weeks because of COVID-19 - is back at full capacity again, but sales director Peter Kirwan tells me there is great disappointment that the chance to really launch the Wisprint brand on the global stage will be lost. Showing its highly-automated press in Düsseldorf had apparently never been an option.

WAN-Ifra's flagship World Publishing Expo - which of course, gave 2020 a miss because of DRUPA - has also evolved, and is perhaps being gradually overtaken by the organisation's other events, especially in markets such as India.

INMA executive director Earl Wilkinson also makes the point that video skills used for collaborative meetings are being honed as a result of pandemic precautions, an upside which will have long-lasting benefits but will render networking events less necessary.

Like most people, I've put my own travel arrangements "on hold". Australia's advice to travellers is "reconsider your travel plans" - one level short of "don't go" - and among other things, this has insurance implications. But time is being lost, and I am reminded that "this is not a rehearsal".

Meanwhile, knowledge is strength, and we will work to keep you informed, and with vendors and advertisers to share the information they would have brought to Düsseldorf, Paris, Hershey and elsewhere.

Keep well!

Peter Coleman

• Peter Coleman is managing editor of GXpress. Contact him at mpcmedia@ozemail.com.au