Many are commenting about the demise of Graphic Arts Monthly and Graphic Arts Online. We will miss them, and I have trouble acknowledging that they are gone for good. Part of that is a sense that the parent company abandoned a child that was healthy, and left all the friends and followers of GAM in the lurch.
Of course many people are saying it’s no huge loss: that GAM and other print publications were not meeting current needs in the marketplace anyway, so “no big deal.” So what are the current needs?
Again and again I have heard that one thing folks think is missing is a place where folks can go to find out about (and discuss in a free and open atmosphere without a sales pitch) the various products that exist to help us automate the production process, eliminate errors and logjams, help us interface with our customers, process and transfer files and general make our lives easier and out bottom line better.
There is some truth to the accusation that most publications and web sites are underwritten and therefore controlled by vendors. Then again, someone has to cover the cost of putting up the site, producing content and so on. Users all want the information to be freely available.
There was a time when the VuePoint conferences met some of this need for information. They were designed to give voice to the folks in the trenches: the ones dealing with the everyday nitty gritty job of managing, RIPping, storing, exchanging and troubleshooting files for print production.
But VuePoint is long gone.
One other important element that needs to be considered is the plight of small vendors who can’t get information about their products to the folks who can use them. There are a lot of great products out their that few people know about. The idea of serving those vendors and providing a forum for discussion of print and multimedia products is the basis for the Printoolz web site.
Launched nearly a year ago and relaunched in May 2010 with a totally new interface, the site has just recently opened up a Forumz area to allow users a voice. Frankly, we wanted to do the Forums earlier and in fact had a section for forums in the early versions of the Printoolz site.
But now they have been totally revamped in light of the huge increase in traffic since the site was relaunched a couple of weeks ago. As a GAM writer and GAO forums manager, I know what a struggle it is to get a forum going online and getting folks to use it, post comments, and keep the conversation going. GAM had said they wanted to expand the forums and we did quintuple the number of forum users, but they never made the promised changes to the antiquated user interface. RBI simply did not want to make it a priority. Thus the forums never got the use they should have gotten.
Printoolz has nowhere near the 65K/month site visitors that GAM online had. But we are pleased to report the numbers have skyrocketed in the couple of weeks since the new interface when live. We looking at about 10K visitors in May if the trend holds. That seems like enough eyeballs to get a conversation going. We hope so.
We will allow vendors to participate in the forums, but only if they clearly indicate that they are vendors. Posts by vendors who do not identify themselves will be deleted whenever discovered. For one thing, we want to give the small vendors an opportunity to be heard, and the voice of all vendors, big or small, can certainly be helpful. We just don’t need another sales pitch.
LinkedIn has proven to be an exceptionally fertile area for getting conversations going in the area of print and multimedia production. Many of the LinkedIn groups have thousands of members (the Printoolz group has about 600 LinkedIn members at last count). But what we have found is that there are so many groups and so many areas where the interests of their members overlap, the conversation becomes a bit disjointed.
We very much believe LinkedIn is a huge part of the puzzle of connecting printers, designers and print providers to one another. There are many LinkedIn groups that deal with very specific aspects of the industry. Moderators in general do a good job of keeping the conversation going, eliminating spam and prohibiting vendors from taking over the conversation.
Whether it’s on the Printoolz site or a LinkedIn group, I hope everyone will make a real effort to participate in the conversation. Your voice is important and your stories and experience may be of immeasurable help to someone who is struggling with a problem or concern.