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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing Is Alive and Well in Ocean City

On a recent trip to Ocean City I made it a point to determine exactly what kind of custom printing market existed. I wanted to expand my print brokering reach into this Maryland city, and I was doing some market research. I was able to enter the environment as an objective observer and identify what was, and what was not, being printed and to see how this reflected the characteristics of the audience, the visitors to this ocean resort town.

In spite of the reading I had done over the past few years on the death of newspaper, magazine, and book printing, I decidedly did not see a scarcity of business printing products on my trip to the beach.

Tabloids Aimed at Niche Markets

Most major newspapers have been challenged recently, but in Ocean City I found a plethora of smaller tabloids. Most pertained to real estate (many people want to retire to Ocean City), the elderly (since those who retire to the beach are usually older), beach activities (understandably), entertainment (music and the visual arts), and conventions (since Ocean City, as a beach resort, is an attractive venue for meetings).

I found it enlightening to see that custom printing of smaller newsprint publications targeted to niche markets seemed to be thriving (at least in this one geographical location), even though larger broadsheets aimed at a more general audience (perhaps an entire city) were challenged by the Internet back here in the Washington, DC, area.

That said, upon my return to the DC area, I noticed a number of Spanish and Asian tabloids, again reinforcing my belief that it was not all newsprint publications, but rather the generalized, large-format broadsheet newspapers, that faced the most intense competition from the Internet.

Large Format Printing (and Small Format Printing) along the Beach Roads and in Grocery Stores

Wherever I went in Ocean City I saw large format printing. Ocean City is all about visual competition, with each shop vying with all the others for your attention. Making signs stand out is the first step toward a sale in Ocean City. Up and down the main road I also saw feather flags and other digitally printed signs flapping in the ocean breeze.

In the grocery stores I also saw an expansion of printed signage. Shopping carts had tiny printed signs molded into their plastic handles. There was also the ever-present point-of-purchase display: the cardboard cut-out with food of some sort stacked on its trays (a marriage of offset and flexographic printing). And there were shelf talkers, little signs attached to the grocery store shelves advertising the food.

New Technology Coexists with Custom Printing

Two examples of the newer technology stood out for me. I had not been to Ocean City in a while, so I was more aware of the changes since my last trip.

I saw more variable data electronic signage. Exterior LED (light emitting diode) signs grabbed the attention, reminding me of Las Vegas. These images moved, while other signs were static.

In the department stores I saw two new fixtures: digital kiosks and indoor digital signage (LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, like televisions playing silent ads over and over). What I didn’t see was any less printed signage. Marketing wall-graphics (large format printing) and custom labels on the clothing attested to the life still in “ink on paper.” Variable-data electronic media and custom printing coexisted in the same stores.

Try This Yourself

You may find such an excursion useful as you collect ideas for new marketing campaigns, or perhaps as you determine the correct mix of custom printing and digital media for your business or clients. Try to focus objectively on the use of business printing (offset, digital, large-format, and flexography) and its integration with the newer interactive technology. Think about the audience for the newspapers, advertisements, and signage, and even the restaurant menus. How do these various media images coalesce to “sell” the experience of a particular location?

It could be an enlightening experience.

3 Responses to “Custom Printing Is Alive and Well in Ocean City”

  1. Rio Hunt says:

    I have always enjoyed reading your blog post. Keep it coming.

  2. admin says:

    I appreciate your support.


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