Paperless society? Not so fast" even though electronic technology has taken a toll on the pulp and paper industries especially in the production of newsprint there are still 20,000 identifiable uses of paper in the world today. To stay in existence many print companies that in the past used paper products exclusively are now hedging their bets by also moving to the Internet and offering electronic versions of their publications. According to IDC (International Data Corporation) in the article "Paperless society? IDC says not so fast" although the world is printing less, "the paperless society remains largely a myth as page volume from printers was 2.98 trillion 2012, down 1.5 percent from 3.03 trillion in 2011". It will take a long time IF ever before we become a paperless society.
So what impact has the surge in use of the Internet and smart devices have on the art licensing industry? Paper products such as greeting cards, wall calendars, personal checks, and daily planners are now competing with electronic technology. And, these paper products use licensable art to help sell them. Will these industries disappear along with the opportunity to license art for them?
• Daily Planners
The sales of daily planners are declining as smart devices take over the task of scheduling persons daily lives. But according to the article "Daily planners: paper or electronic?" many people are visual and although electronic planners make life easier it still is satisfying to write down lists, scratch them off when complete, and know that it is crash proof and will not suddenly disappear. According to the article there still is a large segment of the population that use paper planners. This industry probably will not disappear but to stay in business it now has customizable features and is more for a niche market.
• Wall Calendars
One of the biggest industries that depend upon art and photographs to sell products is wall calendars. For years it has been a tradition in December to purchase calendars for the kitchen, maybe for other rooms in the home, and for gifts. Now smart phones and computers have taken over part of the calendar industry but do NOT think wall calendars will disappear.
According to the article "Calendars: The Paper-Digital Trap" it seems that many people are using both paper and electronic calendars. Individuals use electronic calendars as daily planners while person(s) use wall calendars as wall décor and scheduled appointments that can be viewed at a glance. In the article " Why do we still buy calendars?" Dr. Paul Glennie at the University of Bristol in the UK thinks that ". . . the calendar has a social function, bringing people together around a common focal point. . . From a household point of view or a work point of view, it works on a more obviously collective level than everybody looking down at their own apps."
So, it looks like calendars are here to stay. But because of the shift in consumer spending, consumers now wait for the expected discounted calendars to go on sale before purchasing them. This is affecting the amount of revenue that calendar manufacturers make and thus the amount of royalties paid to artists.
• Personal Checks
Now that bills can be paid online you would think that the use of checks are now obsolete. But according to the articles "Why don't more consumers use automatic bill pay?" and "Are Paper Checks Still Useful" only 50% people pay their bills online. The reason is not all persons find it convenient, have computers, or trust the security of paying over the Internet. Also not all companies are set up for their customers to pay online. And, checks may be the only way to pay services such as the hairdresser, gardener, house keeper, or send money gifts to friends and relatives.
Decorative personal checks are a favorite among those that like to express their personality as stated in "Five Reasons Why You Should Still Use Personal Checks" and it is also easier to keep track of personal finances. But because of the ability to pay bills online, checks usage has declined. Thus, the personal check industry has weakened resulting in artists not making much revenue for licensing their art on them.
• Greeting Cards
About five years ago when e-cards became popular the paper greeting card industry were concerned that they would be put out of business because consumers would only use e-cards. The reason is that e-cards are either free or less expensive than paper cards and do not need the additional cost of a stamp to send it. American Greetings and other large card companies struggled as revealed in the article "Even As American Greetings Struggles, Small Card Companies Find A new Way to Thrive". However, small card companies found a way to successfully sell cards by producing a handmade luxurious look with embellishments and die cuts that e-cards could not produce. These cards became so popular that now the large card companies have also included embellished cards in their card lines to satisfy customers seeking elegant looking cards.
Selling products during the Christmas season is huge and that includes Christmas cards. In the article "E-cards an alternative, not replacement to paper Christmas greetings" it states that "Although many people use e-cards because they're free, convenient and eco-friendly, it's unlikely that e-cards will replace paper Christmas cards entirely. That's because the tradition and the sentiment of sending greeting through the mail has been in place for centuries." That is good news for the art licensing industry because there are over 50 paper card manufacturers that license art. Read artist Kate Harper's article "Artist & Writer Submission Guidelines for Card Companies" for a list and links for manufacturer websites.
There is no question that there is a weakening of sales over the last five or so years for many paper product industries with the usage of the Internet and smart devices. It has impacted the art licensing industry as licensing revenue for products that license art has decreased. However, it is not entirely due to the increase usage of the Internet and smart devices but also because of the downturn in economy and change in consumer spreading*. To paraphrase Vice President Susan January of Leanin' Tree, Inc. (greeting card manufacturer) at a 2013 SURTEX show seminar "Artists use to be able to make a living in creating greeting cards but not anymore. Artists often need alternative means of revenue."
Note: The invention of electronic devices have created more products to license art such as skins and cases for cell phones, tablets and computers by manufacturers such as keka and Gelaskins. But, most of these types of companies are Internet stores and offer licensing print-on-demand deals or buy the designs outright. Thus, the revenue is not that lucrative.
* The impact of the great recession on consumer spending has created a new norm of bargain hunting. Consumers are looking for discounts and expect it from retailers. And, they are not splurging as much as they did before the recession and normally only buy what they need. It is predicted that this change in consumer spending will NOT shift back to pre 2008 spending.
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