Wednesday, July 08, 2009

NY Times features Printer Software start-up GreenPrint

Over the July 4th weekend, the New York Times featured two companion pieces, by Vindu Goel, on the printer software company GreenPrint. I've covered GreenPrint many times in this blog, and have been a regular user of their software as well. Going back to February 2007's monthly Observations column (which also appeared in the Hard Copy Observer; see "Making to the Top of the PR Mountain"), I've since written about the company's activities multiple times, so it's interesting to find myself, again, covering both their product (Version 2.0 of their flagship product was just released in the last several weeks) and their PR successes simultaneously.

I use the phrase "PR successes" in the spirit of the "did-they-spell-my-name-right" PR tradition because unlike their original Wall Street Journal virtually all-positive coverage, the Times NY Times pieces can be viewed more as a "glass half-empty, half-full" saga of the company and a somewhat perfunctory review. The first and more substantive piece (and the one that appeared in the print editions? -- I get so confused these days), is entitled "That Long, Long Road From Idea to Success" and is labeled "Essay" in the "Start-Ups" section. (See screenshot above.) And while author Goel captures a great deal of the color in the company's history, including some of its ups and downs and even some of the rationale and technology behind Version 2.0, the characterization of the state of the larger printer/printing industry misses the boat, in my admittedly insider's opinion.

Most notably, the characterization of HP's (NYSE HPQ) role as the printer industry leader feels at least a bit one-sided, Goel paints HP as focused on efforts to "bolster, not reduce, consumption of ink", using the Dom PĂ©rignon Champagne comparison to paint HP ink as exorbitantly expensive. (That comparison is often an effective tool!) But a little more research might have pointed to HP efforts to help customers control printing costs and volumes (for one of many examples, see "HP's 'reduce printing' tool for the Web"), and whether a reduction is intended or not, some further simple research would point to HP's (and the industry's, by proxy) SERIOUSLY flagging print volumes, as measured by recent quarterly supplies revenues (see "HP Q2 2009 Printer Metrics").

While the combined affect of recession and conservation, the print volume downturn of late makes quoting HP's traditional "49 trillion pages in 2006, 57 trillion pages in 2010" (which leads the second piece, the blog entry, "GreenPrint Saves Paper and Ink at the Price of Speed") seem out of step with the times, and weakens the analysis, again from my industry insider's view. This applies, too, to the quote from HP environmental Vice President Stacey Wueste on the "explosion in digital content...[driving] a set of printable opportunities" that implies there's more, rather than less, printing happening. YES, the printable opportunities are shifting in terms of where pages come from, but with recent double-digit declines in supplies revenues, the new pages are still not making up for the old, now-uprinted ones!

The overall piece, despite my admittedly snarky misgivings on the points above, paints a great picture of the drawn-out tale of a startup, and I greatly appreciate both the opening and closing phrasing that author Goel has crafted.

Goel's piece leads with:

SAVE paper, save ink, save money, save the planet. Marketing doesn’t get any better than that.

But of course, it never is easy, even with such a start. And after documenting the "why it's not that easy", Goel ends with the hopeful words from Scott D. Anthony, president of Innosight, a consulting firm and author of "The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times":

'You see again and again the companies that succeed are not the ones that have the brilliant strategy,' he said, 'but the ones that course-correct along the way.'

As a part-time professor of marketing and innovation, I can and definitely will be using this stuff in the future.

And taking my lead from the Times, I'll report on my experience with GreenPrint 2.0 please in another post, coming in the near future.


jreynolds said...

Thanks, Jim. That is a great piece. Thanks for the insights.

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