What Does Apple's Newton Have to do With Programmatic Printing?

I asked this question during my presentation, "Programmatic Print - Hope for an Entire Industry or Just Something for Lucky Unicorns?", at the Print & Digital Convention 2022 (PDC).

This question was aimed at the "Chasm" theory, which deals with the transition of a product innovation from an early phase to the "mainstream". (In English: "Phrase technology adoption lifecycle, or the transition from the early market").

At PDC 2022, Programmatic Printing was a major topic and was addressed in many booths and presentations. Not surprisingly, everyone understands it differently.

I took Melaschuk Media's definition to help me:
"Programmatic printing is a method for database-driven, automated creation and distribution of highly personalized or targeted print documents, such as mailings or catalogs. They can be used as mailings, addressed (dialog mail), partially addressed or unaddressed via household distribution. Catalogs usually reach recipients via direct delivery or as an insert in a parcel shipment."

This definition allows for a broad understanding of the term. Basically, the delivery of a data carrier for your direct mail can also be understood as such. Is Programmatic Print just old wine in new bottles? I think not.

Combining "online" and "offline" with Programmatic Printing is innovative. Or to put it another way: Programmatic printing helps print touchpoints become part of digital communication.

I asked the audience if Programmatic Printing is an innovation.  All but two of the audience members raised their hands and said that Programmatic Print is not innovative. This opinion was not surprising. Therefore, I tried to categorize the term "innovation" under two headings:

  • Technological innovation
  • Innovation for a market

This results in four fields in which innovations can be classified:


It is often easier to understand something as an innovation when it is about a new market or technology, as in the following examples:

The airplane is an example of a radical innovation: new technology is used and a new market is addressed: "Until now, people did not fly". Many see only these radical changes as innovative. So it was no surprise to me that the audience did not see Programmatic Printing as innovative.

Apple's iPhone is a wonderful example of two types of innovation. Initially, it was a technological innovation, a touch screen without buttons in an existing market. Today, smartphone innovation is incremental.

From this classification, I see Programmatic Print primarily as an incremental innovation:

In addition to the technological innovations in digital printing, the innovation is to view "print" as part of digital communication. This applies to both "onliners" and "offliners". Therefore, the same digital laws will apply to "print" as to any other digital channel / touchpoint.

An estimated 1 - 2% of priint:suite customers run Programmatic Printing as part of their digital communication strategy. From this I conclude that the innovation Programmatic Print is at the beginning of the product life cycle.

And that brings me to the answer to what Newton and Programmatic Printing have in common: Innovations can fail or it is still open whether Programmatic Printing will work as an innovation.

Many in the printing industry have (too) high expectations for Programmatic Printing. For some, it is even the solution to the industry's digital disruption problems. In any case, Programmatic Printing is not a software package or machine that you buy and all problems are solved. On the contrary, it's where the challenges start. Challenges such as handling data, end-to-end digital processes, location in digital communication, and many more.

There is no "THE" solution. For that, programmatic printing as a tool for digital communication is too much in its infancy. As a founding member of the PPA (Programmatic Print Alliance), we are all the more pleased to contribute our knowledge and technology for data connection and layout automation.