At first glance, the financial printing industry appears to be
facing an uphill battle in surviving the digital age.
After all, the industry has received increasing warnings of the
imminent demise of its traditional business: printing reams of
government-mandated forms, brochures and securities prospectuses.
Since May, companies have been required to make electronic
of initial public offerings with the Securities and Exchange
Moreover, the SEC announced in 1995 that companies could meet
federal disclosure regulations in many cases by delivering financial
Investors can now find plenty of information on-line.
And a site on the World Wide Web is becoming an increasingly
important corporate brochure.
So what is the financial printing industry to do? Why, embrace
the very technologies that are threatening their core businesses,
including the electronic SEC filing system known as on Edgar (for
Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval System), Web
publishing and CD-ROMs.
As a result, financial printers are surviving, even flourishing.
The three industry leaders, Bowne & Co. of New York; R.R.Donnelley
Financial, part of R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. of Chicago, and the
Merrill Corp. of St. Paul, Minn. had combined sales of exceeding
billion in their most recent year. Bowne alone reported sales of
$501.4 million, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year.
Because different printing jobs require various expensive presses,
the industry is specialized.
As well as offering competitive ink-on-paper printing rates,
financial printers must know how to handle the many particulars
involved in producing SEC-approved documents, including timing,
and typeface sizes, and confidentiality requirements, as well as
proofreading and other services.
This expertise, printers say, includes electronic communications.
Of the 63,064 filings made in the first four months after Edgar went
on-line on May 1996, 12,138 of them were handled by Bowne, with the
three industry leaders together filing 40 percent of all electronic
In addition, there are numerous sites dealing with initial public
offerings on the Web, calling for Internet publishing expertise that
printing companies are eager to offer.
"How do you think these IPOs get on the Web?" asked Tom Vos,
marketing vice president for Bowne.
"People come to us and say, `We still need those 100,000 paper
copies to distribute to our clients, but we now need the electronic
version,'" he said. "In the last year or so, those same clients are
saying, `We still need those 100,000 paper copies, we still need the
electronic distribution, and we now need a version suitable for the