Bernd Zipper is a well-known name in the printing industry. With his ZIPCON Consulting out of Germany, the writer, consultant, keynote speaker, event organizer, and more, have influenced the printing industry more than most. With a dedicated focus on online printing as well as the newest and latest technologies, how to bring print forward – you can be sure that Bernd Zipper and his team are on the forefront.

As with all our ‘Over the Skype’ interviews, quality is limited to bandwidth, web-cams, and ability to literally LIVE mix the conversations. However, it works, and with Over the Skype, we will bring you more than 20 exciting people, and angles on the industry as it is right now.

Enjoy!

Good morning and this is a Morten from Inkish TV and we are ready with yet another episode over the Skype. And for those who have seen some of these episodes, I think that you now understand that we are talking to people from all over the world.

Today we are going back to Germany and talking to a very, very exciting and a very clever person. And I would like to welcome you, Bernd Zipper, because you and I, we have known each other for some time now and the last time we saw each other was at the Online Print Symposium. Before we talk a little bit about you, what is Online Print Symposium?

Oh, let’s say the Online Print Symposium is the only online print addicted event in the world. It’s something like a friendship meeting and network meeting and a conference, of course. We are doing that now since eight years and this year we had an amazing event with 280 people, I think, CEOs from all over the world talking about online print; and the trends and developments in online print.

So it’s really dedicated to online print. It’s not a normal conference. It’s like a network meeting and it works perfectly.

Yeah. But you said to me, because this was my first Inkish’s first participation at the Online Print Symposium. You said to me when, when we met, you said, “You will be surprised. This is different.”

I must admit that it is different because first of all, which you also said to me before was you have been able to create an event that is a different from most events, but you’ve also been able to create an event where you attract the sea level of the organization.

Even though they come from even competitive environments, they are so open to share ideas and insights. So that, I think, is really fantastic.

Yeah. But this is necessary. The internet changed everything and the internet also changed transparency into prices. If you remember 20 years ago, “Oh, I’m so shy to open my price list to someone else.” And nowadays everything’s transparent.

The best way to handle that is to be transparent too, and to communicate. So if you thinking about what can I hide and something like that, you will get the [inaudible 00:02:28] at the end of a game; but if you’re open minded, if you’re working together with even competitors with other companies, you can set up a product range by 360 degrees.

That means even if you adjust it to commercial, you can also offer large format by working with your competitor and business coopetition.

By the way, Rob Keane from Cimpress mentioned that I think five years ago that this is a typical element for online print, that means work together with your competitor, he can help you as well, and he’s not stealing your customer because the “online customer” is not owned by someone.

That’s true.

If you once understand that and if you come to the OPS and if you come to events like the OPS, you can see that really people want to talk to each other. They’re very open minded and we do everything. There’s good food, there’s always music around. There’s always a very, how can I say, a very easy way to communicate.

If I see there are new people, I bring them together for someone else. Even my team is doing that all the time and so it’s a big mingle thing. I like that, to be honest.

I liked it too and as I said to you when we said goodbye to each other, I really hope that we can come next year as well because I think we did a lot of nice interviews with nice people and a very open minded as you say. That is something that I like a lot.

One of the things that I have always liked about you also, before I got to know you in person, was I think that you are one of the most dedicated persons I have met. You are and your company and your employees seem to be extremely dedicated, not only in the online print community, but also in redefining some of the things.

For example, one of the things that I paid attention to during your keynote at Online Print Symposium is how you see new generations and new ways of engaging where print plays a more and more important role, also in how to reach the new and the younger generation.

Can you elaborate a little bit on your thoughts on this subject?

I think the spring of all this, the source of all this is, that I never learned something. I didn’t study. I’m not a learned printer. Everything I achieved to myself was by learning, and so I had to learn all the time.

If you remember 20 years ago, I was deeply into PDF with a little red book; and by the way, the most sold print PDF for [Grammar Works 00:05:08]…

A couple of [crosstalk 00:05:10] from that as well.

But for most of them I didn’t get money because the Chinese and the Russian people, they had their own edition. Anyway, and so I was deeply into PDF but at one point I saw but people like [Stephan Jaguar 00:05:23], [Olav Drimmer 00:00:05:25], they were much better than me. And so I had to step back and to redefine myself.

When I was into JDF into Workflow and I saw other people that are better. I see myself as an entrepreneur to bring up new topics, to bring that into that industry; Of course while making some money with consultancy, no problem. But to bring that into the industry and with that, to source something new or to give a very important parts to the industry to develop a little bit more in this direction.

The early 2000s, we set up a team at zipcon. Now we have 10 people and five consultants and every one of us is a specialist in something. And so we set up a mechanism, we call the “technology assessment.”

Technology assessment brings together technology development and society development and how this fits into our working world and how we can develop new models of working, new models of setting up companies, new models of bringing up teams and to understand new learning and things like that.

And business… The spirit of zipcon is that every one of us is not only an employee, he is a partner of everything and so everyone feels a little bit responsible for everything and this is how we develop things.

Even if I am standing on a stage and telling the people, “Oh let’s do this, this and this.” There’s a huge discussion about that before that in my team, especially Sabrina and [Fabion 00:06:53], they are helping me a lot to understand what’s going on in technology and business. Very important to understand that.

So Bernd, would you say that you are even challenged sometimes?

Yeah, of course. Of course.

Okay, great.

To be honest, I like that because you know I’m now 52 and if you look into the startup community, these people are 25, 30 something like that. More dynamic, maybe more fancy with a beard and all this stuff. Anyway, but they have cool ideas.

The value of my person is to help people like them or to help other companies to bring that into real business. The point is, you can have a good idea, but if you don’t make money, you’re out.

But I think that is also what I got out of the Online Print Symposium is because one of the other things you said that here everybody’s on the same level. So whether you are a CEO of a large company or small company, that doesn’t really make a difference because you can talk to each other.

One of the interviews I did was with a really smart guy from MyPostcard.com. He was a… I’m not interested in B2B, I’m only interested in B2C because I think that B2B is all about money and at the same time he was very positive about it. He makes a lot of money on having this idea of print of one and enabling social media in his market chain very, very good.

So the reason why I mentioned him is because I think that you could see yourself as an enabler, right? So you enable people and businesses to work together.

I would say we help, we support. MyPostcard is such a success thing. Remember four years ago, all the people said, “Oh, the postcard is dead.” And he brought into a new level. He just brought in a smartphone and on a smartphone you can now take a picture and when you send out your postcard to your family by just pushing one button. This is like a SMS.

You remember at New Year’s, everyone is sending SMS. They start to prepare it upfront so that they can just push a button because we are too drunk to do it in that moment.

With that, you can also set up a lot of best versions from your holiday, push a button and send out the 20 postcards, for example. And now he’s doing the stamps as well. It’s amazing what he’s doing.

I like that guy because he’s really got, we say, “Pepper in his ass,” because he’s hungry, he wants to achieve something and this is the spirit we need for fun developments. He has shown the industry that there is something old and you bring that together with something new and something new is developing. I love it. I love it.

Yeah, me too. When I mentioned in April, I can’t help thinking that you’re also President for the Online Print…

Initiative Online Print.

Initiative Online Print. Yeah, sorry. And that is like you have members that basically, as far as I remember, you also try to set some initiatives for the hardware vendors and software vendors what is needed on equipment level, right? Is that true?

Yeah. And in this direction, of course, there are many law things that as well. We have always a problem if there’s an online shop and the owner of one online shop doesn’t like the other one, he’s always running to a lawyer to find new things to get rid of a competitor and something like that.

We saw in the beginning that was in the early 2000s, where there is a patent on [inaudible 00:10:41] print. And this patent was owned by Cimpress at this time, Vistaprint. And so we came together because we said if they earn the patent and they don’t allow the industry to that, they are shutting down the market, they lock up one part of the market for the other ones.

At the end, it didn’t work out. And nowadays Cimpress is member of an Initiative Online Print and we are good colleagues and working very cool together.

So we meet up two times a year. And for example, now during the corona crisis, we have a weekly meeting on Microsoft Teams to have an overview about what’s going on. And so we see what kind of products are running, like hell in the moment and what kind of products are not running.

This helps us a little bit to also… One company is helping the other company or we see what we can do to help other people and that’s cool.

So Initiative Online Print is a very smart and small club. It’s not like the BVDM but BVDM is a member of that, the German Print Society. But it’s dedicated to the needs of online printers related on eCommerce and print. That’s not so easy.

And you can imagine if you’re in a Printer’s Society like the BVDM, they are not really interested in e-commerce problems because that’s not their topic. On the other hand, everything what they are doing at the BVDM can’t be the topic of IOP.

Yeah.

So it’s something you… And it’s cool because they are also small companies with let’s say 10 employees and also companies like Cimpress with I think now they have 4,500… I have no idea right now, boy, it’s all over the world, much more. I think they have much more. But anyway, so this is cool that they all come together there.

Was it like two years ago you took the initiative for this project or how long time ago was it?

Oh, I’m actually, we are 10 years old.

Ah. Okay. I’m not up to date then.

No, no, no. The point is we don’t want to do it. The republic… So we don’t want to do a lot of press releases or something like that because it’s very important that this is not an official thing because it’s just a “think tank” for online printing or online printed-related problems.

Yeah.

So it’s very important for us that the people become a member of a Printer’s Society because this is the main organization for printers and besides that, they can be also a member of Initiative Online Print.

Sounds great. Bernd, your passion for online print. Let’s say that you are… Because we are in changing/difficult times these days, not just because of the corona but because everything in society changes so fast and rapid compared to the old times.

Let’s say that you are a printer that has not really got onto the bandwagon about online print so far. Do you have any advice on how to get started with this in a way that makes sense?

Yeah. You know, I have, let’s say two or three calls like that and questions like that every week. “How can I become an online printer?” I always say, “Don’t do it.” “Why?”

“Because if you start over now with fresh money and you have let’s say 50 million, you can start over to set up a big online printer and to compete to the other big players.” To be honest, that not the way.

The way it can be that you have a niche product, a very special product, but you have something what you can produce. No one else can do that or you can do that in a very effective way or whatever. And then you can start over to sell that via internet.

There are a lot of examples like social media printing, for example. Do you remember the first day we met, there was a special star constellation and so we can save the GPS data and then the view to the North Sky and take a picture from that out of a database, print that in A3, A4, A0, in a big size it’s run. Put it in a frame and send it out. And so one print, 100 bucks or 50 bucks. This is something new and this is also social media and it’s print and it comes together. And so you must have a good idea.

If you are just a normal printer right now, and if you just do the same thing like the other guys are doing, then it’s very complicated to become a “good” online printer because the people, the customers, they expect a wide variation of products. Not only what you can do with your Speedmaster, they also expect something in digital printing or this, this and this.

So the trick can be that you deliver more service and that you’d have a small online shop for your local customers because there is one big trend we see right now that if you’re not into social media, if you’re not into all the new media stuff, and if you want to become an online printer, start slow and local.

Don’t expect thousands of artists a day, but help your customers to connect you. And this is the trick… It must not be the best online shop in the world; believe me, it’s too expensive right now. But it can be slowly step-by-step and it should be a cool online shop as well.

So if it’s just a boring order business cards thing, it’s boring and no one would do that. If you don’t have fun to work with that, drop it.

So the first step can be, do something locally and just imagine… Where are you located, Morten?

Just outside Copenhagen. Just outside Copenhagen.

Outside Copenhagen. Now let’s assume you are setting up something new. What would I do? I would look into the service level of my competitors and would find something like a 24-hour delivery or same day delivery or something like that.

Then I would spread out with all the tools I have, Google and Facebook and Instagram, my local service, and to offer these business partners, these potential customers, my local services.

Let’s say you’re in Als in North Denmark. Yeah? The same. If you would set up a big online printer, yeah, of course you can spread out all over Denmark.

If you want to burn some millions, you can do that, right?

Do it local. Yeah, do it local. That’s the recipe for smaller printers.

It’s funny that you mentioned this because I interviewed [Ali Jason Bursubent 00:17:21] from Print 24 I think it may be one and a half years ago. He said that the kind of way that online printers are operating today, the market has changed and there’re different levels and Germany is maybe a little bit ahead of it because, I don’t know if you recall, but I think that in the beginning online printers were seen as very, very tough and to some unfair competition because they were focusing so much on price and efficiency and things like that.

But today, I think almost every online printers have white label solutions or similar solutions so they can become suppliers to, like you say, if you are a local print shop and you want to have also the cheaper products that you can utilize, the bigger ones, capacities, right?

Yeah. But you will have to be careful if you have a small company and if you start over with white label shop for example, even if now some people from Initiative Online Print, they hate me for that. I have to say that. Don’t become a slave of someone else’s business. That means yes, if you’re using white label solutions, cool, but then make sure that you are more than 60% you produce the stuff by your own.

Not only sell or buy and sell that stuff because you are a customer enabler for online printer. I think it’s very important that we all do a step in this direction because just to make it clear, if you are not online in two, three, four years, the customer has no idea to connect you and this changed dramatically. Remember the postcard thing?

Yeah.

MyPostcard. The postcard was dead. Now he enabled the postcard for new customers. What happened? The mobile becomes the interface to that business.

Yeah. Precisely.

This is very important that we need to understand even if we are a large format printer somewhere in the Outback, if you’re a book printer or whatever, we need an interface to the customer and the interface to the customer is this… Your mobile. This is very important to understand.

So you need a shop that’s also on the mobile that a potential customer can immediately send in an order. And if there’s a problem, pick up the phone, give him a call, give him service that big players can’t give him.

Yeah, precisely.

We already, I wouldn’t say ahead, but we are on a good level with understanding the online industry in this conversation. For those who don’t know you so well, you have been working as both an author and a consultant and an analyst for quite some years now and therefore what you’re saying is not just some crazy ideas that pops up into your mind right now. You have a very, very good understanding of the market and how things are developing.

Can you explain a little bit about maybe what is it zipcon as a company does?

You know, zipcon is helping companies. We are willing to transform. And for that we deliver strategy, know how, our network. We are not programming online shops but we help to set up cool online shop of cool stuff and cool editors.

With that, zipcon is very concentrated on that topic of strategy. That means if you have a small company, you want to grow, we help you to grow. We are not selling something. We aren’t selling machines, we are not selling software. We are just selling ourselves and our passion because we are very passionate to bring topics like this to the customer.

To that, zipcon is developing in the direction that we are something like a coach. We have companies to develop in the right direction. That can be small companies or also big companies.

Yeah.

A lot of online printers we are working with, even if they’re competitors, we work for them at the same time. That’s also cool. We help to bring the market a little bit further.

With that, we have BeyondPrint by way. This is the newspaper. It’s still in German. Still in German. But the internet side, BeyondPrint.de is also available in English. So every news, also interviews and what we are doing is there an English and you can read it that if you like.

Yeah. I will say that I have seen also some of the films you have done. I think that you really have a high standard for both the content but also the quality. So sometimes, I’m a little bit jealous that I have to interview you over the Skype instead of having a nice camera crew in front of you.

The cool thing is, it’s all about the network and the what you’re doing is great. So you give the people the chance to talk and you are not shy to ask questions. You’re not shy to promote a little bit. You’re not shy to really to bring everyone together. That’s cool what you’re doing.

And so in the beginning, I have to admit, as I said, maybe it’s such huge work and what you’re doing is amazing. So what I’m doing is from time to time we do videos where we would want to define something. What’s digital transformation? What does that mean? What’s online print? What are the achievements of online print?

This is what we bring into these videos so that someone else can watch that and understand the definition.

Yeah.

Business is quite different from what you are doing.

Oh, yes. For sure, it’s different.

You send out an actual topic. In three weeks, it’s off. So you have to be like a newsman and I really enjoy what you’re doing. So it’s quite different. I think the news channel, it’s always a little bit Skyping. The daily news.

Yeah, yeah.

To me, it’s a high work, what you’re bringing.

Thank you. I wasn’t even asking for appreciation of our work, but I thank you anyway.

One of the things I have learned a lot of… I actually purchased two books from you two years ago, I think it’s a summary of your blog posts about the online print community and BeyondPrint, I think they’re called. Right?

Yep.

Several times when I look into these books, I have been thinking about, I wanted to make a review of them because I think they are, to be honest, I think they are freaking good because they give…

But to be honest, I used to work in a printing company. I used to work as a print broker. I have been selling software and have been part of the value chain in the printing industry for a long time.

But the insights that you bring in the blog post and then in the book and in that way it gives an insight about who are the players and who are not the players and if there’s any big noise in the industry, you kind of gather these things.

So I really encourage people to go to BeyondPrint and see also some of the videos, but also to read some of your stuff. I think it’s really valuable if you are interested in especially the online printing industry, I would say.

So just a short note, so you know that I really think that you’re good at what you do, but you know that.

Yes, thanks. For us, for the most important thing is… Yes, okay… This newspaper by the way is free. So you can just order that and we send it to you, in German of course.

So on the website, on the BeyondPrint.de blog, everything’s free. And that’s very important to me because I make my money with consultancy and so I say I have to pay something back.

That means it’s not only promotion because I have to admit sometimes I’m a little bit harsh with critics and with the announcements and so on. So a lot of people don’t like me very much because sometimes I put the finger in the wound and then that’s a little bit too heavy sometimes for some people.

Believe me, I’m in the same boat as you are.

But listen, it’s very important that we do that because there is no process if you are not doing that. We have to encourage the people to develop and for that, we said we give the content for free because it’s not promotion, it’s about the facts.

If the people like us, they can hire us as a consultant and that’s the idea behind that. But that’s enough. Not a promotional blog.

No, no, no, no. That’s fine. Time is about to run out for this conversation. I think it’s been great. A few questions. Well, one question more is that the Online Print Symposium is of course a recurring event. Is it always in Munich or do you have different locations from time to time?

Yeah, we are always in Munich because it’s the middle of Europe. Yeah. And so we have the airport near to that. So the people from Austria, Switzerland, they can come by train, by car. People from other countries, they can come directly to Munich. That’s also a trick to bring people from India to the OPS because if they have to fly to Frankfurt, from there get a train to something and no, that doesn’t work.

And so we decided that we do it in Munich as well. Our partner, Printex Media, that’s the partner of the consultancy agency from the Bavarian Printer Society and my colleague [Yens 00:27:01] and they are located in Munich. So we use their network also to set up everything.

It’s a quite bit event, there’s a lot of things. [crosstalk 00:27:11]. I’m sorry.

Yeah. And so they are organizing that from there. And that’s cool. And that’s very cool. And this is a cool partnership because we learn so much about how far can we go, what can we do new and so on.

You have seen the OPS with two cameras we’re working, it’s a really, it’s like a cinema if you’re sitting in that room.

Yeah.

For that you need good partners and Yens and his team, they’re incredibly good.

Yeah. So for the next OPS, have you already set the dates and have you already put a theme for it this time or is that too early?

It’s a little bit too early because actually we are discussing that right now. The crisis we have actually and the shift of Drupa from 2020 to 21, we are thinking about if we should do that before Drupa because we have a lot of events or maybe after Drupa.

At this point, we are not clear because after Drupa we can do some kind of review; before Drupa, we are in a competition with all the other events.

All the vendors, they have to make money and so we will use Drupa to bring all their customers. I’m not sure.

We had a tough discussion about that. Actually I’ve not finalized my opinion because I’m not too shy what’s going on in this or this direction. So I think in two weeks, three weeks we’ll have more information on that.

Sounds great. Bernd… Super. I want to thank you very much for joining me on over the Skype session. It’s been great talking to you. I wish you and your company and your family and all the best in the time to come. So again, thank you very much.

Thank you very much, too. And thanks for having me. Take care.

Yeah, you too.

Stay healthy.

Stay healthy yourself. Bye.

Bye.

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