Apr 29, 2008

Digital Books, Traditional Albums and Statistics

I was cleaning out my old trade magazines the other day and ran across a PMA magazine that had some stats in it about digital products. One that stood out was that in 2006, 7% of U.S. households had made at least ONE digital photo book. I couldn't help but contrast that with the 4% of U.S. households who scrapbook (according to 2007 research by PMA and the SMART Group). If you factor in that digital photo books is a growing category, I would venture to say that if it was 7% in 2006, that it was over 8% in 2007 and will approach 10% in 2008. Yet, the traditional scrapbooking statistic remains steady at about 4%.

Let's assume there is some cross-over. I bet that a pretty significant percentage of those 4% of scrapping households have made a digital book at some time. But even if there was NO cross-over, it's obvious that the digital photo book market is popular and growing. How does the traditional industry take advantage of that? Wouldn't we love to have a portion of that pie? They are doing what we (traditional scrapbooking) were doing in the late 90's - growing fast. I'd love to be on that track. I think it would be a benefit for any traditional retailer to look for ways to tap into that growing market. As the old saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em... I have spent a significant amount of time this year looking for ways that traditional retailers can add digital services (not just books) to their product mix. Honestly, you don't even have to like or do digital to jump on the opportunity, you just have to love success and recognize the popularity of this trend.

Recently, I had a talk with someone in the photo industry about how that industry was affected when digital came on the scene. Many of the photographers who refused to go digital at some point are long gone. Another example is old-school data entry. My mom was a key puncher for years (went to business school to learn it). Key Punchers entered data onto cards that were read by computers. Essentially, the desk-top computer killed her job by about 1980. She hated computers and refused to learn to use them. She still can't email very well and types everything on an electric typewriter. Her career was over at a certain point because she refused to learn other forms of data entry. She saw the writing on the wall but refused to accept it.

I think there are lessons to be learned here for the scrapbook industry. People are resistant to adapt to digital. But, I don't believe digital is bad - I just believe it's different. I don't think that every business needs to add it because I don't anticipate traditional scrapbooking is going away anytime soon. But I believe every business needs to at least look at it and ponder ways to add it to their offerings. For some it will make sense as they open their minds to the possibilities and for others it won't. But it's worth a good, hard look and could save some businesses that are on the verge of failure.

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