Media Perspective: Print-on-demand is opening a new door for brand messages

I bought a lovely little book at the weekend. It's called The Master Book Of Magic and it was published in 1935.

I was leafing through it, looking for tricks I could learn, and then I realised that at the bottom of almost every page, with no explanation, were messages such as: "There is nothing nicer for breakfast than a hot, creamy dish of Quaker Oats."

It turns out that it was a promotional book and it reminded me how often books used to be advertiser-supported.

It was once pretty common to find an advertisement on the back of your thriller. I suspect it will be again. Improving print-on-demand technologies will have many implications for the media and publishing businesses - one of them will be the return of advertising in books. And that's this week's Things Worth Thinking About For The Future: print-on- demand. A horribly familiar phrase because it has been promised to us for so many years, but a vision that might finally be coming true.

The best way to think about this stuff is probably to start playing with it yourself; that's when the real possibilities start to emerge. Here's a suggestion: the next big project you've got - perhaps a pitch or a new client - gather together all the briefing materials, the relevant Wikipedia pages and some background reading, add some blank pages for notes, make yourself a PDF and send it off to Lulu.com. Not many dollars and not many days later and you'll have a lovely notebook of your own: handy, handsome and ready to impress in many a meeting. Or, if you need it sooner, you could pop down to the Blackwell's bookshop on Charing Cross Road and they'll do it for you right then and there.

This might not seem like much, but doing this makes you realise that you've been handed something new - the ability to make your own book, your own media object, and what you can do with books, you can also do with magazines, newspapers, almost anything.

Although publishers are starting to pin their hopes on pay-walls and tablets, print is not going away; it's just becoming a more efficient niche, simultaneously more focused and more accessible.

As the editor of the micro-publication Manzine said in a recent interview: "A niche title that knows its audience very well is the most interesting publishing model." And printing something specific for you, your friends or your community is the best way to accomplish that.

This all means, I bet, more magazines and books in our future, not fewer. Most of them highly targeted and looking for imaginative means of support - advertising and beyond. Someone who can solve all the logistic and aggregation issues will have an interesting business on their hands.

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