BUSINESS BYTES

Johannes Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press

  • Posted 3 years ago
  • 3 min read

Today we celebrate the #InfoHero that is the founder of the printing press and the father of mass information; presenting, Johannes Gutenberg. 

Before the invention of the modern printing press, the world’s writings and every book in existence had to be painstakingly copied by hand. This was much to the chagrin of a growing literate class in the 15th century who had limited access to the written word. Johannes Gutenberg developed his famous printing press to solve this problem. His first large-scale print – a run of 200 illustrated Latin Bibles – completely sold out before he'd even set the last page. The explosion of reading materials that quickly became available to a wider population gave Europe access to knowledge that had not been available before. 

In 1450, Gutenberg couldn’t have imagined that his model of mass consumption would be used across the globe nearly 600 years later. Today, the comparable decisive technology of our time has been the internet and the explosion of wireless communication and information available at a touch. The internet has seen information flow not just from the few to the many, but from the many to everyone – interactively, collaboratively and increasingly intelligently. The development of modern ‘horizontal’ communication networks has created a new landscape of social and business change. 

However, a carbon copy of information simply isn’t enough. The end-user expects the openness and availability of data, not to mention multiple touch points, to ensure a more personal experience. Just as the printing press opened a generation of people up to knowledge that had been previously inaccessible, the internet and social networking has given buyers access to the data they need to seamlessly and instantly inform and direct their decision-making. In other words, a one-size-fits-all approach to customer communications can’t be applied. 

Gutenberg’s actions paved the way for an age of information-for-all, the Reformation and the Renaissance. It advanced and spread knowledge that would inform public opinion in a way that was previously impossible. In the same way, the internet has allowed the quick sharing of public sentiment to create the Age of the Customer, in which people have the power to choose from an almost limitless pool of suppliers. The spread of information is unstoppable and empowering. 

It means that businesses around the world are refocusing on their buyers in order to understand them better. A generation of giving the customer what you have has been displaced by an era of giving the customer what they want. Gutenberg brought information to the people, and today, those people are doing more with it than ever before. 

Follow our series of #InfoHero articles celebrating the individuals who changed the way we consume and share information today and let us know who you think has had the biggest impact.