Is Print Dead?

Written by Brandie Ahlgren, founder+editor | CityDog Magazine

Whenever I hear the question, "Is print dead?" the scene from Monty Python's Holy Grail pops into my head: "I'm not dead yet."

But, print dead? The answer is no. You may think that's rich coming from a print magazine, but according to a survey by Mequoda, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. read a print magazine in the last 30 days, and 51 percent read at least two. Why?

Print establishes an emotional connection. Custom-designed printed materials, in particular, captivate the eyes and hearts of an audience. Distinctive features such as unique inks, foiling techniques, die cuts, folds and textures help brands deliver positive, engaging and powerful results that increase promotional efforts.

Print triggers a response. Customized formats with individualized messaging increase engagement and response among consumers.

Print informs. Put simply, print is informational, reliable, and can be saved and referred to again and again.

“The reality is this: No app, no streamlined website, no “vertical integration,” no social network, no algorithm, no Apple, no Apple Newsstand, no paywall, no soft paywall, no targeted ad, no mobile-first strategy has come close to matching the success of print in revenue or readership.” Michael Rosenwald – Columbia Journalism Review

According to Roger Dooley, contributor to Forbes magazine, “Print requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media, suggesting that it is both easier to understand and more memorable. Post-exposure memory tests validated what the cognitive load test revealed about print’s memory encoding capabilities.”

The bottom line is that 70% of people exposed to print recalled the brand name, as opposed to 44% who were exposed to digital. And, when it comes to print versus digital, print wins again when it comes to ROI. According to a February 2014 study by GfK Panel Services, the arm of the Nuremberg, Germany-based research firm that specializes in ROI studies, magazine and newspapers have the highest ROI, at 125%, compared with other ad mediums including TV and digital, which weigh in at 87%.

Both print and digital mediums have advantages that should not be overlooked by entrepreneurs (or, petrepreneurs as we like to call them) hoping to grow and expand their company’s customer base. A media mix will always deliver more impact than using a single medium, exclusively.

So again, print is not dead. Science shows paper can be more impactful and memorable than digital. Digital, meanwhile, offers its own advantages, including instantaneous access, localization, powerful personalization and targeting, audio and video, and more.

Marketers should take advantage of the unique properties of both. In particular, print advertising can maximize sensory appeal. Print offers the ability to deliver rich, vivid images along with tactile stimuli. And, when combined with a targeted readership with a strong interest in that subject area (a.k.a. CityDog readers), print is impactful.

Instead of “digital versus print,” let’s call it “impressions versus imprints.” Impressions is a numbers game; imprints is a long game – in other words, leaving an impression plants a seed; leaving an imprint has a lasting effect, creating a relationship and establishing a connection with the reader and your brand.

“Print is still a top-of-funnel medium,” says Andy Blau, senior vice president of finance and advertising at New York-based magazine publisher Time Inc. “It’s really for establishing brand worthiness in the marketplace, for establishing the value of the brand, for communicating very broadly, with broad reach, to the right target audience. It’s really pure brand advertising. And digital tries to do some of that, but it’s still much more of a direct response. People still measure digital with click-throughs and conversion rates, and you can’t necessarily maintain marketing of a brand through digital alone. Print advertising is a very efficient way of establishing a brand identity and for communicating that to the target market.”

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