Why Print Is Not Dead For Brands
Adults spend a lot of time on-screen; for the moment that estimate has settled in at an astonishing figure of approximately 11 hours per day, according to Nielsen. Why? People just don’t want to miss a minute of what’s new and what’s happening in media. Laptops, smartphones, tablets and e-readers even watches all deliver the digital goods – now totaling 3 zettabytes worldwide. One zettabyte is equal to one trillion gigabytes, so it’s safe to say that the situation is exponentially out-of-control. For marketers who see eyeballs as opportunities, placing all bets on digital makes a certain amount of sense if you skim the statistics. And that’s what a lot of people do when reading and doing research on screens. A San Jose State University survey cited by Scientific American detailed that there is something in digital reading that leads to a skimming default, so the information isn’t fully digested. Since the goal of advertising is to have the message completely received and totally understood, this raises the question as to whether the decision by some marketers to go 100% digital is the right move. The resuscitation of print provides at least a partial answer. It’s the first sign of a push-back by consumers feeling the effects of digital information overload.
Growing up digital, it’s perhaps a little surprising that one group recently cited as a force behind the return to print are Millennials. Recently revealing in a New Republic article their preference for the tactile, linear enjoyment of printed material, this group also acknowledges that screen reading, while convenient, is uncomfortable. They also believe it’s unhealthy. Eye strain and vision issues, headaches, insomnia, neck and back problems are all common conditions that point to too much time in front of screens. A recent Two Sides study reported that of the 18-24 year old’s surveyed, 73% felt their health was likely to be compromised by the overuse of smartphones and tablets. One alternative? Print.
Print is still loved
As the saying goes, you can’t step in the same river twice. Print most likely won’t make a comeback in the same way or role. Before looking at Print 2.0, it’s useful to simply look at the numbers for a little context. Although overall print is expected to decline, the ad spend still lands around $56.2 billion, making the whole “Print is Dead” declaration by some a comparative conclusion more than a reality. The truth is, there’s a lot of life left in print. While it’s unlikely, that newspapers will ever return to their former glory in the US, 90% of adults still read print magazines. So, despite there being infinitely more content available digitally, doesn’t mean consumers will prefer the experience of screen reading over printed text. Digital as an information and entertainment media source has lost its novelty, and a more pragmatic assessment of its value can now be analyzed. One US survey conducted by Two Sides, asked respondents to weigh in on the change from paper-based to digital media. When comprehension was the goal, 88% said they understood and remembered or used information better when reading print on paper than on electronic devices. Another insight of the survey was that 81% of people found printed media more relaxing to read and the younger generation has more concern about the negative impact of digital media on their health than other age groups surveyed. When given the choice, the vast majority of those surveyed prefer print.
“The results of this U.S. survey will be useful for all those who choose the way in which information is distributed, particularly for advertisers, marketers and educators who need to understand how information is being delivered, received, processed and retained,” offered Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides. “While on-screen reading occupies an increasing amount of consumer time, people’s preferences are still for reading print on paper which they believe to be more informative, less distracting and less harmful to their health.”
Publishers are advised by The Media Briefing to take a closer look at this shift. It’s news editor Chris Sutcliffe writes, “a print product doesn’t necessarily have to have a lengthy run in order to be successful.” New printing technologies also allow for more niche publications that reach a more defined audience. As marketers attempt to stand out and grab their share of the digital zettabytes, print represents a kind of novelty, particularly to the younger generation who are genuinely discovering it as a unique medium. The Columbia Journalism Review calls print “the new ‘new media’”, noting publishers are spinning up print projects to supplement their digital content.
Real World Feel for Real World Purchasing
If the love affair with digital has hit a rough patch, it could represent opportunities to move in and court consumers with the medium that attracts with a bit of old-fashioned flair. Print satisfies needs that digital just can’t. Scientific American talks about digital as an “ephemeral image” – one having no reality. Alternatively, paper has a sound, touch, and often smell that allows consumers to “hold” print in a way that that digital can’t reproduce. Plus print is simply a more intuitive experience that follows a direction that resonates cognitively as the “right” way to our brains. It progresses in a smooth, uninterrupted flow of information with no idiosyncratic jumps and breaks. Even very spare print messages have the advantage of living beyond the moment. A mailer that stays on the kitchen counter next to a daily flurry of activity will still be there when the commotion dies down. A catalog that catches its reader with beautiful images can be dogeared and revisited for further consideration. An ad next to that heartwarming story in a magazine will be accessed by a never-ending flow of patients and customers in waiting rooms where cell phones are forbidden or discouraged.
One of Many Channels
Clearly there are countless benefits to digital advertising, and in many cases it’s just the right fit. However, marketers cognizant of the effects of digital overload may need to consider incorporating print tactics that merge with digital to serve a more widely distributed campaign strategy. At any rate, a study by iProspect reported that two-thirds of users conducting online search actually start that search as a result of exposure to an offline channel. MarketingProfs suggests the addition of URLs and QR codes to print is one way to make it easier for consumers to connect with brands online. Knowing printed materials improve audience retention and understanding is reason enough to incorporate print. Beyond that, consumers say they like it. Digital isn’t going anywhere, but print can tether it to the real world.
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