For the past few years, people across disciplines have been declaring the death of analog. Move over, print content production, digital is the new king – and it looks like there is no place for you under his reign! Or so we’ve been told.
Although the rise in digital content engagement and converse decrease in print engagement is difficult to ignore, it would be erroneous to conflate the trend with the inevitable obsolescence of print. For our purposes, a healthy acknowledgement of the new limits of print’s reach will be helpful in determining where the medium has lingering effectiveness. And what’s more, it will cast light on what new avenues print may manifest itself in as a compelling medium for marketing.
According to Eleanor Mills, the Sunday Times’ editorial director, print media is still where big stories are broken:
It’s where the big investments are made in investigations and in holding power to account. In that way, no one else is really replicating what brands like the Sunday Times or The New York Times do. We’ve been telling stories for over 200 years which is really reflected in the expertise we have in doing that. And that endures.
For that reason, advertisements in publications and magazines may still have significant reach. Of course, careful research into the target demographic, which for some publications may very well be more advanced in age, will be required in order to exploit this tool most effectively.
Additionally, print media has a special charm in its tangibility, which digital media will never quite be able to replicate. Mercedes-Benz’s director of global marketing communications, Nats Sijanta, remarks: “To hold something in your hands that is physical, has a certain importance, will give it a flavour and extra touch.”
As others have observed, many are attracted to print precisely because of “what it does not do” – your magazine will not ping you to let you know about your latest email, distract you with an incoming text, or strain your eyes with its blue light. Though the role of print may evolve in the future, its distinct physical quality will ensure it does not fade into obsolescence.
Zaid Al-Qassab, BT’s outgoing chief marketing officer, and the CMO at Channel 4 explains:
I don’t think that anyone should ever have a preference before they do work for one channel or another, they ought to deeply understand their customers and print is something that many people are deeply invested in, engaged in and still use.
The challenge isn’t to use one to the exclusion of others but rather to understand how these fit together and are important in other people’s lives.
Print production won’t be disappearing any time soon, but it will change – and we’ll be prepared to meet it.