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29 May 2018

The case for print

In the age of fake news, where we’re bombarded by messages and opinion at every corner, you’d be forgiven for craving a return to simpler times.

And you wouldn’t be alone. Because, while 84% of people polled in a recent TIME magazine survey said they couldn’t go a day without their mobile, most of us would also confess that it’s nice to have the odd break from always-on communication.

Maybe that’s why the attractions of print endures, giving us an oasis of calm in a sea of digital noise.
Look at it this way. When you think about a good book what springs to mind? For me it’s about relaxation, unwinding, losing yourself, feeding your mind.

Also, is there a reason why nine out of 10 parents still believe it’s important for their children to read printed books? Is it just nostalgia or is there still something priceless about the intimacy of the printed word?

From a communicator’s point of view, it’s impossible to deny that digital is only going to keep growing, and rightly so. Digital, and particularly mobile, has brought a level of flexibility, immediacy and efficiency that empowers readers and communicators like never before.

However, is there a place for print in this brave new world? At the moment, unquestionably, but I don’t think we’ll be mourning the death of print in the near future either.

Firstly, there’s currently still a need for it from an internal communications perspective.

For instance, I work on a new magazine for a leading financial services organisation with a readership of mainly customer facing people. They have the technology to communicate digitally, but the nature of their employees’ work means they have minimal computer access and limited access to the intranet.

So, if people in branches and call centres (a vital audience) are to engage with internal communications, print is a natural and effective choice.

  • 70% higher recall for printed information
  • 21% less cognitive effort for processing print media
  • 92% of 18-23 year olds find it easier to concentrate on printed content

Source: VistaPrint

This fact was clear during reader research, prompting us to take a ‘print-first’ approach, while also producing a PDF version for people (mainly in head office roles) who preferred to view it online.

Of course that won’t always be the case. I’m currently working on another recently launched global channel where a print option was considered, but eventually ruled out, due to its limited value and substantial printing and distribution costs.

Instead, we advised it was best to invest the budget into creating a digital solution that was as accessible, responsive and flexible as possible, whether viewed on laptop, PC, tablet or mobile.

Does that mean print is a dying breed? Of course not.

According to the Publishers Association, eBook sales fell by 17% in the UK in 2016, while physical book sales rose by 8%. The picture is similar in the US where eBook sales declined by 1.7% in 2016 with paper book sales up by 7.5%.

Meanwhile, a Deloitte report found that half of Britons still buy print newspapers and a further 10% read papers bought by others. The same survey found that 60% of respondents were regular readers of printed magazines, while only 40% read magazine content online.

These are interesting statistics and perhaps show a window of opportunity for communicators who want to stand out from the crowd.

With so many channels competing for attention online, differentiation may be crucial to getting a word in edgeways, which is where print comes into its own.

Print is tangible and, against a backdrop of ‘fake news’ online, it offers the reassurance of familiarity and a reminder of good old fashioned values.

Depending on your brand, it can also give off that great first impression of heritage, class and style so difficult to achieve online.

So, while it’s important to reflect the flexibility and easy access demanded by the modern audience, print has great potential to surprise, delight and leave a more lasting impression.

That’s why, as a trusted communications partner, Sequel won’t be quick to write off any channels or ‘default to digital’ until we’ve discussed the goals of your communication, your budget, technology, your audience, and what you want to achieve.

Digital may well be the answer, but reports of print’s death have been greatly exaggerated. It still has an important place in present, and future, communications.

Article by Jason Dowty, Editor, Sequel Group


New print case study: Find out how we strategically helped engage Nationwide employees with 84% of respondents reading Bitesize, a new regular bi-monthly print publication.