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From the Trenches

Print is Dead? Think Again, Content Marketers

Yvonne Lyons | October 2, 2014
Print Is Not Dead

I like print. I think it’s alive and well. There — I said it.

I take a lot of heat at Right Source for this, because, well, we are a digital marketing consultancy. Sure, we do some print work, but not a ton. Some of the folks here are big on that familiar phrase, “print is dead.” I don’t happen to believe that.

I am well aware that print has had plenty of problems in many corners of business, especially on the newsstand.  The Internet has had its way with magazines and newspapers. In fact, newspaper ad revenues in 2013 were less than half of what they were in 2006, according to the Pew Research Journalism Project. I worked for a newspaper. I’ve seen the reality firsthand. It’s not pretty.

While mainstream media has felt a pinch from the decline (and closure) of magazines and newspapers, print has not disappeared. It has just become more niche, growing in other areas (like custom magazines). And many believe that eventually, the overall decline will plateau.

Print might not be the medium of choice for those seeking news, but it is still a viable tactic for content marketers. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) 2015 study, B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends — North America, noted that 32 percent of marketers were using print magazines as one of their content marketing tactics versus 27 percent using digital magazines. CMI itself has a printed magazine that is very successful, CCO.

While broad-based, mass market print may be a thing of the past — our email inboxes now replacing our mailboxes as the primary junk-mail repository — more companies are using print for their showcase materials or to reach targeted or niche markets. In fact The Content Council’s, “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Content Marketing in America for 2013,” notes that of all forms of publishing last year, print still claimed the lion’s share of dollars spent in content marketing, with more than 85,000 unique custom publication titles in the market for 2013.

So, consider the data, and if it doesn’t completely sway you, here are a few more points to ponder as you try to decide if print is still alive, well, and worth including as a component of your content marketing plan.

Print is new

What? I know. It’s really not. But the fact is that some people have taken a break from print, so when customers or prospects find a nicely done printed piece in their mailbox, it’s new and different to them. They are no longer bombarded by print. It can be the “non-traditional” marketing in your mix.

Print marries content and design

Print is the quintessential medium in which to show off the way content and design can work together. Too frequently in the digital world, design is given second-class status (or is just not part of the picture). A printed publication offers the opportunity to marry the two equally, using design to elevate the content and vice versa.

There is no way to list the number of ways that a printed piece can make an impression. The tactile impact that a printed piece can have with specialized techniques like embossing, coating, or die cutting can elicit a feeling in a reader’s hands in a way that just can’t be accomplished on the web.

But even without all that fancy stuff, great design and well-chosen images often can enhance a printed piece and draw emotion from a story — and subsequently from a reader — in ways that are not possible in digital mediums. Renaissance Hotel’s award-winning custom magazine, R.24, is a good example.

Print Marries Design

Certainly a well-designed web page can in some way emulate the look and feel of print, but the techniques available in print are not there in web, and a really, really good print designer might have 20 or 30 years of experience in making content and design work together. Know many web designers with that much experience?

Print is a credible medium

I’m not saying that what is written in the digital world is not credible — it certainly is. I’m responsible for the writing and editing of plenty of it. But the printed word carries a certain credibility, both with readers and those you might seek out to include as contributors to your publication. Tell someone you want to interview him for a blog post and you may or may not get a response. Tell him he will be in a printed piece, and often the reaction is much more striking. CMI Founder Joe Pulizzi says that reactions are much stronger from contributors who are offered features in CMI’s printed CCO magazine, than only on their website.

Printed pieces have a long shelf life

The Wayback Machine can serve up what you need on the Internet from whenever. But in the instance when a company is looking to create a keepsake or an anniversary piece, they turn to print just about every time. A high-end printed piece can be like a gift to celebrate the occasion. Readers save it, share it, put it on the coffee table. It’s special.

Print has no spam folder

Sure, there is still junk mail in your mailbox. But there is no filtering device in there. There is no Gmail “promotions” tab to hide that email you worked so hard to create for prospects or spam filter for things to get caught in. A print piece that is skillfully designed to stand out from the crowd, and written with attention-grabbing content, will jump out from the other stuff in the mailbox. That can be hard to accomplish with an HTML email.

Print targets niches and audiences

There are certain pieces that just make more sense for print. Would you seek out your college alumni magazine online every month or quarter? Probably not. But when it shows up in your mailbox, you read it. Need to reach a high-end demographic over age 65 in very narrow markets? They may be more likely to read print than online media, and might be easier to target via mail.

Print is not the answer in all cases. In fact, it’s probably not the answer in a lot of cases, but it might be a good choice for some audiences, to achieve some goals, for some kinds of businesses. It’s alive and kicking, and certainly worth considering as an option as you plan what types of content you will include in your marketing arsenal (and of course as part of your content marketing plan).

Need help deciding what you should put into your marketing mix? Get in touch. We can help.

Related Resources

About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.