Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” humorist Mark Twain is supposed to have quipped. The same may be said of many of the dire forecasts regarding the imminent demise of print media of all types, including newspapers, magazines, books, and printed marketing materials.

Certainly, the publishing industry has been going through a period of significant transformation. The venerable Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, has announced that it will not be producing any more print editions after the current one sells out. While the print publishing industry has endured downturns in the past, such as one resulting from the arrival of broadcast TV, there is no doubt that the Internet has had a significant impact on the way people access information that was previously the province of print media.

The newspaper industry has been hit hard. With the ready availability of free online news, which can be updated by the minute, fewer people are reading a print edition that is, necessarily, several hours old and for which they have to pay. The Internet is also a perfect medium for classified ads, formerly the lifeblood of most local newspapers. With the loss of ad revenue, many print newspapers have had to cut back from daily to weekly publication, or have closed altogether.

The appeal of print

For all that, print is clearly not dead, nor likely to die in the foreseeable future. And I’m not just saying this because I have a fondness for print.

A big part of the reason for the continued existence of print is that there are certain things digital technology simply cannot do as well as a physical medium. For most people, even those who have lived most of their lives with digital media, there are strong physiological and psychological advantages to a printed copy. For example, most people find extended reading of backlit screens leads to eyestrain. And if the screen is taken outdoors, bright sunlight can wash out the image, making it impossible to read at all. Some digital ink technologies are starting to address these shortcomings, but there is still a long way to go.

There also remains an important role for print in the realm of marketing. Individually addressed marketing materials that arrive by mail are much more visible than yet another marketing email: these struggle to get noticed among the daily onslaught of such emails that most people suffer. Physical mailings can also include novelties such as calendars or pens that act as a recurring reminder of the sender’s business. The use of variable data in direct mail is actually boosting response, QR codes are teaming print and digital to create a more integrated customer experience.

A lot of activities such as page flipping, browsing a magazine or book, or sampling a page here and there are much more readily accomplished with a printed copy. Reading a print book also provides a satisfying physical sense of progress as you work your way through the pages. Print materials can be disposed of when finished: given to someone else to read, donated, or recycled. And printed books and magazines can be used in locations where electronic devices might be in danger of damage – on a beach, in a bubble bath or near a swimming pool, for example. A print book can be printed at a larger or smaller size, according to the content. Digital books may be fine for basic text, but are not so good for art books, for example. Finally, nothing can replace that tactile connection, the smell of the ink, the texture of the paper. Ahhhh… print.

The new world order

Publishers are learning to adapt to the new world. Many newspapers continue to publish a print edition, although sometimes less frequently than the daily schedule of old, and often complemented by an online version. More and more publications are coming up with creative ways to integrate print and digital content so that the information that makes most sense delivered digitally or on the web is a supplement to the printed publication and vice versa.

An increasingly popular way to integrate print and digital content is by means of QR codes – those squares that contain lots of little dots that can be read by a smartphone app. Printed ads and marketing materials now frequently include QR codes to direct the reader to online product information, special offers, and other promotions.

Designers are coming up with more creative ways to up the touch factor. Adding textural finishes, such as soft touch, sandpaper and scratchboard, to printed materials has become a great way to enhance the customer experience. You can’t add texture to a tablet or computer screen.

One way to make print more competitive is to somehow cut production and distribution costs. One approach that has recently appeared is on-demand print kiosks. Users can select the magazine they want, and it is printed on the spot from an electronic file. This drastically reduces distribution costs, and also provides the ability to quickly update content or even customize it to the reader’s specifications.

The print industry is certainly going through changes brought about by the growth of digital media. But the many things that print has going for it, especially with new models for distribution and charging, point to the coexistence of print and digital forms of publication far into the future

Have a Pawsitively Tail Waggin' Good Day!

P.S. This information was provided by Ruff Haus Design - Your Loyal Marketing Companion. Established in 1997, we are a special breed of full service graphic design company that works with a premier pack of clients. We bring a fresh outlook and tail-wagging enthusiasm to your marketing program. Learn more about how we can help improve your brand management and support your marketing needs at