Tip Tuesday: Print vs. Digital in a Heavyweight Bout for Market Dollars and Retention

Tip Tuesday: Print vs. Digital in a Heavyweight Bout for Market Dollars and Retention

Print vs. digital: a bout for the ages

The debate of Print vs. Digital has been going on ever since digital first dialed its way into our hearts with AOL.

I cut my teeth in the ad business in the 80s and 90s, when print was still the heavyweight champion of the world.

Modern consumers have a bigger appetite for content than ever, and they are consuming it whenever and wherever they can: on the go, at home and in the workplace.

Mobile and print ad spend are clearly moving in opposite directions, as has been the case for some time now. With mobile gains expected and continued print declines on the horizon, the forecast calls for mobile to more than double print ad spend by 2018 (26.9 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively.)

Digital has print on the ropes

Print has taken it on the chin recently to be sure. But print may have been employing a bit of rope-a-dope strategy.

Just when you’d least expect it, print is getting up off the mat and has begun counter-punching. The physical advantages of print as well as demographic and environmental trends have allowed it to shrug off the onslaught from digital and stagger back to its feet.

The tactile, sensory experience of physical print on paper can’t be overstated. It employs all the senses. Touch, in particular, is an important piece of biofeedback that digital simply cannot duplicate. Digital text always eludes our grasp in some fundamental sense. The touch of the page brings us into the world, but the screen keeps us out.

When targeting millennials, should you assume that digital is the right medium? Surprisingly, the research says no.

Down, but not out

In a recent Washington Post article, Michael Rosenwald describes what he calls “a peculiar irony of the internet age.” Some students haven’t fully written off (pun intended) print as a medium. Surprisingly, they cite the feel and the smell as well as the ability to make notes in the margins and highlighting of key phrases as reasons why they prefer print copy.

Rosenwald quotes an American University student who commented in regards to a book he’s reading, “I like the feeling of it. I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.”

Another report from Scientific American cites several studies that show people prefer to read printed material when they are trying to understand something substantive.

Give ’em the old ‘one-two’

Marketers should look to develop a print-digital hybrid approach to their plan for content production. When providing complex content, offering printed materials will improve your audience’s experience, understanding, retention – and hopefully your sales.

As marketers, we should be cognizant of these trends and look for opportunities to introduce print into our marketing campaigns to gain attention and increase comprehension.

Peace, love and digital,


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