Why Print Still Matters for Marketers

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Whereas it’s true that magazine and newspaper publishing has taken a hit these past fifteen years, it would be wrongheaded to assume these forms of connecting with readers-–that is, consumers — would disappear altogether. In fact, a recent study indicates that print continues to be among the most effective media for reaching customers with your marketing messages.

A new study by the marketing analytics group Ebiquity, conducted in October 2017 and January 2018, has provided numerous insights to help businesses evaluate their marketing mix. One of the study’s aims was to not only determine the most effective marketing channels, but to discover how much the facts align with what agencies are telling (or selling to) their clients.

I don’t have space to tell you everything in this 34-page report except to say that when the facts are on the table, print is far from a dinosaur.

The researchers began by establishing criteria as regards what is important when it comes to advertising. Targetability and Return On Investment (ROI) were ranked one and two as regards what matters most. Also important: triggering a positive emotional response, increasing brand salience (top of mind), and maximizing reach.

Judged against these criteria, television and radio scored highest in effectiveness. Print media — magazines and newspapers — also scored high, but are massively underrated. In contrast, online video and paid social media are overrated, the Ebiquity research shows. This is not to say that social media and digital has no value.

Eight Reasons To Reconsider Print

Here are just a few of the reasons print continues to have value.

1. Print has evolved to be very dialed in to the specific and narrow interests of its readers. There are publications for every category and for very specific market niches.

2. The perceived value of print can be seen in the way magazine subscribers get an emotional lift when their favorite magazine shows up in their mailbox. Online eMags and eNewsletters may have value but seldom generate the same enthusiasm.

3. What continues to make print ads valuable is the (nearly) undivided attention that readers give to magazine and newspaper content, rather than multitasking like they do when consuming digital content. (1)

4. According to an AllBusiness Networks study, 56% of all consumers trust print marketing more than any other advertising method. (2)

5. Research shows that the average reader of a branded magazine will spend up to 20 to 25 minutes with it. “On the Web, you’re hoping for two minutes, maybe. So if you’re looking for engagement, a custom magazine can get you 25 minutes.” (3)

6. According to this cross-media study, print advertising has the highest ROI. (4)

7. People who read magazines are more committed to lifelong learning than non-readers.

8. The ads in magazines are targeted to readers who spend their money for this content. It’s something they went out of their way to acquire, not something they stumbled upon while surfing the digital universe. They pay for their subscriptions or use hard-earned discretionary income for the material they are reading. The ads in most magazines are relevant to the content that surrounds them. There’s no clickbait, and no annoying pop-ups that take over your page and hold you hostage.

30 years of experience has shown me that print is an effective way to grow many kinds of businesses. But, here’s the caveat. I’ve never believed that there’s only one way to market your goods or services. No carpenter builds a house with a hammer alone. The builder has saws, drills, wrenches, measuring devices, etc. Print is one tool in the toolbox, or as I prefer to say, one leg of a multi-legged table. And I admit it’s not always absolutely essential.

Look at Google, one of the largest companies in the world and hardly two decades old. They built a better search engine and cybercitizens literally beat a cyberpath to their page. I can’t recall ever seeing a print or television ad for this brand. Can you?

The Ebiquity report is simply a wake-up call for companies to re-evaluate their marketing mix. How much of what you’re doing is because everyone else is doing it, and how much is the result of your own applied critical thinking?

Al Ries and Laura Ries make a case in their 2002 bestseller The Fall of Advertising that brands are built by publicity, not advertising. They cite Starbucks, Wal-Mart, the Body Shop and Red Bull to make their case. They argue that because credibility is a crucial ingredient for brand building, and advertising lacks it, “only PR can supply that credibility.”

They cited Red Bull as an example of using PR to build the brand, but then what is Red Bull doing now? A couple years ago they began publishing a print magazine. Shell, an oil marketer, also started publishing a magazine, as have many other companies. Even J.C. Penney is back in the catalog printing biz. Is print really dead?


If one were to go back in time to those early days of the Internet one would find that I, like many others, had drunk the Kool-AidÒ. I believed what Michael Crichton said to the National Press Club in the mid-90s, that the Internet would kill television. For many years I was fond of citing Crichton, until the emergence of social media whereupon I quickly discovered that the biggest discussion themes trending on Twitter were generated by content from television. Celebrities, big sporting events, stupid reality shows — it’s all there on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere.

Print publications are another media channel that was predicted to fall by the wayside. Kindle eBooks would purportedly smash the book publishing industry. Magazines would likewise become an endangered species. Or so they said. The reality is au contraire.

# # # #

(1) American Marketing Association, “Why Print Matters.”


(2) “Print Marketing Is Still Not Dead”


(3) CMO by Adobe: “Digital-First Content Marketing: The Return of Print!”

(4) http://www.inma.org/blogs/research/post.cfm/cross-media-study-shows-print-advertising-has-highest-roi

EdNote: This article originally appeared in my Marketing Matters column for Business North., a regional business publication serving the Northland.

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An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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