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In defence of print

The future is digital. Print is dead. Why bother with formats that can’t be clicked, tracked and easily funnelled through to a product page anyway?

Here (in best digital, listicle style), are 8 reasons why print isn’t going anywhere.

Print deserves some defence

  • Reading more carefully is a common characteristic of offline reading. A common complaint in fact (as recognised by Naomi Baron in Words Onscreen) for those used to skimming for keywords online. This careful reading gives brands the chance to add complexity to their adverts that wouldn’t work in a digital environment.
  • Friction is good. We read slower and in more detail in print, and studies have shown that as a result of this sensory experience and heavier lifting we actually remember what we read better.
  • Digital ads, in contrast, have to deal with the fact that our attention span is worse online. We are rubbish at multitasking, and yet with your six tabs open and the next just a link away, that is exactly what all of us do all of the time online. Online our concentration is, as our teenage selves, ‘spottier and shallower’. Hence the proliferation of those bullet point articles…
  • Print doesn’t just take longer to read, it actually is more permanent. Your ad is always on the page, and always working. There is vast potential longevity in magazine adverts. And even if the magazine gets put in the recycling at the end of the month the continuity of the format is inherent and tangible, reflecting well compared to the transience of online formats.
  • Online ads might have more or less cleaned up their act – but there is still a hangover of danger associated with them. From endless pop-ups ruining a website to the chance of clicking a spammy link, we are taught to at least be wary of online approaches. Print advertising is wholly legitimate and nonthreatening in comparison.
  • Consumers operate in a more linear fashion offline. The contextual environment for brands is better as a result in print – and less straightforward online, where we scan, skip and stay in one place for much less time.
  • This linear nature extends to brand loyalty. Consumers tend to be more loyal to their offline magazines and newspapers, providing a more trustworthy environment and the opportunity to develop longer-lasting campaigns and relationships.
  • Digital can’t compete with the sensory experience of print, or provide the range of opportunities for a designer and brand. Paper is a three dimensional, complex material. Just as no two design projects are the same, there is an almost endless range of paper stock to complement them.

Everyone used to think the future was online, and to a large extent that remains the case. But given the advantages and prestige that print retains over digital, we can’t help but see a very healthy concurrent future for print too. It may come down to a simple matter of distinction: as the world becomes more digital, the physical attributes of print will only help it to continue to stand out from the crowd.

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