Print Isn't Dead


“Print is dead” or so they say. The world of print is most definitely changing, but printed materials are more impactful, creative and cost-effective than ever before.

Digital advertising is certainly an asset – it gives a business immediate access to a wide range of online viewers. However, as a consumer you are constantly seeing and filtering out these ads. Iris Chyi, University of Texas associate professor and new media researcher, uses an unexpected metaphor that sums up this digital advertising phenomena well: ramen noodles.

“Compared to dinner in a nice restaurant, ramen noodles are an inferior good. They are cheap. You can cook and consume them just about anywhere, including a dorm room sink, in five minutes. To make them profitable, you have to sell them by the metric ton. As for their taste, typing the phrase ‘Ramen noodles taste like…’ into the Google search box produces this result: ‘Ramen noodles taste like soap.’”

Ramen noodles certainly have an appropriate time and place, but a well-balanced diet is always best. The same can be said for the way you advertise and deliver your messages to the world. These are only a few reasons why businesses shouldn’t be so quick to pass on printed media opportunities:

  1. A third of the current U.S. population doesn’t have home access to Wi-Fi or a computer. That is about 107.5 million people omitted from seeing a digital ad or message. In these circumstances, public spaces become the primary means for ad exposure – libraries, salons, churches, grocery stores and other places that commonly have newspapers, magazines and printed ads displayed. Print media covers a broad range of materials, from posters, newspapers and billboards to brochures, magazines and direct mail.
  2. To say trust is a big factor between businesses and consumers is an understatement. In a society saturated with “fake news”, YouGov polls have found that 74 percent of its respondents agree that they trusted the news and information in their local newspaper over online sources. Journalists also seem to follow a similar train of thought, as seen in Ogilvy Media Influence’s survey of 255 media professionals, which found that 52 percent of journalists believe that traditional printed media is the most trusted news source.

    The physicality of print materials adds reassurance and permanence to the messages they bear. In contrast, digital media can feel like an overwhelming flow of information, always moving and changing. It lacks the stability that print offers a consumer.
  3. One of the most important benefits of printed media is the way the human brain connects with it when compared to digital media. A Forbes study determined that direct mail (for example) requires 21 percent less cognitive effort to process than digital media. This suggests that the printed medium is easier to understand and is debatably more memorable. When asked to recall the brand/company name of an ad they had just seen, the subjects’ recall was 70 percent higher with printed mailers than it was with digital ads. These results are demonstrated in the graphs below.

It’s also been found that paper advertising activates the ventral striatum area of the brain more so than digital media. Previous studies of successful ad campaigns have shown that the ventral striatum is a strong indicator of desire and valuation. According to the study, this could be because physical material:

  • Is more “real” to the brain and is better connected to memory.
  • Involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.
  • Produce more brain responses connected with internal feelings, suggesting greater “internalization” of the ads.

Thanks to its accessibility, trustworthiness and ability to connect with people, print has survived the invention of radio, television and the internet. Every day new technologies are emerging that combine the mediums in creative ways to help brands maximize the reach of their messages. The creation of QR and the progression of augmented reality ads are only the beginning of what’s to come.

The internet is a great tool and should be utilized to its full potential, just be sure to not overlook the value of print in the process.