The big print revival

The big print revival

Last week we saw the demise of the once-iconic music magazine, the NME. My 16-year- old Britpop loving self would have been devastated to lose her weekly fix of inky-fingered teenage rebellion, but in today’s publishing landscape this a sadly familiar story. Last year saw the last print edition of The Independent newspaper, while a host of other UK magazines have either folded or moved to online-only editions in the last few years.

So with print publishing in seemingly terminal decline, can we say the same of all physical media?

The truth is that the NME had lost its relevance as a publication, long before the last edition rolled off the presses. Its real-world version didn’t give its readership anything they couldn’t get elsewhere, either from its online presence or of course elsewhere in a vastly changed musical and cultural world. However, the same isn’t true of other physical or ‘traditional’ media.

The return of vinyl records shows a desire for the tangible, tactile experience that you don’t get from an MP3. And printed book sales have shown a surprising surge against the initial onslaught of the e-reader.¹

It’s not just the nostalgia of the baby boomers and Generation X’ers that are driving these revivals. Digital natives – millennials and even more importantly, the younger cohort, Generation Z – are buying into the physical space. Studies show that 16-24 year-olds prefer reading and studying in print; it gives them space away from their all-encompassing digital lives, a break from their screens, a place without distractions.² For this group, accustomed to so many facets of life being played out online, print is actually viewed as a non-traditional medium, a refreshing change.

In a world of fake news and the unregulated use of ‘dark ads’ on Facebook, Generation Z consider printed information to have more authority and authenticity than online sources.³ Whether this perception will keep papers on the newsstands isn’t clear, but it demonstrates again the point of difference that print has to offer.

So what does this all mean for printed marketing? For brands, print gives an opportunity to speak with an authentic voice to a younger audience in a way that provides genuine cut-through in their cluttered digital lives. While for all age groups, print or physical media seems to provide an emotional connection lacking from digital communications. Brands still use print – because it works.¹¹

Print is just one channel in the marketing mix. Used well, its unique qualities means its importance to brands will continue.

Louise McCann