Move over internet, Print is back!

Move over internet, Print is back!

“Print is dead”, “The death of print is near”, “We will soon live in a paperless world”…. How many articles have we read over the last 10 years, which were predicting a very, very bleak future for the printing industry and pretty much anything to do with print?

It is true that, at some point, it was not looking good… With the increasing sales of smart phones, tablets and e-readers, digital was, quite rapidly, taking over “offline”. Magazines dropped hard copies in favour of online publications, utility companies and banks went online and stopped sending printed statements, DM was shunned and replaced by email marketing and advertisers’ online spend started to overtake other media…Oh and let’s not forget the claims about print being bad for the environment!

But was it all exaggerated? Did we all overlook the power of print?

Well it looks like we did because print hasn’t gone away and it is actually making a comeback.

So what exactly happened?

Printers fought back…

The printing industry learned to adapt. With a turnover of £13.5 billion and employing around 120,000 people, printing is the second industry in the UK in terms of value added.

Maybe the need for long run 2 colour business forms declined, but printers have used the new technologies available to them and in particular the development of digital print to offer quality, short run, and highly targeted products.

They also efficiently integrated online with offline with the development of web-to-print solutions bringing added-value and streamlined processes to their clients but also offering easy-to-use and affordable printing services to the wider public (think photobooks or photo calendars…).

Interactive Print and Augmented Reality also completely revolutionised the way we looked at print.

Those who dropped print realised they made a mistake

Many brands turned their back on print a few years ago only to recently backtrack their decision.

  • In 2012, Newsweek stopped printing its magazine but reintroduced a print publication just one year later at readers’ requests.
  • US JC Penney stopped using printed catalogues 5 years ago but had to reintroduce them after data showed customers preferred to look at the catalogue and then go online to order.
  • Next started using DM in 2014 after it proved to be increasing sales

Best of all, many brands that were purely online have also started using printed communications.

  • Last year, taxi service Uber launched a print magazine aiming at bringing its community of 15,000 US drivers together
  • Allrecipes launched a print magazine at the back of their website Now selling 1.1 million copies, the magazine was the US magazine industry’s large first large-scale digital-to-print brand extension when it launched 2 years ago.
  • Airbnb launched a quarterly magazine called Pineapple to communicate with their 25 million online users
  • Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, the YouTube star and queen of vlogging became, last year, the fastest-selling debut novelist since records began, shifting 78,109 copies of her book, Girl Online, in one week
  • Even Facebook has gone offline for their staff handbook with a high quality piece of print carrying striking photography and statements.

Retention and engagement just wasn’t the same…

Many studies showed that print was driving a higher engagement than online and therefore a higher return. There are plenty of stats out there, here are a few:

  • According to Royal Mail, campaigns including mail are 27% more likely to deliver top ranking sales performance.
  • Magazine readers recall specific advertisements better than digital ones.
  • Campaigns that combine mail and internet yield up to a 25% additional response rate
  • ROI on TV advertising by FMCG groups increased by 61% when used in combination with print advertising.
  • 63% of US retailers say that print is critical to their marketing strategy

And finally, we became nostalgic…

It’s a human thing… There’s something new out there, we all have to try it and do what everyone else is doing but after a while, the novelty just wears off.

Suddenly, we find ourselves waiting for the postman to see if he will actually drop something in our letterbox and we reluctantly check our emails dreading the amount of spams we have received since we last logged in.

We are nostalgic. We miss the feel of paper, opening a letter, the “reward feeling” we get when we take time to read a magazine or a book and even knowing that we will easily find “that” particular page again.

Just like music lovers are going back to vynil – sales are up 260% since 2009 – more and more people and with them marketing teams are going back to print.

With book sales on the increase and Waterstones announcing that they will not be selling Kindles in their stores any more, it seems that, after all, print is there to stay!

Martin Sorrell,
British businessman and Chief Executive officer (CEO) of WPP plc (image from*)