23 June 2022

Is print
still
relevant?

In summary...

  • Print is still relevant in this digital age because it offers something that digital content cannot.
  • Print is trustworthy, conveys emotions and stands out in a digital world
  • When combined with digital mediums, print can be even more effective

The pros & cons of printed media to help you determine if print is still relevant

It’s been described as one of the greatest achievements of the second millennium. One that introduced mass communication to the people and revolutionised society. Unveiled in the 1400s, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press is possibly the greatest invention of all time.

But in more recent years, the use of print has declined, replaced by more instantly accessible digital mediums.

So, on the (estimated) anniversary of Gutenberg’s birth, we look at whether print and printed media are still relevant in today’s society.

Inspirational designers and innovators - Johannes Gutenberg

What is Print Media?

Used to describe any material that has been printed and distributed to the public, the term print media is an umbrella term for many formats, including books, newspapers, magazines, posters and flyers.

Although the process of reproducing text and images has been around for millennia – ancient forms of printing including cave paintings, carvings in stone, and inscriptions on metal or clay – it was Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press that revolutionised the practice.

By using oil-based inks rather than water ones, Gutenberg improved upon existing wooden presses used in China to create his own, more durable, metal machine. Through this press, Gutenberg introduced books and other print media to a wide audience in Europe for the first time, contributing to a rise in literacy and opening up the opportunity for education and learning to the masses.

Later, digital presses would enable businesses to print on demand, opening up the print market to the whole breadth of SMEs, not just large companies. However, practices evolve, and print is now often overlooked in favour of digital mediums.

The decline of print media

Historically, print media was the most popular tool in a marketing strategy. However, with the advent of electronic and digital media, print has slowly been losing its place in the market. Online marketing has become more prevalent than ever before and this trend will only continue to grow.

There are a few reasons print media may not be as effective a tool for the marketing mix today as it once was.

Print publications can take longer to reach readership because of slower distribution channels. A problem that becomes even more significant when considering that there are now many platforms where content can be immediately consumed (mobile devices, laptops, etc.).

Printed content is also difficult to share, and it’s sometimes difficult to easily find relevant content, especially compared to digital mediums.

In today’s digital world, it can be hard to justify the use of print media as a marketing tool. After all, we can just do a Google search, or open a website, and find all the information we need right at our fingertips.

However, print media can offer several benefits that can be very worthwhile for businesses…

Paper-based content still connects with our brains

The benefits of print media in a digital world

While print media may not be as popular as it once was, it can still be an effective marketing tool. For businesses that want to reach a wide target audience, or promote their products in a more credible way, print media may be a good choice.

First, in a world of decreasing organic reach and increasing ad costs, print can in fact be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly option. With paper – and the wood it’s made from – being a sustainable product, an increasingly aware audience can see its use as a positive. Especially as the environmental costs of running large servers become more widely understood.

Print media can also be very effective in promoting your business to a wider audience. Unlike electronic media, which can be dismissed as irrelevant or unimpressive, print media can be seen as a valuable source of information. This can be especially true for high-quality publications, which are often considered as being more credible than online publications.

Research has proven that print is still an important and sought-after media in today’s world, regardless of what it’s used for. Millennials, for example, are reading more than previous generations at the same age, as well as appreciating the experience of physically owning a book.

One of the major advantages of printed materials is that they can provide a more personal experience. Unlike a TV commercial or digital ad, it’s not interruption marketing, which can annoy as well as sell. Print can continue to inspire at the reader’s leisure, weeks after it first appears.

In addition, print marketing can be a very effective way to target your audience. Marketers can use print to reach a precise locality through a specifically tailored direct mail campaign, while exhibitors can hand out brochures to an engaged audience at trade shows or events. This can be especially helpful in times of targeted marketing campaigns.

For businesses that want to reach a wide target audience, or promote their products in a more credible way, print media may be a good choice.

Conclusion: Is Print Still Relevant in this Digital Age?

Print is still relevant in this digital age because it offers something that digital content cannot. Humans crave physical contact with things, and print provides that. A more trustworthy form of marketing, print material is a great way to convey emotions and feelings through images, advertisements, and other visuals.

In a world where high-quality email marketing is swallowed up by junk and dubious social media posts, direct mail stands out through its relative lack of competition.

And for digital marketing professionals that refuse to turn away from online mediums completely, print can also be effective when used as part of an integrated marketing campaign that includes digital and traditional media. Win-win.

It’s often said that print is dead, but for those looking to establish long-term customer relationships, it looks like it’ll be around for the foreseeable future.

The McKenzie-Delis Review on different mediums - digital report, printed report, mobile webpage

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