THE CASE FOR PRINTED MATERIALS VS DIGITAL

We’re not Competing with digital, we’re complimenting it and adding value

Over the last 20 years, we have seen increasing growth in digital technology to form the backbone of our communication, from emails, websites, social media postings, blogs and reviews.

The space has become increasingly crowded, and knowing what to believe and what to trust becomes more challenging. For example, how can we be sure that customer reviews are genuine? Are the products truly as described? Are the comments made unbiased? How do I trust the source?

The ability to pick up, hold, and read a document negates all of the above. By having the item in your hand, you can decide about the product, the company behind the product, and its commitment to quality.

Digital is NOT always the preferred means of communication.  Many consumers still value paper-based communication.  Many organisations are now increasingly going online or charging if their customers wish to receive paper-based communication. But switching to digital is not always welcome.  Often it is the most vulnerable members of society that depend on traditional, postal, transactional mail.

The move to an online-only society risks leaving older people, the disabled, rural dwellers and those on low incomes disconnected. Organisations need to acknowledge that information on paper is preferred by many consumers and often receives more attention.

Consumers wish to retain the flexibility of postal and electronic communications. However, in reality, we live in an increasingly digital world where electronic and paper-based communications co-exist and are often complementary. Therefore, communication strategies must not only be cost-effective but also recognise consumer choice.

People like engaging with print materials

Although digital seems to offer many benefits, like being immediately adjustable, free to access and interactive, print media is still very much ingrained in consumers’ collective memory. This means that people continue to be attracted to, and willing to read, print media, regardless of its form (e.g. magazines and newspapers, leaflets, brochures, catalogues etc.)

Print stimulates more senses

One exclusive quality that print has and which digital media can never match is how tangible it is. Consumers can browse through pages, feel the paper and even distinguish between specific paper densities and compositions.  For example, a printed item may be printed on a thicker, more porous paper that is easy to notice when compared to the rest of the glossy sheets in a brochure.  Embossing or debossing of materials can help the printed item stand out.  The smell of ink on paper adds to the overall experience of reading something printed. These are important senses that cannot be stimulated in the digital environment – or not yet, at least.

Complex information is better absorbed

Complex information is also better absorbed in print than in digital because people need to locate themselves in the text when looking at complex ideas – and that’s much easier to do in print than in digital.   The tangibility that print has to offer also makes readers pay more attention to the content than digital. This is because readers have to read it; they have to engage with printed content actively.  They have to pick up the printed item, hold it and read it. With digital content, they can passively scroll through it without having to focus too much.

Print can truly captivate readers.

What does print offer that digital certainly doesn’t? An uninterrupted reading experience. This means that there are no distractions for someone who is committed to finish reading physically printed items. Once they start reading, there are no other bits of news, auto-playing videos or pop-ups taking the spotlight off the article. Instead, a reader’s full attention is oriented to that specific content, which guarantees greater engagement with the brand since it is more likely to impact the customer and be remembered by them long-term.

Print is a significant benefit during face-to-face interaction

Many organisations operate within sectors that appreciate face-to-face interaction, relationships and a personal touch. Digital is striving towards more and more personalisation but is still quite some way behind the real thing.  When an organisation or an organisation’s team members come face-to-face with other people, print becomes hugely important. And there are plenty of opportunities for face-to-face physical interaction, such as in events and trade shows, where print media (in its many forms) can be used to an organisation’s advantage.

But print doesn’t allow for personalisation – yes, it does, and OPUS can do this

Personalisation has been shown to increase the relevance of any digital communication, meaning that communications become more effective. Customers also want this personal touch and are willing to part with data to achieve it. However, as we strive for efficiency and provide dynamic content for the here and now, print will fall behind if there isn’t a cost-effective way of personalising it. For example, publishers have attempted to personalise elements of the magazine’s packaging, including its inserts, but it generally becomes a costly process and is abandoned with time.  OPUS can offer a value for money approach to personalising your printed content.

Digital is noisy and crowded

Where print falls short in the personalisation department, it makes up for it in its outright ability to generate awareness and engage the consumer. Print stands out compared to the environment that digital content operates within – a cluttered and noisy place.  Print can rise above the digital noise and reach those who are sometimes protected from the clutter. In addition, print reaches a highly focused audience, where more people will read and see content (including ads) and remember them.

But Digital Focuses On The Content (And Audience)

There’s no getting away from it: printing and delivery costs can be higher regardless of a publication’s readership. So whilst print has some outright benefits, the quality of the overall print product comes down to its quality and content.

Digital Can Demonstrate ROI More Clearly

First of all, digital content is usually easy to create, distribute and, more importantly, measure. It’s this demonstration of Return on Investment (ROI) that marketers have had to address over the past few years: the ability to attribute expenditure to results.  All digital content formats, including ads, can show marketers and publishers the performance of that content, whether it is page views, engagements, impressions, conversations and Click-Through Rates, almost ROI can be measured immediately. But of course, these sorts of metrics can be manipulated, intentionally and unintentionally.

But print feels more legitimate… And secure

Print media is more trustworthy because it cannot be modified or deleted once the news is published. Whereas in digital media, we can change or delete the contents. So, those who run the newspapers and magazines will be extra careful while publishing the news or articles. Hence printed media is more trustworthy than digital media. However, many still have trust issues regarding digital advertising (and sometimes “digital” in general). Security is a big concern for internet users, and if the option is available, some will still prefer a physical copy instead of a digital version.

Some may also value the intimate look and feel of a physical print magazine, which is assigned more value as a product compared to its digital counterpart. The result is that the messages and content presented are more powerful.

OPUS believe that the real gains can come from combining both print and digital media

For many sectors, there will always be a place for traditional printed media. But there is no doubt that the industry isn’t the same as just five years ago.  Print and digital media, in their broadest definitions, can and have thrived without each other. However, they perform best in tandem. The key is understanding what that balance looks like and how to engage readers using both platforms creatively.

Digital has emerged alongside print, and together, both mediums can engage the customers.  By combining channels and media types and adopting a variety of channels for communications, an organisation can reach its audience at a time and place where its customers feel comfortable consuming the content.