Some say print is dead. “All hail digital,” they say. They’ll tell you that the road to the future is paved with touchscreen retina displays. And the road to hell is made of paper. But fear not, print lovers, because the fight isn’t over yet. In fact, there may not even be a fight in the first place.

Maybe, after all, there’s a place in the modern world for both print and digital to live side-by-side, symbiotically.

At any rate, the fact is that there are distinctions between the two. Both excel in different areas. And both are indispensable. In this post we’re going to focus on print, and look at all the reasons why it’s not only alive and kicking, but here to stay.

Engagement

Print is tangible. This is the undeniable fact of the form. It’s an entirely physical entity, whereas digital marketing exists within another, separate, physical object.

When thinking of the differences between print and digital, it’s important not to overlook this distinction. People like to touch things. And there’s an undeniable pleasure in interacting with something tactile and responsive. In this case, the feeling of paper.

Here’s what editor Emma Munro Smith said when discussing the popularity of Moshi Magazine, a children’s publication based on a very popular video game called Moshi Monsters:

“You might be able to look at a digital game or magazine on an iPad, but you can’t cut things out, colour-in, take pen to paper or stick it on your wall.”

This is perhaps the greatest testament to the physical advantages of print. Of course, things are different with adults. Chances are your goal isn’t to leave readers wanting to cut up and draw over your newsletters. But the underlying principles are the same. Printed material comes with a feeling of interactivity, even if there’s nothing to actually interact with.

Further to this, evidence suggests that people miss the tactile experience of paper when navigating digital texts. Sliding your finger across a screen, or moving a mouse, just isn’t the same as touching paper.

When you also consider the navigational difficulties inherent in digital reading, there’s a strong argument to be made in favour of print when it comes to longer, more substantial, documents.

Understanding

In a study comparing paper marketing with digital media, it was found that paper marketing requires around 21% less cognitive effort to process. This is important for many reasons. But when considering how many adverts, emails, and documents people read on a daily basis, it’s easy to see how the most digestible will be the most memorable.

After all, our main aim when marketing is to put across a message that’s simple and clear. And how easy something is to read, understand, and process, will play a huge part in that.

The unholy matrimony

And here’s the craziest idea of all: print and digital, working together in harmony. It’s strange that this should be an almost-usual concept. But it seems as though many people believe that in order for one to thrive, the other must perish.

This, obviously, isn’t the case. We only have to look at QR codes to see how print and digital can come together in unique and inventive ways.

Think of newsletters. There’s classic newsletters, and there’s e-newsletters. Many companies will opt to pursue just one route. But there’s nothing to stop a business offering both classic and digital newsletters.

The greatest danger with completely embracing digital to the detriment of print is in alienating segments of our customer-base. The reality is that not everyone is comfortable navigating the digital landscape. This is especially true (to make a generalisation) of the older generation. So if any percentage of your customers are older, it’s worth bearing this in mind when weighing print against digital.

Print: the end is not nigh

As always, there’s much to be said in favour of print. Make no mistakes, the digital age has opened up some amazing avenues for marketing. But the dawn of digital has not turned out to be the great print extinction event that some thought it would. It’s simply nestled in, alongside good old fashioned paper, and serves as another tool for helping us grow our businesses.

And print will always be useful, because humans are physical creatures (at least for now). And physical creatures like physical experiences. So the natural ‘aliveness’ of print will ensure its place in our business and personal lives for many years to come.

If you enjoyed this post, why not take a look at some of the other print articles on the Red Square blog? You can find them here and here.