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Is Print Still Relevant and Effective?

By on October 13, 2015 in Print vs Digital, Research

(by Victor Stranges, Erwins Printing)


The last ten years or so have seen a significant push against print. The industry has been hit in all directions, whether it’s the migration to electronic/online communications or whether it’s about environmental credibility. Though the misinformation about printing’s demise and its environmental impact has left the industry reeling, it’s about to hit back and not in a shy way. How will it do this? Research, hard evidence and plain facts.


I want to disclose my personal interest in this topic as I am a print professional and yes, my day to day job is selling print. What I have found over the years is that emotion and the latest hipster innovation in online communications can often pave the way for a “me too” approach in marketing decisions. All of a sudden, a Facebook like or a Twitter follower has replaced other metrics which might be more useful (like gaining a new client, a new donor or a new member). We are led to believe that the more likes or followers we have, our company or organisation will be better off. No doubt, there are advantages to having an online social media presence and I highly recommend it for certain industries. Though, in my mind, Facebook likes will never replace other marketing activity that so directly funnels qualified prospects into the “sales” pipeline. A marketer may even reduce their print spend to engage with a specialist company to gather new followers or likes. Though back-end campaign analytics are transparent, it seems the algorithms and bots have taken over a large chunk of this space and everything may not be as it seems.


Analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphreys found the following:


  • Up to 50% of publisher traffic is bot activity, just fake clicks from automated computing programs.
  • Bots account for 11 percent of display ad views and 23 percent of video ads.
  • Between 3 percent and 31 percent of programmatically bought ad impressions were found to be from bots, with an average of 17 percent.
  • More than half of traffic from third parties claiming to lift publishers’ traffic numbers comes from bots.


Social media and online activity is very useful, so long as one can measure the counter party risk in handing over their hard earned communications budget. Online and electronic media definitely has its place and is vital in communications. But like anything, it’s a case of buyer beware.



Print VS Digital (Effectiveness)

Here is some interesting information about the effectiveness of print vs digital. There is plenty of recent data on this and below is a summary of some recent posts. Feel free to click on each link to find out more.


  • Latest scientific research has backed print saying that paper-based content and ads offer special advantages in connecting with the readers’ brains. More
  • Gruen Transfer says Catalogues have been dubbed as ‘Crackalogues’ by retailers. More
  • Direct mail provokes seven times more responses than all other channels combined and has among the best return on investment, international research finds. More
  • Readers trust print over digital. More
  • New industry report: Catalogues more influential on shoppers than TV, email or internet. More


Print VS Digital (Environmental)

As far as the environmental impact of print, digital environmental evangelists will find it difficult to argue some of the points highlighted by Two Sides, a membership organisation representing the paper and print industry. Two Sides recently contacted more than 20 major US companies (all Fortune 500 companies including banks, utilities and telcos) to remove their “anti-paper” green claims when promoting electronic billing as more environmentally sustainable than printing on paper. “We’re challenging the environmental claims around electronic versus paper, and our arguments are that many things are not considered, such as sustainable forestry practices or the fact that a lot of people print at home,” said Phil Riebel, president at Two Side US. Two Sides’ campaign does raise a key point: Is going paperless really better for the environment? I posted a blog about this last year titled, “Is digital really greener than paper?”


In Australia there has been a lot of silence from the paper and printing industries in the years gone by but this is about to change. Two Sides Australia is going on the offensive against companies breaking rules with deceptive claims encouraging consumers to switch from paper to digital. Executive director of the Australian arm of Two Sides, Kellie Northwood, has so far focused on speaking privately to companies that appear to be in breach of greenwashing law and ACCC guidelines, but will now be more proactive and report uncooperative firms to the watchdog.


It seems the pendulum is starting to swing back towards print with its ROI potential and marketers coming to understand print’s true environmental impact. Maybe we are entering a more balanced time when print is recognised for its advantages when coupled with an effective online campaign. I am mindful in my conversations with clients and I encourage them to just have an open mind.

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