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Commentary & Analysis

No Matter What Its Critics Say, Print Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You

Ah, the travails of traditional media. Who among us hasn’t stifled a groan, or at least a yawn, upon being reminded by the digerati that the path ahead for print leads nowhere else but down?

By Patrick Henry
Published: September 10, 2013

Ah, the travails of traditional media. Who among us hasn’t stifled a groan, or at least a yawn, upon being reminded by the digerati that the path ahead for print leads nowhere else but down?

But, the traditional media aren’t the only ones being disrupted by what’s been happening in the communications marketplace.

Digitizing information delivery doesn’t necessarily mean improving information delivery. Internet analytics provider comScore recently reported that of nearly 6 trillion display ad impressions sent across the web in 2012, 3 ads in 10 were never “rendered-in-view”: that is, actually seen by anyone. The results of this inefficiency, said comScore, were “significant waste, weaker campaign performance and a glut of poor-performing inventory that imbalances the supply-and-demand equation and depresses CPMs.”

Nothing is immune to criticism, and the digital media have been around long enough now for some of them to start falling out of favor. For example, comScore has noted attrition in e-mail use as consumers shift to social media and alternate channels. Other sources have reported that Americans now spend more time on social networks than at web portals. And, as the amount of time that consumers spend with their mobile devices increases, time spent with all of the other channels decreases.

Without doubt, print has taken its share of the lumps in the communications upheaval brought about by the rise of the Internet and, most recently, by our infatuation with mobile. But, print has been made stronger by what it’s endured, and it may be better positioned than some of the other media to profit from change still to come.

Here at Print 13, we’re seeing new printing processes and process improvements that could not have come along at a more opportune time. At the Xerox booth, the winning entries in the company’s Best-of-the-Best Contest showcase a medium that has learned how to be personalized, relevant, engaging, and cost-efficient—the virtues that today’s communications marketplace requires of all its channels. Print’s high profile among the media also is the theme of “Print Wins,” an awareness campaign kicked off by Jeff Jacobson, president of Xerox Global Graphic Communications Operations, in this post at the company’s “Digital Hot Spot” blog.

Although the distribution of some kinds of information has shifted away from hard copy, print still can be a medium of choice for what venture capitalist Mary Meeker has called the “Asset-Light Generation”: free-spirited consumers eager to find digitally-enabled alternatives to traditional patterns of property ownership and use. These consumers will not use as much print as their forebears did. But, they will embrace printed matter that speaks to them of ways they can have it all by having less in the unencumbered lifestyles that Meeker tells us they crave.

Another watcher of digital trends, the techno-futurist Henry Blodget, expresses the opportunity this way: “What does history teach us? As habits change, the money follows.” Right now, Print 13 is the best place on earth to look for solutions that will give print its best shot at re-engaging with consumers, confounding its critics, and proving once again that the smart money still is following ink and toner on paper.

Have a great show, and be sure to join and follow the discussion about why print wins by using the #PrintWins hashtag.

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.


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