Commentary & Analysis
Pass the Word: Print Drives America
Printing is far bigger and much more influential than many people give it credit for. It’s time to correct the perception.
By Martin J. Maloney
Published: February 29, 2016
It probably will come as no surprise to hear that the perception of printing is far below where it should be. The reality, however, is that print is dominant among the media. That’s a message that the printing industry should be spreading everywhere.
Let’s look at the numbers. Taken together, the measured media represent a $300 billion market in the U.S. That works out to a media spend of about $1,000 per person per year. Market share by medium breaks down as follows:
• Television still commands the biggest single share at $70 billion to $75 billion, including network, cable, and streaming channels.
• Direct marketing—the only medium with results that can be measured in dollars of ROI—comes in at $60 billion.
• The newspaper market is worth $45 billion. This industry saw an increase in advertising revenue last year.
• The Internet—specifically, its SEO (search engine optimization) portion—is a $25 billion medium.
• Magazines and periodicals have a $20 billion share.
• Directories, which still exist in print, account for $10 billion.
• Billboards, signage, and other components of the out-of home (OOH) market add up to $9 billion.
• The “other” category, which includes printed promotional items such as free standing inserts, comes in at $15 billion.
We should also mention the non-measured media, which comprise $200 billion worth of promotional activities like trade shows, sweepstakes and lotteries, public relations, and collateral.
When we tally all of the measured categories in which print plays a role, we see that it represents a $159 billion market—bigger than everything else put together. This gives us the true measure of print and its economic driving force. Print is not one of the “old” media: it’s mainstream and dominant among all the media, and we need to be saying so at every opportunity we get.
Consider packaging, an unsung hero that influences $2 trillion worth of retail purchasing. Walk into any supermarket or other retail outlet, and what you’ll see is a print gallery full of packages, labels, POP, and store signage—all of them inducing consumers to spend money.
This is how print drives America and mobilizes a vast share of America’s consumer-driven economy. Printers sell print, but print sells everything. In one way or another, print supports $5.8 trillion worth of U.S. economic activity. It is far bigger than the “$85 billion” business we see when we look only at value-of-shipments data from trade association sources.
Demographic and media trends tell us that the demand for some kinds of print is getting stronger. For example, sales of printed books are on the rise, especially among millennials. There’s no better indication of the health of this segment of the market than Amazon’s reported intention to open as many as 400 brick-and-mortar bookstores.
We worry about the Internet’s negative impact on the demand for print, but the fact is that the Internet is a saturated medium facing challenges of its own. The U.S. population isn’t growing, there are still only 24 hours in a day, and ad blocking is driving dollars back to tried-and-true print channels like catalogs and direct mail.
What we need to remind people is that we are all partakers in the daily life of print. We are in contact with it and being influenced by it at every moment of every waking hour. No other medium reaches this deeply and pervasively into our lives.
It’s time to take our industry back from the nay-sayers and be proud of being printers. Members of the industry should never try to hide their core competencies or let their services be commoditized by anyone. The truth is that when it comes to America’s major media, printers are in the driver’s seat—and that is exactly where they belong.