Commentary

Don't Count Print Out Yet

Eric Alterman paints a grim picture for the future of printed newspapers in his article, "The News Business, Out of Print," in the March 31 issue of The New Yorker.

"Newspaper companies are losing advertisers, readers, market value, and, in some cases, their sense of mission at a pace that would have been barely imaginable just four years ago," he writes. "...(T)rends in circulation and advertising--the rise of the Internet, which has made the daily newspaper look slow and unresponsive; the advent of Craigslist, which is wiping out classified advertising--have created a palpable sense of doom."

For many, that "palpable sense of doom" extends to all of print. The new generation works, reads and plays on the Internet, the common wisdom goes. As they displace retiring Baby Boomers, print, too, will be retired.

Yet research on the appeal and effectiveness of print and electronic media reveals a storyline at odds with this prevailing wisdom. It shows that print continues to play a vibrant, even critical role in Internet Age marketing, and that it remains the most trusted - and sometimes preferred- medium for many purposes.

To promote print in the face of the Internet's ever-growing influence, an alliance of print industry leaders known as The Print Council has charged Rochester Institute of Technology and six other universities to methodically collect and summarize the best of recent research on all types of media, on the Print in the Mix Web site, www.printinthemix.com. Visit the site - the source of much of the data in this article - and you will see plenty of reasons why print should remain part of your media mix.

Giving Direct Mail Its Due
Consider direct mail. It's projected to grow by 4.5% this year to account for the largest advertising spend in the United States, 21.6% of the $294.4 billion total, according to the December 2007 Insider's Report. Yet the medium is widely disrespected as junk mail that isn't read, but goes directly to landfill.

The research reveals a dirty little secret: 80% of people read or skim their direct mail, and 38% find it interesting, according to a 2006 U.S. Postal Services study. The landfill issue also is misrepresented. Nearly 85% of respondents to a 2007 DM News survey believe that direct mail counted for more than a third to a half of municipal waste. But the Environmental Protection Agency puts the figure at 2%. Furthermore, in 2007, an all-time high of 56% of the paper consumed in the United States was recovered for recycling - five years ahead of the industry's schedule for that milestone, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.

When forced to choose among media formats, people tend to give direct mail its due. For example, among unsolicited email, Internet banner ads, sales calls to the home, text message ads and direct mail, 75% of consumers say they are most likely to pay attention to and act upon direct mail, according to a 2005 survey by the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation.

This preference is corroborated in response-rate studies. Catalogs and direct mail generate the second- and third-highest response rates after telemarketing in the Direct Marketing Association's 2007 Response Rate Report, but deeply personalized color direct mail has them all beat. It generated a 6.5% response rate in an InfoTrends/CAP Ventures study, more than twice rate of the top DMA study responses (telemarketing - 2.53%, catalogs - 2.24%% and direct mail - 2.15%.)

Mixing Media Boosts Results
As marketers know, the nature of direct mail and direct marketing is changing. Personalized digital printing gives us the power to strip the "junk" out of our mail by making pieces relevant to each individual recipient, boosting reader interest and response rates.

Orchestrating a marketing message across multiple media further boosts results by increasing the likelihood that you'll reach customers in their preferred medium and by reinforcing the message, working synergistically to drive results. Sixty-seven percent of the online population is driven by offline messages to search online for information on a company, service or product, according to a survey of the Ipsos U.S. online consumer panel. Thirty-nine percent of them then make a purchase.

Similarly, consumers who received a printed catalog from a retailer were twice as likely to buy online from that retailer as consumers who didn't receive the catalog, according to a 2007 U.S. Postal Services study. Eighty-four percent said online shopping was easier when they had a catalog.

Pantone, Inc. used this knowledge to its advantage in orchestrating a cross-media campaign for a new color monitor calibration device. The effort generated an 81% increase in sales over those for a similar product supported by traditional direct mail. Elements included digitally printed, personalized postcards and direct mail, personalized Web sites, email and telemarketing.

This synergistic relationship is one reason why the Internet's effect on print often is complementary.

Print In The Marketing Mix
Research data shows that print brings advantages to many other applications, as well.

Many senior executives express a preference for print. Fifty-nine percent trust printed magazines, journals and newspapers over online sources for information, and 60% turn to print when they want in-depth analysis, according to a Doremus/Financial Times survey.

The No. 1 influencers of buying decisions also come from the world of print. A 2006 survey sponsored by Vertis Communications found that advertising inserts and circulars are the media that most influence buying decisions, affecting 31% of adults, compared to 18% for television and only 6% for the Internet.

And during the 2007 holiday season, coupons and newspaper inserts were the top two media influences on holiday shopping, according to a BIGresearch survey. Coupons influenced 35.2% of holiday shoppers, followed by newspaper inserts (30.4%), word of mouth (22.7%), TV/broadcast (21.3%) and direct mail (16.1%).

Marketing in the Internet Age is a dynamic endeavor, but fortunately, more actionable data is available than ever before to help chart your path. The current research says that keeping print in the mix is a winning strategy.

Tags: commentary, print
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1 comment about "Don't Count Print Out Yet ".
  1. Angela Lapre from Bender/Helper Impact , December 7, 2008 at 5:40 p.m.

    While it's still a good idea to include traditional media "in the mix", it will be interesting how newspapers will deal with things like coupons, etc., as outlets turn to online only. Also, will blogs have more ads that serve local markets or display local deals?