Feb 28, 2018

The Demise of Print Advertising—Is There Still Hope?

There is a scene in the hit TV show The Office where paper company manager Michael Scott is asked what he thinks about paper becoming obsolete due to the steady rise of technology. Scott is defiant that paper will never truly go away, and the class listens diligently as the students furiously take notes on their myriad laptop computers.

While the irony is abundant, the fictional Scott is correct. Paper and print are here to stay (at least for now), and nowhere is that truer than when it comes to print advertising.

No one can deny that print advertising is in rapid decline. From 2000 to 2015, for example, print newspaper advertising revenue dropped from $60B to $20B, mitigating momentum that had been building for the previous fifty years. And print ads are down for magazines, tabloids, and other periodicals as well, some as much as 16%.

Meanwhile, digital marketing continues to enjoy a rapid inclination. AdvertisingAge reports that digital ads are expected to overtake traditional advertising in U.S. local markets this year. Therefore, to anyone paying attention, it may seem like print advertising is going the way of the do-do, but quite the opposite is true. Print advertising is still being used by brands the world over, and with excellent results.

The trick is knowing when and how to use print to accompany digital marketing for targeted reach and massive scale. Here are a few things to consider if you’re debating whether or not print ads are a good fit for your business.

Recognize That Print Still Has Its Place

Print advertising is the ideal accompaniment to your pay-per-click and video ads and can advance you even closer to your marketing goals. Magazine and newspaper ads, and even trade show publications can make people familiar with your offerings, making your online ads even more effective once they are encountered.

Heather Dueitt of NoteVault said, “Combining social, native, digital, and other lead-generation efforts to saturate the audience will help tell the complete story and reach the audience where they feel comfortable interacting with your brand.”

It’s that comfort that keeps drawing readers back to print publications. Some just appreciate the touch and feel of a magazine or newspaper. Now combine that coziness with your print ads, and you have a match designed for a healthy return on investment.

Reach a Highly-Focused Audience

The lowered statistics might scare print advertisers away, but those dedicated to print see opportunity where others might see a risk. When you consider that only the most engaged readers are picking up newspapers and magazines, those are the ones who will see your print ads, and that’s precisely what you want.

Those are the die-hard newspaper and magazine subscribers who are most likely to buy from the ads they see. Furthermore, studies show that people are more likely to remember things they read in print as opposed the blur of words they may see on a screen, which bodes well for any print ads you may be running.

Some magazines are precision-targeted to select audiences already, like fishers, swimmers, hunters, and bird watchers. That means that, while you may be able to reach more people with digital ads, your print ads can hit a bullseye like no other, especially when used strategically and in conjunction with your digital ad campaigns.

Garner Trust

Digital advertising is loved so well because it’s easy to track your ROI; much easier than print ads anyway.

However, print ads have something digital ads have always struggled with – trust.

It all starts with trust. Newspaper advertising has done as well as it has for as long because its readers have faith in the publication and its content—they know what to expect and that trustworthiness is then extended to the advertisers. Readers don’t expect to be bamboozled, in other words, and so the newspapers have always been justified in charging the high fees the for ad exposure.

Getting your ads in print, and in trustworthy periodicals, can lend legitimacy to your brand, which will extend to your online ads, and together they’ll deliver a comprehensive ad experience that keeps your brand at the forefront of potential customers’ minds.

Print May Evolve

We think of print ads as 2-D paper ads that look boring compared to, say, a digital photo ad. However, we may see print ads evolve into something “out of this world.” Todd Scott of Sacunas presented an interesting theory when he recently said, “[I]n a world where businesses are limiting access to some digital content for fear of cyber attack and security vulnerabilities, the idea of evolving print advertising to include features like augmented reality or other digital enhancements might become an attractive option.”

Print May Make a Come-Back

Anyone who says that print ads are dead is merely misinformed. 79% of consumers will act on direct mail right away while only 45% claim the same when contacted via email. In fact, print advertising is expected to grow 4.5B yearly till 2024, all while competing with – or complementing, however you want to look at it – online ads.

Brands are also experimenting with Augmented Reality (AR) used alongside print advertising. Akin to the pokemon Go craze, print ads infused with AR will allow consumers to use their smartphones to gain an “out of this world” experience. Porsche, for instance, took out a 5-page ad in Outside magazine that featured AR. The experience allowed consumers – using a specialized app – to scan the page to unlock eye-catching digital displays and 360-degree views of the car brand’s newest models.

Technology could allow print to catch up with digital marketing in the future, especially if the controversy around digital ads continues, such as hate speech and fake news, that is causing many brands to abandon tech giants like Google and Facebook.

And the simple fact is, the old media brands will not go away quietly. As at least Financial Times reports, the old guard of print advertisers is prepared to fight the new guard with everything they’ve got.


Print advertising isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, some periodicals are seeing a resurgence, and we may see other success stories as for-print brands attempt to reinvent themselves in the digital age.

With social media and Netflix and other digital channels constantly vying for our attention, many consumers are looking for any excuse to unplug. 21% of those surveyed said they regularly unplug from all connected devices for a set period of time, and 33% said they unplug every so often. That’s where print publications – and advertising – comes in.

So, if you’ve already been slipping on your 2018 goals, consider a print ad campaign to run alongside your SEM, PPC, and other digital ads. You may even consider an Augmented Reality print ad. Just remember that the same principles apply, whether you’re promoting your offerings in black-and-white or HTML5. Strong headlines, emotion-driven content, and smart calls-to-action will always drive measurable growth in any medium for maximum ROI.

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