15 Things to Consider Before You Commit Print Suicide

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Gordon Hochhalter
Gordon Hochhalter



A while ago those wonderful folks at Crains Communications asked me to write a little piece for BtoB Magazine about what’s going to happen to print advertising.

Guess what, I don’t have a clue

I know what I think should happen, what I’d like to happen and what works for our clients. (But then again, I was naive enough to think that the obviously superior quality of Beta would catapult it over VHS as America’s favorite video format. Proving once again not only what I don’t know but how long I’ve not known it.)

So I suggested it was going to be up to you. You the reader. You the marketer. You the publisher.

And in the remaining 447 words allocated to me, I mentioned some things that print does for each of the three audiences that other media forms don’t.

But what’s the real issue

In the process, I suggested that the real issue is understanding the changing strengths of all media and how to integrate them together to create unique business brand experiences.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

Imagine my surprise when that simple notion erupted like Mel Gibson in anger management class into controversy. So I wrote a follow-up blog post that covered things in a little more detail.

But it ends up that there’s even more to say about the power of properly used print, and there are a lot of misconceptions about print’s track record. More than I had room to cover in that expanded post.

Neither good nor bad, just different

So here are an additional 15 things worth considering before you put the final nail in your use of print. Served up, of course, in the beloved bullet-point format we all cherish online.

  • Magazines are not losing readership. In fact, readership has risen 4.3 percent over the previous five years.
  • Magazines rank No. 1 at influencing consumers to start a search online — higher than newer media options. (Source: BIGresearch Simultaneous Media Usage Study).
  • Four out of five adults read magazines.
  • The average reader spends 43 minutes reading each issue.
  • Magazines are the No. 1 medium of engagement — across all dimensions measured. Simmons’ Multi-Media Engagement Study finds that magazines continue to score significantly higher than TV or the Internet in ad receptivity in all of the other engagement dimensions, including “trustworthy” and “inspirational.” (Source: Simmons Multi-Media Engagement)
  • Magazines outperform other media in driving positive shifts in purchase consideration and intent. (Source: Dynamic Logic)

Putting money where your media mouth is

Print media still accounts for the largest share of b-to-b marketing budgets:

  • Despite the rapid, decade-long growth of Google and other digital forms of advertising, traditional channels commanded 66 percent of b2b marketing budgets this year, according to the “2011 B2B Marketing Outlook” study, which was conducted by Google in September and October.
  • In fact, traditional media accounted for the top three budget items in a multi-media program for the average b2b marketer: trade shows and events (28 percent), magazines/trade publications (13 percent) and direct mail (9 percent). So in all, print media came in second at 22 percent.

What about audience quality

A Yankelovich study of a thousand people who regularly purchase high quality products reveals some interesting information about why print is still an effective way to influence brand purchases.

  • 88 percent of people of all ages said they actually enjoy getting brochures and catalogs from the companies and brands they do business with.
  • When asked what especially good print communications convey, audiences responded:

-76 percent said that the company understands it’s customer’s needs

-75 percent said its products are likely to be of better quality

-73 percent said the company will be around for a while

-69 percent said its products are likely to be a good value for the money

-69 percent said the company is one you can trust

  • 83 percent said that what they like about print is that, “I can keep it for future reference.”
  • In the last year, 76 percent bought something they saw in a print piece, which is equal to those who bought something found on a website, which is equal to those who bought from a friends recommendation.
  • 59 percent have gone to a web site to purchase a product or service after reading a brochure.
  • 56 percent said they bought something they researched in a brochure.

What makes good print materials stand out from the rest? Obviously, it depends on what you’re selling. But for high quality brands, these were the most popular unaided responses.

  • They are attractive. They look beautiful.
  • They have beautiful photography.
  • They have vivid colors.
  • Their messages are simple and to the point

Where’s your cred, Fred

And last, but certainly not least, while social media may be seen as a “sexy” platform that you can’t afford to ignore, it’s losing out to print media when it comes to being trustworthy.

And when it comes to brands, especially b2b brands, where sales cycles and investment risk are higher than a pack of gum, credibility and trust are everything.

According to a recent survey from Open Road and pollster Populus, 62 percent of key opinion formers said they would react to a negative story if it was printed in the paper, while just 21 percent would if it happened in social media.

The problem with jumping and bandwagons

That doesn’t sound like a dying medium to me. Just an underutilized and, dare I say, a misunderstood one.

So go ahead join the lemming line of marketers flocking to new and social media at the expense of more traditional, proven ways of creating brand experience.

As for me and my house, we’ll find ways to integrate both. (For some thoughts about how to do that check out a free eBook on integrated marketing called Goooosing.)

And as a result, I think we'll benefit from your absence and your clutter in media that build brands in ways other media don't.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?


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