Print’s Lasting Impression


If you would’ve asked us 10 years ago whether we’d still be publishing a printed directory of telecom partner providers as we head in 2020, we just might have bet against it. Yet here we are, once again, on the verge of publishing our “2020 Partner Provider Directory,” and the printed directory of suppliers serving telecom and IT indirect channels remains one of our most popular and requested issues of the year.

Some may see this as the last bastion of a bygone era. They might say print is a dying medium with little marketing relevance in our highly virtualized lifestyles. The pendulum, however, continues to swing. Recent evidence suggests print is more important than ever as a marketing and advertising medium, and it’s actually the younger generations that are leading the resurgence.

In an online world filled with “fake news,” click-bait gotchas, bot authors and agendas veiled behind anonymity – where just about anyone can be a “publisher” and speed trumps fact-checking, editing and refinement – audiences are beginning to question the validity of online sources. All the while, they understand that print doesn’t follow the same rules and thereby offers a higher degree of credibility and authority.

“The digital space is a hectic, loud, cluttered landscape with bloggers, influencers, journalists, editors, writers, marketers all shouting into the void, their voices surfacing, or not, depending on SEO or algorithms,” said Terri White, editor-in-chief of film magazine Empire. In contrast, when readers hold print in their hands, “the intimacy is unrivaled,” she said, as a “visceral, powerful connection” is created. “In this increasingly digitized world you cannot underestimate how much people just want to feel something real.”

White’s sentiments are quantified in a study by U.K. regulators Ofcom, which asked consumers to measure their sentiments toward news media platforms. Printed magazines, it turns out, received the strongest ratings across the board, including in terms of accuracy, trustworthiness, quality and depth of analysis. In some cases, magazines rated more than twice as highly as social media.

Readers of Magazines Give the Strongest Ratings

(% who rated content source highly, 7-10)

Attributes of News Platform TV Radio Social Media Other Internet Magazines
Is important to me personally 72% 63% 59% 66% 78%
Is high quality 75% 67% 41% 66% 82%
Is accurate 71% 66% 39% 64% 83%
Is trustworthy 70% 63% 39% 62% 80%
Is impartial 63% 59% 39% 57% 77%
Offers a range of opinions 67% 59% 56% 62% 79%
Helps me make up my mind 60% 54% 41% 57% 80%
Helps me understand what’s going on in the world today 74% 63% 50% 68% 84%
Has a depth of analysis and content not available elsewhere 63% 54% 41% 60% 84%

Source: Ofcom

For marketers, it’s highly likely this sense of value and trust for magazine content permeates onto the pages of well-crafted advertisements. Indeed, magazines may represent the only media platform in which advertisements are seen in a positive light.

Throughout most media consumption, and for digital media in particular, marketing and advertising typically are seen as little more than annoyances. We employ ad blockers and spam filters, click to skip or fast-forward, and even get creeped-out by behavioral targeting campaigns. With printed magazines, on the other hand, advertising typically is expected and accepted, surveys show. Print advertising is viewed as part of the consumption experience, and some readers even admit to paying more attention to ads than editorial.

A 2019 study by multimedia engagement experts MRI-Simmons found that readers are significantly more likely to pay attention or notice ads in magazines versus other media, are more likely to say they get valuable information from magazine ads or that those ads helped their purchase decisions, and are more likely buy products seen in magazine ads. Nearly two-thirds of readers (62 percent) said they “take action” after seeing a print magazine ad.

What’s more, the appeal of and continued loyalty toward print magazines, despite prevalent assumptions, spans all age groups. According to Ofcom, its findings were consistent across all generations, and MRI-Simmons found that adults under 35 or more likely to be magazine readers than adults overall.

Even among GenZ cohorts, there’s a clear appreciation for the printed page, even if it’s just a respite from digital screens or a reaction to digital ad fatigue. A study by American University, for instance, found that 92 percent of GenZ students would rather do their coursework in print as opposed to on tablets or computers, while more than eight in 10 GenZ respondents to a survey from MNI Targeted Media said they turn to printed sources of news for trusted information and content. MNI’s study also found that 61 percent of GenZers believe their peers would benefit from unplugging more often. And according to MarketingProfs, 92 percent of 18- to 23-year-olds find it easier to read print than digital content.

Perhaps these are the reasons why digitally native brands including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber, Dollar Shave Club and ASOS, among others, all have recently turned to printed magazines as a way to communicate with consumers and employees.

That’s not to suggest print is a replacement for the digital behavior of generation Z, or any other generation. More to the point is the fact that media and advertising consumption has become highly fragmented and will continue to change and splinter. And much like with retail, millennials and GenZ are embracing an onmichannel media experience. Print magazines not only remain an important part of that omnichannel experience, they also work in ways that no other media platform can.