What’s next for print in an increasingly mobile world?


Many of those reading this blog will also have read INMA’s Outlook 2013 report or will have heard INMA’s CEO, Earl Wilkinson, present the findings on the association’s recent webinar, which focuses on the print and digital ecology that is emerging across the globe and how the “mobile moment” will become the centre of our universe (if it’s not already) within the next three or four years.

It got me thinking, as a “print man” of more than 20 years who has now made the leap into the mobile media space: What will become of print? Is it dying? Is it still the cornerstone of our offerings (alongside tablets, mobile handsets, and online)?

For us at the Telegraph Media Group here in London, it is certainly the latter. I think I will be long gone before print disappears off our streets. But there is certainly a change of focus in how we package our platforms.

The print world we used to know is very different than that of today. New technologies — such as printed electronics, creative Web formats for advertising, and augmented reality — now seem to blur the lines between print and digital.

They take the print medium to new and exciting levels. And with this increasingly changing landscape, I can’t help but wonder what the next evolutionary step for this medium will be.

Traditional print now has to compete alongside a whole range of increasingly sophisticated and complex platforms and channels. At the same time, many overall marketing budgets have been reduced, and all spend is under the microscope.

“More bang for the buck” is the order of the day.

But ever since the start of the printing revolution (in the 15th century), print has proved to be an enduring medium, and “the death of print” has been constantly and grossly exaggerated.

Despite some decline of print, with many well-known publications taking their print magazines online (e.g. Newsweek), the return on investment for print is actually increasing for marketers the world over. 

It is important to remember that, while the marketing landscape has been changing, so too have the marketers that live and work in it. Many have responded to change by moving away from the “blunderbuss” tactics of our past toward a more targeted, data-driven, and totally integrated approach.

This has enabled marketers to make print work much harder, while also integrating it with their digital efforts. And that’s where mobile fits in ... and complements.

Oracle recently published information from a survey of 1,000 mobile consumers that suggests 70% of marketers currently use print to direct audiences to digital content. In addition, nearly half of marketers (46%) believe print is “vital” to driving interest in digital/mobile content and campaigns.

In this new age of information overload, print still has the power to cut through the clutter. But adding digital/mobile can attract many more eyeballs and offer an altogether more powerful proposition.

More than any other channel, print remains very successful at eliciting an emotional response at that first point of contact. (We saw this recently in the UK with some major stories, including exposes about members of Parliament expenses and the phone hacking scandals.) 

From an ad perspective, think about those high-ticket purchases such as a car or house. These are major decisions for any consumer, and this is where a high-quality, informative print campaign can help to instill the confidence and peace of mind required for a customer to take the next step.

That next step, in many cases these days, means going online (increasingly from a mobile device) to do further research before buying decisions are cemented.

Oracle also says 48% of mobile users rely on their device to undertake comparisons and research before making purchase decisions. (And, for the record, it was twice as likely that people over 35 would do so.)

In addition, technologies such as augmented reality, QR codes, and mobile point of sale all have played a role in a more integrated approach to print marketing. And with things such as mobile commerce and mobile video approaching, one can only speculate as to the new revenues that await us — if we embrace them.

So the new world of media is certainly not replacing the old one; it is revolutionising it by offering a new level of transparency, responsiveness, and efficiency. Together, all powerful!

Consequently, although print has drastically changed in recent years, it’s clear it is here to stay for the long term. Print will always be of high value, particularly as a really enduring medium — in a world where disposable media progressively seems to “en vogue.”

It is my opinion that print will become an increasingly used, highly strategic tool for many marketers who can easily integrate it with digital/mobile channels to bring both tangibility and credibility to their future campaigns.

But be sure, our future survival and ultimate prosperity rests on how we embrace mobile platforms as an integral part of the mix we offer.

It’s true our advertisers have been somewhat cautious thus far about fully embracing mobile as a main channel. But that is now changing. As better, richer, more creative ad formats become available — and as better analytics and more case studies come on stream — we will see the true multi-media organisations shape themselves.

Adapt or not — at your peril. 

Our watchwords must be “print + digital.”

Embrace it.

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