The Print vs. Digital Debate Doesn’t Matter

February 27, 2018

Wanted Dead or Alive

For every article plumb full of quotes that say: print is on an upswing, people love a tactile experience, today’s catalogs have been revamped, paper and pages—alive and well; you can find a similar article smattered with statements that print is on its way out, catalogs are ignored, print is outdated, archaic, behind the time—dead and gone.

This ping-pong match keeps publishers and marketers chiming in and reacting but is irrelevant. The debate is secondary to what really matters—the readers, the users, the consumers and shoppers. And what they are telling us is that print is wanted…sometimes. It is up to marketers and publishers to listen up and figure out the how and when and then find a way to deliver on this request.

So, debaters: statistics tell us that print is Wanted, Dead or Alive so we need to make like smart cowboys and give readers, customers and subscribers what they are asking for. Step away from the print/digital ping-pong match; you’ve got some things to figure out and it starts with three basic necessities around print:

One: Print must evolve

Fire, oil lamps, and then the lightbulb—a household item. What about the candle? It was reinvented, transformed. Today, candles are a multibillion dollar industry because we added perfumes and cool colors and shifted the candle’s purpose from a necessary source of light to a decor enhancement. Today’s candles complement our patios, ceremonies, parties and homes with over 2,000 varieties and 10,000 unique fragrances—they’re everywhere.

Print was once the only method of mass communication; newspapers and magazines were the only sources of news and information, the catalog was a merchant’s only way to get products in front of consumers—and then snap, came the radio, snap the television and snap the internet.

Readers and consumers tell us they use print differently than they used to. Now, catalogs are inspiration and idea sources. Periodicals are for relaxation and escape. Print used as a trigger and print for recreation have to be approached, designed and developed differently. There’s no such thing as same old same old, unless you’re a Slinky.

Two: Print must team up

A sprinter goes it alone, but a baseball player needs his eight other teammates. In the game of marketing, print is a team player.

Imagine your catalog arriving at a home, on a street, in a town. The woman living there is exhausted after a harrowing day of digital overload. She kicks back with your pages in-hand and then remembers that she doesn’t have a cover-up for vacation, or that she hates her living room coffee table, or that she’s never considered putting an ornate planter on her boring patio. The next morning, she visits your website and places a big, fat order using your catalog promo code. Voila, the mysterious lady becomes fuchsia-loving, size M cover-up, Mary N. Dividual.

A week later, surprise and “Hello Mary! Swimsuits 20% off just for you!” arrives in the mailbox. Mary swings by your retail store to try on a pink-trimmed suit and buys it…of course she left her coupon at home—no, not a problem. Mary N. Dividual is sharp and organized and has your digital version on her smartphone!

Three: Print must be accepting

Print and digital need to sing together. They should be as harmonious as Mumford and Sons. There is no “us” against “them.” Cutting off our digital noses to spite our print faces—not smart. Don’t do it.

But rather, understand the different roles that each play in the lives of consumers. A digital edition is convenient; a big glossy story book is comforting. Google search is instant; a beautiful magazine is immersive. An email message is efficient; a personalized mail offer is special. There is a time and a place for everything.

Perfect Harmony!