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Those who have a stake in promoting electronic media – cable companies, computer manufacturers, online booksellers, etc. – are quick to proclaim that print is dead. But a closer examination of trends and paper usage suggests just the opposite: As we enter a new year, print is very much alive and kicking.
For example, a recent survey by the Pew internet & American Life Project indicates that print newspapers retain a special value for many people, despite all the inroads made by their digital counterparts. When it comes to local news, the Pew survey found, people still rely on newspapers for news and information about their local community:
Newspaper Television Internet
Crime reports 36% 29% 12%
Local politics 26% 28% 17%
Community events 25% n/a 12%
Local taxes 22% 9% 9%
“While local TV news remains the most popular source for local information in America,” the Pew reports found, “adults rely on it primarily for just three subjects—weather, breaking news and to a lesser extent traffic. And for all their problems, newspapers (both print and on the web) are the source Americans turn to most for a wider range of information than any other source.”
Still Mobile and Easy to Use
But as any thriving business can tell you, print is much more than newspapers. People still pick up magazines at newsstands, buy books on the run and help themselves to print brochures at trade show exhibits. There are no issues of compatibility and no need to keep a battery charged. Print is mobile; it can be carried and consumed anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to “boot up” or “power down” to consume print.
According to studies conducted by the Direct Marketing Association and the Wharton Economic Forecasting Associates, print’s performance through the mail can be measured in dollars and centers. DMA researchers found that U.S. advertisers spent $167 per person in direct mail marketing to earn $2,095 worth of goods per person, scoring a return on investment of 13 to 1.
“The Most Important Legacy We Have”
Look around. We still receive a vast array of print flyers and advertising in the mail. We still send greeting cards, gift bags, postcards, etc. Many people still prefer to read publications in printed form, rather than online (and often pass them on to family and friends).
In her post, “The Mythical Paperless World: Why Print Will Stick Around,” Kristina Bjoran notes, “Print is legacy – arguably the most important legacy we have – and as new, younger, hipper folks move into business, they’re still integrating into this legacy. Doing away with paper would likely cause a major hiccup in out-of-office communications and agreements, and that hiccup wouldn’t look too good for short-term profitability.”
No one’s denying the huge impact of the digital world, from eBooks to online news sources. In 2012 and beyond, the print industry will continue to evolve and meet the changing needs of consumers (if nothing else, surviving decades of claims that “Print is dead” demonstrates the flexibility of the print industry). But too many long-standing institutions and infrastructures depend on print, in both the public and private sectors. Paper is still a thriving part of our day-to-day life and will remain that way for years to come.