Print is Far From Dead

Originally published on SPH Magazines Blog

We’ve all heard it: “Print is dead”. Not long ago, the media was saturated with headlines proclaiming the certain demise of print. Will Print survive the digital revolution? How will publishing evolve?

The media and publishing industry faced the harsh reality of declining circulation and falling advertising dollars. The much talked about decision by Newsweek to close its print edition to focus solely on digital, citing high costs of production, sparked off much discussion in the media, sounding the death knell for the publishing industry. Fuelled by the introduction of the tablet in 2010, the digital magazine in its earliest form was spawned – electronic PDFs of the final artwork, hardly interactive or engaging. Pundits predicted that a digital generation would shun an old-school medium like print, preferring to consume content from interactive touchscreens. Fortunately, pundits don’t always get it right.

Come 2015, we see a new and improved version of Print. A version that’s weathered the storm and emerged more resilient and robust – Print 2.0. The evolution from print to digital was widely anticipated but that trend has taken an unexpected turn. We’re now seeing the evolution of digital to… print.


There are a number of ground up digital companies that have made their foray into print through the production of their own bespoke print magazine. Net-a-Porter, an online luxury fashion destination, launched its subscription-based print magazine featuring 300+ pages of fashion inspiration, allowing customers to read and shop directly from its website or brands. In late 2014, Airbnb, a popular website for people to search for accommodation, debuted and distributed 18,000 copies of its first quarterly travel publication, Pineapple. The glossy features stories from San Francisco, London and Seoul, and was distributed to Airbnb hosts across the globe.

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Why the shift from cyber to print? There’s something about print that people just can’t shake. The tangibility of the medium – the smell of print, the feel of crisp pages and the weight of quality paper stock – cannot be replicated by digital media. Based on a study of 18-24 year old European consumers by IPSOS*, 83% of respondents feel that reading on paper is nicer than reading off screen, while 78% find print and paper more pleasant to handle and touch than other media. Digital content tends to be fleeting with a tweet possessing a half-life of 16 minutes as found by Pagemodo, whereas print has a substantial shelf life. In fact, magazine issues are read an average of three times#, found a 2012 IPSOS Magazine Study of women readers. While consumers prefer to read content in print, they take to digital to engage, discuss and deep dive into topics of interest. Print and digital exist side by side and complement each other well an integrated marketing mix.


In 2011, Google launched Think Quarterly, a premium quarterly print magazine targeted at business leaders of the world. Each copy was a premium hardback book with content from world-class writers, illustrators and photographers. Each recipient received a personalised copy was delivered right to their desk with his/ her name worked into the cover artwork. A corresponding responsive website and downloadable version was also produced to allow content to reach beyond the print audience. The results spoke for themselves. The hashtag, #thinkquarerly, trended globally on Twitter for 48 hours at launch. Google was received with overwhelming requests from business leaders, politicians and thought leaders who wanted to be included in the program.

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Rather than pitting print against digital, let’s look at how we can use each medium to its strength. The medium and the message must have synergy. When working with print, make full use of the physicality of the experience. How can you excite or surprise the consumer with the tactile, sensorial experience? Can that experience be extended to digital channels? On digital media, create complementary content, such as behind the scenes videos, profile stories and features that engage the consumer further while keeping in mind device compatibility across web and mobile. On social media, utilise bite-sized content snippets for distribution amongst your existing base.


Adopting an integrated approach to communications is more crucial than ever in a fragmented media landscape. Consumers are getting information from a myriad of channels, hence your brand message should be consistent and present across the multiple touchpoints to ensure that your audience is being reached. Each medium has its unique place in the integrated communication plan and marketers should always be guided by their objective to determine the right marketing mix.


*Base: 18-24 year olds respondents out of n=4,500 Source: Study on European consumers by IPSOS In association with Two Sides and Print Power, cited in PMAS Singapore newsletter (Nov-Dec 2011).  
#Source: IPSOS Magazine Study 2012 Base: Women only readers of all women’s titles in P3M.

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