Dead Print Walking

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Feb 15, 2013

Pamela NevilleThis guest post is by Pamela Neville, VP, Account Management at AMP Agency. Pamela recently joined the agency; prior to AMP, Pamela worked at Digitas, driving growth for a variety of clients via effective strategic marketing programs.

During the BIMA event last month, AMP Agency and Digitas valiantly debated whether print would still be around in 5 years given the ongoing mass adoption of smart phones and tablets. Although we at AMP made a convincing argument that print will remain firmly in place for at least 5 years given the longevity of our older generations and the ubiquitous use of print on airplanes (takeoff and landing), waiting rooms and the like, there is clearly more to it. Print has a place amongst the media mix. There is no denying that digital is growing and newsstand is decreasing. But, it is my contention that the evolution will not be a slow death but rather a shift in how consumers use the print medium. Three main drivers impact this shift: emotional response to print, situational usage and content.

Emotional Response to Print

Currently, digital is growing at a more rapid rate than newsstand is losing. This indicates the content is valuable yet so is the experience. When a shift in consumer behavior takes place, it is seldom an all or nothing swap. In fact, once a change takes place, we often become nostalgic for the other. Just look at Vinyl. According to USA TODAY, “Sales of vinyl records have been buoyed by everyone from young adults, who find the concept novel, to audiophiles, who have grown tired of listening to sounds compressed into MP3 files.” For print, this reminiscence for tactile pages will actually become more (not less) prevalent as Smartphones and Tablets usage continues to swell. People will continue to enjoy flipping through a magazine even if just to take a break from their device.

Situational Usage

Print has a place within the ecosystem. It is inherently more shareable, and I don’t mean across social networks. It’s actually more shareable across the breakfast table, at the beach, or at the café. Every escapist weekend I have spent begins with 5 magazines around a coffee table with all of us thinking, ahhh, vacation has begun. When eReaders started to pick up speed, some claimed the end of the brick and mortar bookstore. Although Borders has seen some dark days recently, have you been in a Barnes & Noble? It hardly looks dead. B&N seems to be adjusting well to the changes upon us by incorporating (not ignoring) Digital into their offering while still paying homage to the situational need for physical community.


It is unsurprising that weeklies have seen a decline as quick to market content can be easily replicated across digital platforms. Adweek reports “some of the weakest numbers in the second half of 2012 belonged to celebrity weeklies.” However, more evergreen type content has actually seen growth in single-copy sales as reported by Ad Age: “14% gain at Woman’s Day, a 10.4% gain at Food Network Magazine and an average of 310,000 newsstand sales for the fledging HGTV Magazine.”

The experience of reading, sharing and consuming print material, in certain situations, cannot be easily replicated. Print will continue to change, shift and morph, but it will not disappear entirely in the coming decades. Advertisers will adapt, as we always do, by continuing to understand the consumers’ behavior with regard to print and position our marketing message accordingly.