Is Print Dead?

Everybody is so eager to eulogize print, we may be burying it alive. Thought-leaders in marketing, publishing, and entertainment seem to be simultaneously wringing their hands, clutching their iPads, and writing wistful blog posts about the pleasures and demise of the printed page.

So is print dead? We think this is the wrong question to ask. Print is alive and well, in all its familiar forms. But print is changing, often too quickly for comfort. When it comes to your marketing communications, a better question is this: When is print the better choice?

Here are three important considerations.

1. Content

Does your subject matter warrant print? Certain objects look better on the page, where the interplay of texture and color creates unique effects. Think high-end apparel and accessories. Other subjects naturally lend themselves to an experience away from a screen. Nature and history are two examples. Timeless, in-depth content almost always works better in print.

2. Control

Type, color, cropping, and page layout are much more controllable in print than in electronic media. Print is also ideal for linear presentation of information: you control the beginning, middle, and end, away from the influence of whimsical pointing and clicking. You also control the adjacent imagery, eliminating concerns about online ads and similar distractions.

3. Impact

Print and electronic media have reversed roles in the last decade. A tangible, printed piece now stands out well against a constant barrage of email, websites, and apps. Because print requires more complex design choices — and an investment in ink and paper — it is often reserved for high-profile opportunities. Print also forces readers to slow down and absorb the message. In this way, print conveys a commitment to quality that reflects well on your brand.

Remember, print and digital are not two superpowers vying for world domination. They simply offer two different modes of solving a particular problem of communication, and both have staying power. Instead of worrying which option is most likely to stand the test of time, ask yourself which media best supports your communication goals. If you answer this question first, everything else will fall into place.