PRINT VERSUS DIGITAL
April 2016

Many in the business often ask WHY WASTE MONEY ON PRINT ADVERTISING? If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me that, well, you know how it goes. But what of print? Is it worth the paper it is printed on?

I think so. And I strongly believe that many companies are missing out by going all-in-digital.

Listen, there is a ton of research comparing print to digital…and both platforms without a doubt have a place in the communications toolbox. So why, specifically, do I think print continues to be an important marketing tool? 5 reasons:

ONE, I have always believed that reading on paper is slower and therefore, deeper. Let’s be honest, reading on a screen is faster and more superficial, while reading on a paper is slower and more deliberate. Digital readers tend to skim, scan and bounce – what researchers refer to as “horizontal” reading. Digital readers are frequently “scanners” who hunt for nuggets to save and read later.

While the implication for advertising effectiveness has not been systematically studied, by being more deliberate with print, readers can be seduced to engage longer, putting themselves into the picture or fantasizing about the trip, the clothes or the car.

TWO, when I am reading “paper”, I tend to be more focused. Think about your digital use, and be honest; don’t you tend to multi-task, often to the point of distraction? My digital reading tends to compete with other open windows, email alerts, sports scores, social updates, texts, digital ads and on and on. This hyperlinked engagement has to lower comprehension and recall, wouldn’t you think?

THREE, when I’m reading paper, I tend to remember more. Again, be honest. If the digital in general is such an incredible communications tool, why do we still (young and old) tend to print things out to read? Because speed is one thing, but comprehension is another. If you dig for research on the subject, a majority find a higher comprehension when subjects read on paper instead of on a screen. In most cases, paper-based readers apply the information better, allowing them to make more strategic connections or inferences.

FOUR, reading on paper is multi-sensory. There’s much to be said about the “touch” of print. When Norwegian researchers recently had 10th graders read identical texts on paper verses screens, they found those who read on paper scored better on reading comprehension. The researchers pointed to what is known as the “haptics” of reading, noting that holding paper and turning pages creates different stimuli than scrolling text. Neuroscientists believe that we use different parts of our brain to encode information that we see, hear or feel.

FIVE, I simply believe print advertising makes products more desirable. Neuroscience studies find that ads on physical materials generate more emotional processing than do digital ads; people were more likely to remember an ad and its context if they saw it in print than they saw it on screen. In fact, print-exposed groups showed significantly higher in the area of the brain associated with reward and processing. A marketer’s dream, right?

What do you think?

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78MADISON
A full service marketing communications firm and advertising agency in Altamonte Springs (Orlando) Florida