Print Power: 3 Advantages Printing Provides in the Digital Age

April 16, 2018

Forecasters have been predicting the end of days for the print industry for years, pointing to declining newspaper circulation as a herald of the print-pocalypse.

But about 20% of all adults, or 64.5 million, still get their news from print newspapers “often.” And there’s a lot more to print than newspapers.

We have compiled three reasons print remains viable amidst the digital age. That said we are proponents of utilizing print in an omnichannel strategy that includes both print and digital channels.

Reason 1: Fosters Consumer Demand

Print products put customers on the path to purchase. Although there are a plethora of print products, we will focus on inserts, direct mail and catalogs.


Newspapers are full of more than news articles—they also contain insert ads. Those are a valuable source of the “the best deals on products,” or so 65% of newspaper readers believe, according to the Newspapers Inserts Drive Consumers to Action report.  

That faith propels nine out of 10 newspaper readers to take action, including:

visit a store (No. 1 answer; 58%)

clip coupons from insert (No. 2 answer; 57%)

purchase a product from insert (No. 3 answer; 41%)

visit company’s website (26%)

visit company’s social media sites (8%)

download app advertised in insert (6%)

Direct Mail

Snail mail drives higher response rates than email. In 2016 (the most recent available data), direct mail response rates were 5.3% for house lists and 2.9% to prospect lists (vs. 3.7%  for house and 1.0% for prospects in 2015). Email response rates in 2016 were 0.6% for house lists and 0.3% for prospects, by comparison.

In other words, consumers are far more likely to act because physical mail, not email, caught their eye. Whether or not they take action depends on factors like:

Is it graphically pleasing?

Is it personalized?

Is it the right message at the right time on the right channel?

Is your call to action clear? (what action you want to be taken, e.g. a special offer, free trial)

If you can answer “yes” to all these questions, then you have a highly effective piece of Direct Mail. If you answered “no” or “maybe,” then it may be time to hire an agency to help.

While we’re discussing Direct Mail…


Catalogs are making a comeback. Co-mailing (combining different catalog titles into a single mail stream before adding postage) has grown rapidly annually since 2007. More than 1.3 billion catalogs land in American mailboxes annually.

Half of all Americans make purchases based on the catalogs they get in the mail. Up to 80% of those purchases are made online, making print catalogs complementary to e-commerce. Catalogs are the No. 1 driver to retail websites and brick-and-mortar stores.

Reason 2: Science Says

Physical ads provoke a stronger, longer-lasting response than digital ads. These were findings from two separate scientific studies commissioned by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the Canada Post.

USPS and Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision Making used a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to monitor the study participants’ brain activity while they engaged with both physical and digital ads. The Canada Post and True Impact Marketing used electroencephalography (EEG) to evaluate participants’ brain waves while they engaged with print and digital ads.

Although USPS study participants processed digital ads faster, they spent more time with the print ad (Direct Mail).  They found print ads more trustworthy than digital ads and were able to recall the print ads better than digital ads one week later.  Looking at Direct Mail triggered a response from the ventral striatum, which is the part of the brain that weighs value and desirability to make decisions. When this part of the brain lights up, it signals a greater intent to make a purchase, according to the study.

Findings from the Canada Post study mirrored the USPS findings. Direct Mail is more persuasive, more likely to drive behavior and is more effective at driving consumer action than digital media. This study also grouped participants by age and found that although physical ads outperform digital ads across all age groups, 30-49 year-olds showed the highest response rate to print.

Reason 3: The Z Factor

It can be easy to dismiss the post-millennial generation (AKA Gen Z) as those high school or college students obsessed with Social Media and selfies. Don’t.

Gen Z, born after 1997, make up about 22.65% of the U.S. population and command about $44 billion in purchasing power. You read that correctly—that is billion with a “b.” They are projected to make up one-fifth of the workforce in the next handful of years.

They also prefer traditional advertising over digital advertising, market research agency Kantar Millward Brown found in its recent “AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y & Z” study. Traditional advertising includes newspaper inserts, outdoor signage, TV and radio ads.

“Like other generations, Gen Z [has] a strong preference for ads in traditional media over digital ads,” Kantar Millward Brown wrote in its recent AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y & Z study.

Print is something of a novelty for the Z Generation because this is the generation that grew up with devices as a part of everyday life. This is the exact opposite of the Baby Boomers, for whom print was the norm and devices the novelty.

Service Tags: 
Print Solutions
Direct Mail
Point of Sale
New Neighbor Program
Saturation Mailing
Marketing Strategy