Print May Still Have a Place in Support of Your Other Initiatives

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Pervasive logic tells us that there is a big gap between where people of different generations get their news—younger people online and older people TV and print. Not really, according to a new study by Reuters Institute.

While 6% of people 18-34 get their news from print, just 12% of those 55 and up still do. The bigger difference does come online where around 60% of the 18-34 crowd go to for news vs. about 30% of those 45 and up. TV is closer. About half of the 45 and ups get news there compared to a fourth of the 35 and unders.

Radio, which I love, actually falls behind print—and that's for all demographics ( though podcasts seem to be growing). Interestingly, in his story on this in Folio:, Caysey Welton writes that "perhaps everyone should pump the brakes just a bit when they talk about how much [Millennials] love print." I agree with Welton but believe that these general references to print are more niched than just the newspaper.  

What does it all mean? The role of print will continue to be scrutinized. Some, like Dan Hanover, VP at Access Intelligence (and events guru), told us at the SIPA Conference that "brochures are terrible." He urges you to put your money into video. (He also said to "stop leading with the discount.")

Today, Greg Krehbiel, director of marketing operations for Kiplinger, wrote on the SIPA Forum about whether print can drive actions on other platforms. "It's a hard thing to do in general because you're requiring somebody to switch 'devices'—e.g., take the magazine to the computer, pull out the smart phone, etc." 

I just recently returned from London where beautiful copies of the arts and events magazine Time Out are distributed free each Tuesday. The listings are no longer comprehensive like they used to be, but they still contain excellent reviews, previews and trendy articles. The goal would appear to be to:
1) push readers to their online product;
2) give the Time Out brand a classy reputation. The fact that it's free does not at all diminish its value. I was quite impressed and sought them out online later for more reviews—before looking on any of the newspaper sites.  
3) keep the name out there.
4) sell some ads.

This isn't necessarily at odds with Hanover's brochures-are-terrible statement. Are brochures doing any of the above? We may want them to push people to the online product, but as Krehbiel writes, "Context matters. Putting a link in the middle of a web page makes sense because everybody knows they can use the back button. Putting a URL in the middle of a printed article is not the same. It's a weird annoyance in several ways. URLs at the bottom of an article seem to be more effective."

Are brochures making us look classier? Are they selling ads? Print still does have a role to play, but it's not an easy one to figure out—beyond the subscribers who still want to pay for it. The Washington Post's free small daily still gets read on the Metro, but will it after wi-fi gets more prevalent? You even see so many fewer programs at a baseball game now. That was the first thing I wanted when I was a kid.

I think we need to focus more on the what than the how, at least at first—meaning what is it that our customers need most. At the SIPA Conference, people were still clinging to their programs with descriptions of the five breakout sessions for each period. That's a need that the print product still fulfills best. Nothing can replace a winning award certificate. The Time Out magazine proved quite useful. I also brought home a beautiful book from the Courtauld Gallery. That may look good online but it won't sit on my coffee table.

You get the pictures. If you have thoughts, please continue the discussion on the Forum.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…