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Print is NOT Dead: 4 Reasons Why Millennials Prefer Print (Inspired by Amy Schumer)

Posted by Sean Doherty on

amy-schumer-cutting-1621746455Note: This is part of a Blog Series entitled: Print is NOT Dead.

Amy Schumer is a Millennial as a result of being born in 1981. She is also one of the hottest comedians on the planet and recently, I was lucky enough to see her stand-up act. Glancing around the dark auditorium, I realized I was surrounded by millennials. You know, that generation of twenty-somethings and early thirty-somethings who have never known a world without computers, who grew up with email, who first posted on Facebook before graduating from college.

Many assumptions about this group are stated as gospel – we think they live their entire lives in cyberspace and experience everything through screens rather than in real life. But I noticed that the millennials around me were not holding up their phones, not texting, not tweeting during the show. In fact, I was the one doing all those things, while they watched, listened, and laughed. It made me wonder what other assumptions we’re getting wrong. When you market to baby boomers, you must contend with their dislike of digital media. Conversely, when targeting Millennials, should you assume that digital is the right medium? Surprisingly, the research says no. In a recent Washington Post article, Michael Rosenwald describes what he calls “a peculiar irony of the Internet age” – that millennials prefer print. They like the feel and the smell, they like writing in the margins and underlining phrases. Rosenwald quotes an American University student who commented in regards to a book he’s reading, “I like the feeling of it. I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.” Pew studies show that those aged 18 to 29 have the highest print readership rates, and a report from Two Sides, a global initiative sponsored by companies from the Graphic Communications Industry, showed while acceptance of digital media is stronger among younger ages, a preference for print on paper still exists for all ages.

Contrast these reports with the surveys that state that 7 in 10 B2B Marketers do not use print distribution at all in their content marketing. Inspired by Amy Schumer’s performance on stage, here are 4 factors to remember about print marketing.

1. Amy is Smart. Print is Smart.

Fully 88% of respondents in the Two Sides survey believe that they understand and can retain or use information better when they read print on paper as opposed to digital. Additionally, 80% stated a clear preference for reading print on paper for complicated materials. So as Amy would say, “Pay attention to these stats, this is serious stuff.” Virtually people can retain information better in print and 4 out 5 people prefer to read complicated content in print.

Even note-taking digitally has its drawbacks. Scientific American featured the results of experiments, conducted by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer, showing that students “who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops.” If you want your millennial audiences to truly understand what you’re trying to communicate, it’s best to provide printed materials they can read carefully and understand fully. Here is a quick tip for marketers. At your next marketing conference, provide printed literature, pads and pens, you might increase your sales.

2. Avoid the Distractions with Print

Comedians need to be ruthless in their focus, and digital has just too many distractions. Rosenfeld cites Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist, found that students were 90% more likely to multitask when reading on screen vs. reading hard copy. To get millennials to focus on your content, print is clearly the way to go.

So why is this true? In the Post article, Rosenfeld says, “Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout — that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner.” They believe this plays a key role in comprehension, “but that is more difficult on screens, primarily because the time we devote to reading online is usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers.” Students prefer to read print when they are studying because even though it slows them down, they remember and learn more thoroughly.

3. Digital Can Be Taxing On Your Body

Baron spoke to Alice Robb of the New Republic, and said that while she initially assumed the teenagers and young adults they surveyed would embrace digital reading, “They talked about things I didn’t think 18- to 26-year-olds cared about anymore.” This included such physical experiences as the feel and smell of books, the discomfort of reading on screens, and the satisfaction of seeing how far they have read. The Two Sides study showed that 73% of 18 – 24 year olds were concerned about how mobile tablets/smartphones were damaging their health. These are physical concerns that included eye strain, headaches, and insomnia.

4. Print Provides Emotional Connections

Just as Amy connects with her audience using the past experiences, Millennials are very nostalgic. An SXSW Interactive panel in 2013, “Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot,” outlined the findings of a survey they conducted into the resurgence of analog. They found that millennials are the most nostalgic of any age group. The study’s authors theorize that digital experiences don’t satisfy emotional needs. “We’re hardwired for physical and emotional connection and meaning, so the more we are removed from them, the more we wish for them,” said Paul Woolmington. It makes sense for millennials to long for “real” experiences, because millennials have more experience with digital than other groups and therefore are more aware of its limitations. These young people deserve more credit than we give them – they are both sensitive and aware.

My Parting Shot
One of my favorite quotes from Amy is, “I am a hot-blooded fire and I am fearless.” I encourage you to share this blog with your team and be bold in your marketing choices with. The fact that most marketers are too lazy or too focused on digital to take advantage is print means there is more opportunity for you. As I thought back to the crowd fully participating in the moment during Amy Schumer’s performance, it became clear to me that global marketers need to understand the actual preferences of Millennials, and check our assumptions at the door (mic drop).

Note: This is part of a Blog Series entitled: Print is NOT Dead.

Posted in Blog | Tagged , , | 2 replies


  • Jacky Hobson

    Great piece and I wholeheartedly agree EXCEPT with the line, “The fact that most marketers are too lazy or too focused on digital to take advantage…” I don’t think it’s laziness or anything to do with focus. It’s more that they have grown up as “digital by default” and the print industry hasn’t done enough (some might say “anything”) to stimulate their appetite for print or reinforce how effective it is / can be.

    • HubCast Team

      Thanks for the feedback Jacky, you make a great point. We will considering adding this to our marketing messaging.

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