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Print is NOT Dead: 5 Reasons Why Print is Important for Marketers

Posted by Sean Doherty on

Print is Not Dead: 5 ReasonsNote: This is part of a Blog Series entitled: Print is NOT Dead.

I don’t know about you, but I argue constantly with my friends and family about print vs. digital. They wave their tablets or Kindles at me and assert that print is dead, but I love holding paper in my hands while reading, whether it’s magazines and books for pleasure or articles and white papers for work. During these arguments, I often make claims that printed paper provides substantial advantages over digital – and here’s the proof to back it up.

1. Print is Easier to Read
From experience, even with improvements in digital screens, we all know that it is easier on our eyes to read printed content than digital content because of the better contrast of ink and paper. In June, Two Sides, a global initiative sponsored by companies from the Graphic Communications Industry, released a report showing that 81% of respondents preferred to read print on paper over a digital screen. This significant statistic should give pause to marketers who only provide content to their audiences digitally.

2. Print Provides Better Navigation
The experience of turning pages also makes reading easier. According to Scientific American, “Most screens, e-readers, smartphones and tablets interfere with intuitive navigation of a text.” Swedish research cited by Scientific American showed that taking reading comprehension tests on computers caused high levels of stress and exhaustion, and went even further to show that “scrolling – which requires a reader to consciously focus on both the text and how they are moving it – drains more mental resources than turning or clicking a page, which are simpler and more automatic gestures.” Not to mention the headaches, eye strain, and blurred vision; it is much easier to read a printed document.

Andrew Piper, the author of Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times, writes in Slate that, “Open books can be measured by the sliding scale of pages past and future, like steps, just off to the side of the page. What lies after the digital page? An abyss. No matter what the page number says (and depending on which screen you’re reading it will say different things), we have no way to corroborate this evidence with our senses, no idea where we are while we read.” In other words, the physical structure of a book provides context and navigation for what we read on the page.

3. Learning Complicated Material is Better with Print
Context and navigation not only make it easier to read printed materials, they also make it easier to learn. The Scientific American report cites several studies that show people prefer to read printed material when they are trying to understand something substantive. In one British study, students read course material either in a booklet or on a screen. While all the students did well on the subsequent test, the ones who used a computer remembered the information rather than knowing it. According to Scientific American, psychologists believe that, “Remembering is a weaker form of memory that is likely to fade unless it is converted into more stable, long-term memory that is ‘known’ from then on.” Those who had read the printed material learned it more thoroughly – they knew it.

Backing up this claim, the Two Sides survey showed that, “88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.  The same trend was found for reading complicated documents with 80% indicating a clear preference for reading print on paper.”

4. Digital Reading Fosters Skimming Rather Than Comprehension
Interestingly, research has shown that people don’t take digital reading seriously. A San Jose State University survey cited by Scientific American concluded that, “People reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts—they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once.” As Piper observes, “Skimming is the new normal.” People don’t successfully learn what they read if they don’t approach it with a serious mindset and read thoroughly.

5. Print is Tactile, Tangible and Lasting
The tactile, sensory experience of reading is significant. Scientific American points out that text on a screen is an “ephemeral image” – it has no reality. The feel and sound of paper matters. The Two Sides survey showed that 67% of respondents said they liked the feel of print media over other mediums. Touch is the most important aspect to me, because there’s nothing quite like that feeling of holding paper. Digital texts “always elude our grasp in some fundamental sense,” according to Piper. “The touch of the page brings us into the world, while the screen keeps us out.” I couldn’t agree more.

Certainly, there are many benefits to digital text, and in certain circumstances, it’s the perfect medium. Marketers, especially B2B marketers, should look to develop a print-digital hybrid approach to their plan for content production. When providing complex content, like white papers, offering printed materials will improve your audience’s experience, understanding, retention – and hopefully your sales.

Meanwhile, backed by this data, I’ll continue to argue in favor of the pages I can touch.

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

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