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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: A Print Media Renaissance

I have been overjoyed recently to have read several articles on the return to favor of print materials.

The first of these appeared in a magazine called E-Content (Digital Content, Media, and Publishing Strategies). This March 2014 article, as noted on the cover of this print magazine, is entitled “Is Print Making a Comeback?” Written by Lin Grensing-Pophal, this article answers the question with a resounding “Yes.”

Starting with the recent announcement that Newsweek would once again publish a print edition, the E-Content article states that:

  1. Print and digital are both essential in communicating information and marketing products and services.
  2. The main goal is to determine whether the specific audience prefers print or digital and then engage them within that medium.
  3. The next goal is to carefully craft a multi-channel blend of communications, using custom printing where it is most effective and digital media where they are most effective.

Custom Printing Cuts Through the Clutter

The E-Content article goes further, explaining that, given the huge amount of digital information available (many people receive upwards of 200 emails a day), a few powerful print marketing items in the mailbox can be a far more powerful marketing tool. After all, with the decreasing amount of physical mail, a well-designed direct mail piece will have less competition for the reader’s attention.

Print Is Taken More Seriously

Because custom printing materials (such as an annual report) are permanent, they seem to be taken more seriously, according to Michael Shepherd, a public relations professional and CEO of The Shepherd Group, as quoted in Lin Grensing-Pophal’s article. “The impact of print articles in the C-suite and boardroom surpasses digital,” according to Shepherd. “To senior executives, it’s often perceived as more tangible, more visually compelling, more influential…and certainly less disposable.”

Print Invites Slower, Deeper, and More Thoughtful Reading

The E-Content article notes that, due to its physical nature, print invites a deeper and more thoughtful reading. Its tactile qualities are very appealing to an increasingly virtual audience that spends a huge amount of time in front of a screen. The article posits that this is true for younger audiences as well as older audiences. It’s a sensual experience, and it’s pleasurable. Custom printing isn’t going away.

The Mix of Media Is the Key

It’s ironic that E-Content is a print magazine primarily focused on digital media, and it’s also ironic that this print magazine is extolling the virtues of print publications and print marketing.

The key is the balance between digital and print, according to the article, as well as the tracking of reader preferences. Using online analytics that measure reader engagement with digital media, and tracking revenue attained through print ads and subscriptions, it is possible to get a clear picture of what works for various audiences and to put this into practice, finding the “sweet spot,” as the article calls it, the best mix of print and digital.

Moreover, it has been found that multiple exposures to marketing images reinforce the message in the reader’s mind, and this is particularly true when the reader sees the message presented across multiple media. When a branded message is presented across digital and print venues, according to the E-Content article, the effect is augmented. The multiple impressions are seen to reinforce each other with a “consensus” effect.

“A New Beginning for Print?”

The second article on the importance of print is entitled “A New Begging for Print? How Digital Innovations Are Injecting New Life Into an Old Medium” (by Katie McQuater, in thedrum.com, 8/2/13).

This article focuses on the importance of print from a slightly different angle. It showcases the actual integration of print and digital media through such applications as augmented reality and near field communications (NFC).

McQuater’s article notes that:

“Technologies such as augmented reality, printed electronics, and NFC are paving the way for a new type of content consumption in the digital age—and by integrating the tangibility of print with the immediacy of digital, they are injecting new life into one of the oldest mediums, allowing print to become more interactive, engaging, and useful.”

Custom printing can be the starting point. It can be used to trigger a two-way interaction with the reader. The evolving image-recognition technology can be used to provide supplemental content when a reader uses a smart phone or tablet to interact with a poster or a magazine, for instance. As an example, McQuater’s article references a Lexus ad in Wired, which allowed readers to use their NFC-enabled phones to access a Lexus app. (This was possible without image recognition technology due to near-field communications—NFC—capabilities.)

Blending digital and print in this way can make the reading experience more immersive and personal. Reading becomes a two-way experience, with the reader not only able to digest the material but also to respond to it.

The Goal Is a Seamless Experience

“A New Begging for Print? How Digital Innovations Are Injecting New Life Into an Old Medium” makes it clear that technology for its own sake is not the goal. Rather, using technology in a seamless manner to integrate the print world and the digital world can create a more pleasurable, and more comprehensive, experience for the reader, as well as one more personally tailored to his or her needs.

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