Print Media

Subscribers Haven’t Given Up On Print

Remember the days when a marketer just had a couple of marketing communications channels from which to choose? Magazine advertising, printed newsletters, shows? Here were are today with a plethora of channels; it would take a laundry list to cite them all. Well, along the way there has been a notion brought forward that in this day of multiple channels, and in this day of instant communications, the magazine is a dead duck.

While out visiting clients a couple of weeks ago, an old friend said:

“Our subscribers haven’t forgotten about our (print) magazines, our advertisers have.”

I thought that was very revealing and it struck me right between the eyes as we have all seen interest in magazines wane as an advertising channel. Absolutely, astute marketers and purveyors of media channels recognize the wisdom of integrated media buys when the budget permits. However, being somewhat old school, I cringe a bit when the print product, for whatever reason, takes a back seat to other channels. To me, print should be the flagship of the brand. Being realistic, I recognize that there are some circumstances in which this does not make sense. Fair enough. But aside from those situations, I believe print has unfairly taken the hit.

I’d like to share with you some examples of why print is not on the ropes.

From a study that was completed in 2018 by our firm, an extensive survey of farmers and ranchers, it was learned that print is the channel used most, whether on a weekly or monthly basis, as an information resource. What’s interesting to me is that in the same study conducted in 2016 and 2014 the same pattern with a print and other channels emerged.

In a similar study, conducted in more traditional business-to-business markets, we asked respondents to report their usage of various media channels in their work. Of nine channels included in the research, such as conferences/trade shows, social media, print publications, webinars, etc., search engines are the number one channel in terms of regular usage in work-related activities. To me, that makes a fair amount of sense. However, 74% reported regular use of printed publications. While print publications are tied with e-newsletters, also at 74% regular usage, the next closest channel is at 55%.

Both surveys also asked participants to report on another key behavior, actions taken as a result of viewing advertising in a specific medium or at events. In our study of farmers and ranchers, 86% indicated taking at least one action as a result of advertising in printed publications. While I don’t have an answer in particular about why this is, there is something about the trust and confidence users have in printed publications. It’s a relationship that has been built up over many years. Over on the B2B side, while the similar number is 60%, a fair piece below what we see observed in the ag space, publications are still the number one channel!

Finally, both surveys included attitudinal questions aimed at understanding how media users feel about the various channels. In our farmer/rancher survey, 50% said they rely on printed publications to help inform and validate their purchase decisions. Over on the B2B side, 89% agreed with the following statement: “Printed publications provide trusted information related to my industry/profession.”

Sometimes when you look at the results of surveys, it’s not just the numbers that are important.

It’s the trends and patterns.

Between these two very broad spaces, agriculture and business-to-business, what is striking are the patterns, similar patterns. While consumers of media in all markets have a wide variety of choices, it is staggering when you see how powerful print remains, contrary to some popular opinion. I believe there still is a strong case for print as part of an integrated media buy. I have encouraged publishers to stick to it, to surround their flagship with powerful electronic and in-person channels, but continue waving the banner for their printed publications. Perhaps I’m just old school and too fond of print. On the other hand, remember, subscribers haven’t given up on print.

-Jack Semler, Readex Research


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