Make no mistake: What I’m going to attempt here is not to make a case for the return of print content as the primary means of engagement with a contemporary audience, nor that it should again approach digital as our delivery mechanism of choice when it comes to content marketing. There’s not an argument to be made there. What I am going to do, as someone who grew up in a print world but has come to fully embrace digital, is suggest that the generally perceived value of print in content marketing may be lower than its actual value.
A One-Two Punch
Certainly, not every client needs the combination in their content marketing strategy. Digital content, if not the singular, should in most cases be the primary method of engagement for the digital world we live in today. But when viable, delivering the one-two punch of print and digital can provide a more expansive way for our clients to reach their customers. There’s no reason to jump in the ring of custom content marketing with one hand unnecessarily tied behind our back.
In an article by content strategist Annette McCrary on contentmarketinginstitute.com, she quotes Nenad Senic, European chief editor for Chief Content Officer magazine, saying, “Print magazines have an unparalleled ability to keep readers rapt. Yet too few brands leverage the sensory experience print provides …”
And in a 2013 article by FOLIO, Executive Vice President and Group Editorial Director Chris Johns of National Geographic said of his move to align the legendary publication’s print and digital content: “At every turn, we’re looking at how you create stories and how you tell those stories across platforms. We’re looking at the customer journey in totality, not just in isolation.”
We should view our content marketing mission the same way.
You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours
A key benefit of aligning print and digital content is the ability to push consumers from one platform to the other with your strategy. By engaging consumers on one platform and then sending them to another, we are increasing the reader’s overall engagement (and time spent) with the brand (regardless of platform). The limitations of each medium essentially disappear when combined. Where digital articles are typically shorter for engagement when more content is a mere click away, a print feature can provide a deeper story and tactile experience. But the printed page is finite. A throw to a website from print can enrich a story with extra copy, more pictures and videos.
The reader-object experience is also different. A print publication gives the reader something physical that can be carried around, written on, handed to friends (without a device and network connection).
But digital gives you the ability to update content instantly and to track an asset’s performance in real time to adjust your overall content marketing strategy. A digital piece of content can be delivered faster and more accurately, and can be shared on social media. The digital experience is far more interactive and accommodating to our need-it-now mentalities.
Numbers Show the Value of Print
Still not convinced on a mix of the two? Take a look at these quick stats from the Custom Content Council on the power of print.
- The average magazine reader spends 42 minutes reading each issue.
- Magazines increase purchase intent in consumers five times more than television or Internet when looking at single mediums.
- 7 in 10 consumers say they prefer to receive information about a company in a collection of articles, rather than an ad.
- 87% of readers interested in digital editions still want a print copy.
- 93% of adults read magazines.
- 96% of adults under the age of 35 read magazines.
Don’t Quarantine Creativity
So why not utilize both when the opportunity is there? Creativity is not bound by medium, nor good content by delivery mechanism. What makes for engaging content in both print and digital remains the same: interesting and engaging stories. A good content marketer is a good storyteller. We weave identities and narratives for products and services. Let’s not forget the value of print in delivering them.
Share your favorite examples of brands using both print and digital content successfully in the comments. When do you prefer printed content compared to digital?
By Zack Hill