Not quite time to stop the press

In this guest post, Nati Harpaz argues that print is far from dead and remains a viable profit and engagement platform as long as you are prepared to adapt your model.

Nati-HarpazThe struggle faced by traditional print publications such as newspapers is well documented as the industry faces increasing competition from the online world.

In fact, just recently, this discussion was reignited after Fairfax’s chief executive, Greg Hywood, commented to investors that the company was willing to cut print editions of major mastheads, if publishing profit continued to spiral.

As my company, Octomedia found out, moving to an online-only platform is not always smooth sailing but is also fraught with danger.

Several years ago, due to continuing increases in printing and postage costs, we decided to cancel the print edition of our long-standing publication Inside Retail Weekly, which has been in publication since 1972.Inside Retail Weekly cover

The rationale behind the decision was it would have a great impact on savings in print and postage costs if we were to only distribute a digital version of the magazine. In the 21st century, our audience expects that anyway.

You can probably guess what the outcome of this decision was…several years of significant decline in subscription levels, not exactly what we had in mind. In turn, it also proved extremely costly.

As our subscriber base continued to decline, so did our advertising revenue. Last year, we reassessed our decision to go online only and decided we needed to go back to where we came from, and we relaunched our weekly print edition of Inside Retail Weekly in October, 2015.

The result has been a significant increase to our subscription product, advertising revenue and the welcome return of our loyal readers.

By going through this transformational process, we’ve discovered asking your audience to pay a relatively high fee for a digital product is destined to fail.

Inside Retail Weekly 2016
Why print over digital

So why are our readers willing to pay for a print product more than they are willing to pay for a digital product?

In a world surrounded with thousands of content pieces published on a daily basis, it is hard to convince your audience why they should be paying for content online even if the content is valuable.

In my view, the main reason for this is perceived value. A print product has tangible value. The consumer sees a physical product. It is easy to attach a value to the print production, the postage and the work that went into putting it together.

If you are delivering a weekly publication in a digital format you will most likely prompt your subscriber with an email.

That email joins a list of another 100 emails received that day and so during the day’s work your subscriber is probably putting it aside thinking they will get back to it when they finish everything else but the reality is that work really never ends and so your subscriber may forget going back to reading it.

After a while comes a renewal form and your subscriber now thinks that it’s not worth the money as he hasn’t really been reading it lately.

With a print product the subscriber gets a publication delivered right into their hands. It gives them an opportunity to take a break from the screen, sit down and relax, whilst getting up to date with industry news.

Furthermore, the publication can be taken with them whilst moving around on public transport, flights or between meetings. It is also much easier to pass around the office.

Inside Retail 2015So what does this mean for advertisers?

I have to admit, it is a lot harder to sell print advertising compared with digital advertising. Print is different from online and it has to be sold differently.

The value of print advertising is significant and not only can it stand on its own feet it actually supports online advertising as part of an overall campaign strategy.

If you go back and read the reasons why readers like print magazines and newspapers, these reasons are also applicable to advertising. Increasing competition over advertising space makes digital advertising almost unnoticeable and companies are paying for advertising nobody sees.

Print advertising is strong, colourful and cannot be missed. It leaves a longer lasting memorable experience and supports the brand message and prestige.

The print versus digital advertising argument was again put under the microscope in a 2015 study by Canada Post and Nueromarketing firm TrueImpact.

The study used eye-tracking, EEG brain wave measurement and conventional questionnaires to compare the effects of paper marketing (in this case direct marketing) with digital media.

The study found paper marketing was easier to process mentally, taking 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media and tested better for brand awareness, with recall 70% higher among participants who were exposed to paper marketing over digital.

So what does all this mean advertisers? Should they throw their digital strategy out the window?

Of course not. What this shows is the need for print publications to better explain the advantages of print marketing to their potential advertisers and show the value it holds within the marketing mix.

Our B2B strategy is to continue building publications which are based on a print and digital mix and we see this as the way forward. Brands and advertisers need to design their marketing plans the same way, with a complementary mix between print and digital, to ensure they reach and engage with their maximum potential audience.

Nati Harpaz is the managing director of Octomedia, publisher of Inside Retail in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and Hong Kong


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.