Long Live Print…in an Omnichannel Marketing Plan

When one year ago this month online retailer Net-A-Porter.com launched a print magazine, many did a double take. Don’t we live in a digital world? Isn’t multi-platform content what readers are looking for?

We know the answers to those questions well. Time spent with digital media surpassed TV consumption back in 2013, but consumers still average more than five hours of TV time a day. Of the time we spend engaging with digital media, 60 percent now goes to smartphones and tablets. But data shows that 46 percent of American Internet users only read books in print, compared to just 6 percent who only read e-books.

Ad spending patterns provide a good deal of insight into consumer behavior as well. Studies estimate that TV will receive the greatest share of ad spend in 2015, with digital in second place and print in third.

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And yet, going from digital to print seems to be a growing trend. Within the past two years Politico and AllRecipes.com both launched print versions, and DuJour offered print, mobile, and online versions of its luxury lifestyle magazine simultaneously. If that’s not enough evidence for you, consider Airbnb. Late last year the successful online brand launched Pineapple, a print magazine available in Airbnb rental properties as well as on newsstands.

Print Is Dead…Or Is It?

Hold on a minute – isn’t print supposed to be dead? Ghostbuster Egon Spengler said as much way back in 1984. The Onion ran an obituary for it in 2013. Last year saw the demise of such titles as Ladies’ Home Journal and Macworld, while in years prior we lost Newsweek, and – that’s right – The Onion. But according to reports there were 234 new magazines launched in 2014, an increase of 21 percent over the previous year. One of those was Newsweek, which resumed printing last March.

Certainly, we continue to see a shift toward digital. Vistaprint, maker of promotional products for small businesses, this week announced a new tool that turns its print materials into Facebook ads. Called, “Social Postcards,” the product is designed to help companies and entrepreneurs extend their reach to the Web. But moves like this one do more than demonstrate our growing attachment to digital. They display a commitment to an omichannel marketing strategy that meets the needs of modern, multi-channel consumers.

Digital and Print: Coordinated and Compatible

The question isn’t whether or not print is dead, but why it’s taken so long for businesses to view print and digital as wholly compatible. That major brands are investing in print doesn’t mean they favor paper or are bucking the trend, but that they recognize their target customer’s multi-platform needs. When Politico starting publishing its print magazine, it supplemented the effort with new online content. Allrecipes, meanwhile, comes with a TV component in the form of a branded segment on one of parent company Meredith Corp’s lifestyle shows.

In the case of Net-A-Porter’s Porter, the magazine is shoppable; readers can use the company’s app to snap photos of fashions on the print pages and buy what they see online. The brand is also experimenting with shoppable videos that allow consumers to save the items they see while immersed in the viewing experience.

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“It turns out that women like to read about fashion on glossy pages, not online,” The Wall Street Journal‘s “On Style” columnist has said. And that’s what marketers should focus on now: audience preferences for each content type, be it company news, brand stories, product imagery, or educational materials. Give customers what they want where and how they want it – even if that means incorporating print – and they’ll be primed to engage with your brand.

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