April 18, 2019

The Battle for Attention: Print vs Digital

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The Battle for Attention: Print vs Digital

Posted by Gareth Pickering

Comparing print to digital is common. You see it often, where digitally focused advocates predict the end of print and traditional practitioners question the legitimacy of digital.  

So how do you decide what ratio of print to digital your campaign should aim for? Which one wins? Below are some ideas and thoughts to consider when apportioning your campaign budget. 

There's no question that the landscape has changed over the years. Print media has faced several challenges from digital, however, print is far from dead and able to produce a pretty good fight.

Many of the major titles in the pharma space have experienced rising circulations or at least have experienced no drops in the audited numbers. True, digital advertising opens up many new avenues and opportunities, but it does have drawbacks too.

Here are some considerations to bear in mind when looking at the mix. 


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Digital Can demonstrate ROI clearer

First of all, digital content is usually easy to create, distribute and more importantly,  measure. It’s this demonstration of ROI that marketers have found important over the past few years: the ability to attribute expenditure to results.

All digital content formats, including ads, can show marketers and publishers the performance of that content, whether it’s pageviews, engagements, impressions, conversations and CTR, almost immediately. But of course, these sorts of metrics can be manipulated, intentionally and unintentionally. 


One of the Associated problems is the quest for impressions and pageviews

Advertisers want eyes on their content, so they pay publishers, who in return for revenue from the advertisers, want to also get eyes this content. The problem is where this quest for pageviews or impressions (or to demonstrate these metrics) becomes the be-all-and-end-all.

The internet is rife with the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) advertising models, which means that it is also rife with publishers and platforms manipulating these stats, generating bogey traffic to those posts in a bid to increase impressions. At the end of the day, all that is available is a quantitative metric rather than a qualitative one. In the B2B sector, this can be a problem. This said, a bigger problem lurks...


Ad blocking

Publishers are dependent on adverts as their main source of revenue. Digital advertising is generally cheaper than print, which is exactly the problem: it is cheaper. And it is this reason that ad blocking continues to grow in usage to filter out adverts to internet users.

Such explicit blocking of adverts cannot possibly happen in print – the cost advantage for digital advertising over print (for advertisers) is therefore no longer a legitimate reason to adopt digital ads over those within print. Thinking on, if you have booked an 'intrusive digital ad (prestitial) on a publishers site and the reader has the latest Google Chrome, your carefully crafted advert might not get seen at all. 


print feels more legitimate... and secure

As described above, even today, we still have issues with trust when it comes to digital advertising (and sometimes digital in general). Security is a big concern for internet users, and if the option is available, some will still prefer a physical copy of a magazine as opposed to a digital version. I know I do. 


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We also value the intimate look and feel of a physical print magazine, which compared to its digital counterpart, is assigned more value as a product. The result is that the messages and content presented are actually more powerful - meaning that the cost of a full-page spread will generally be higher.


Print is great during face-to-face interaction

We operate within the science sectors that appreciates face-to-face interaction, relationships and a personal touch. Digital is striving towards more and more personalisation but is still quite some way behind the real thing. 

When an organisation or an organisation’s team members come face-to-face with other people, print becomes hugely important. And there are plenty of opportunities for face-to-face physical interaction such as in events and trade shows, where print media (in its many forms) can be used to an organisation's advantage.


But print doesn’t allow for personalisation

Personalisation has shown to increase the relevance of any digital communication, meaning that communications become more effective. Customers also want this personal touch and are willing to part with data to achieve it.

As we strive for efficiency and provide dynamic content for the here and now, print will fall behind as there isn’t a cost-effective way of personalising. Publishers have attempted to personalise elements of the packaging of the magazine, including its inserts, but it generally becomes a costly process and is abandoned with time. 


Digital is noisy and crowded

On the other hand, where print falls short in the personalisation department it makes up for its outright ability to generate awareness. Print does stand out when compared to the environment that digital content operates within – a cluttered and noisy place.

Print is able to rise above this noise and reach those who are sometimes protected from the clutter. According to The Radicati Group, the average business professional receives 121 emails per day. The C-suite might hire assistants that take care of all emails that will immediately spam the delivery of most email marketing campaigns. 

Print does indeed reach a highly focused audience, where more people will read and see content (including ads) and remember them.


But Digital focuses on the content (and audience)

There’s no getting away from it, printing and delivery costs are high regardless of a publication’s readership. Whilst print has some outright benefits, the quality of the overall print product comes down to the quality of the content – journalism, perspectives and opinion pieces within.

A digital model can divert attention and resources solely on these elements, focusing on the key product offering and avoid the worry of sharing resources towards implications relating to physical printing and its associated costs. Over time, it can be assumed that a digital publication will feature higher quality articles rather than those within a print-focused publication. Digital also opens up a range of other possibilities, such as video content, that brings with it a range of additional benefits.


Content collaboration and user-generated content is made possible

The digital environment also makes content collaboration easier, where online content from other websites and writers can be used and referenced without copyright issues.

Such collaboration instigates a more efficient and improved content development process, helping with the generation of leads for advertisers in the long term. Of course, there is a downfall here, as publishers can lose control and outright ownership of their content, which is again, is their core offering, which is put at risk. This said, a publisher with adequate processes should be able to protect itself from this and become more open with its journalism.

All this said, collaborative content in print is still an exceptionally powerful alternative to traditional methods of adverting in print media, see my previous post on collaborative content.


Combining both Print and Digital is where the real gains are

The sciences sectors are highly traditional, meaning that there will always be a place for traditional and print media. But there is no doubt that the industry isn’t the same as it was just five years ago.

Digital has emerged alongside print, and together, both mediums can really engage the science professional (without having to combine in the form of QR codes etc.). By combining channels and media types, and adopting a number of channels for your communications, you are able to reach your audience and a time and place where they feel comfortable consuming your content.


B2B print media is all about trust

As touched upon earlier, print media is about trust. Physical magazines are regarded as reliable and transparent – you will never be redirected or your experience disrupted by a pop-up ad or your session hampered by poor internet connection.

High-quality publications are authoritative and insightful, science professionals know this and will spend time away from devices, in a non-distraction environment and consume this content.

Publishers, therefore, need to determine their audience preferences, determine how they can differentiate themselves from the completion, and at the same time, determine where do they want to operate in the digital content and advertising value chain.


print vS digital?

The future of print is a place where print compliments digital and the smart publishers recognise this. The battle for attention, in pharma, can be won when both mediums are combined: print and digital, online and offline. Print will play an essential part of the marketing mix as it will become an enabler for digital and will strive to take visitors online to a publication’s website or supporting channels.

The potential reach on these channels are far greater and gives readers flexibility in the content and what they choose to do with that content thereafter.

Given the inspiration and emotional appeal of print media, it will always instigate buyer intention within B2B markets. It is true, however, that as new generations will come through into business positions having mainly used digital devices all their lives, digital will have an increasing place in the marketing mix.  

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