MarketWave match-up: Is print dead?

Posted by on October 1, 2012

After The New York Times announced a subscription special of 50 percent off home delivery with digital access for free, it made me question: is print dead? So, I challenged MarketWave’s #SuperIntern, Melissa Simon, to join me in the debate.


The number of print subscriptions and circulation speaks for itself. Digital media is constantly growing, making it virtually impossible for print media to keep up. With the increasing number of technologies available to access online media, more people are dumping the traditional ways of getting their news. A 2012 study reports that 23 percent of adults get news on at least two digital devices. Now, we search for a topic on our computer, smartphone or tablet – free of charge –and get a plethora of results within seconds.

The once-traditional Advertising Age is starting to redesign its focus on digital efforts, as are similar publications. The amount of print subscribers and advertisers is undeniably dwindling. Since 2006, ad revenues in print media have decreased by more than half.

Digital media and social media channels used to share information with personal networks – print media lacks this ability. If a story runs in a print version only, the media outlet is missing a large number of potential audience members. Print media once was a thriving business, but fast-paced, digital media is ever-changing and will soon replace traditional media for good.


Traditional media sales are in decline, but that doesn’t mean print is dead – it means it needs to refocus its efforts into an integrated offering.

For instance, QR codes – an image often found on print pieces such as posters, ads or direct mail – can be scanned to lead the recipient to online information. Also, most affluent buyers want content in print and digital. In order to satisfy today’s information quest, publications can’t abandon their print efforts – instead, they need to merge them with their digital efforts.

Why? Because print media offers something that digital media cannot: tangibility. A print piece is physical and will remain in offices and homes for years. In addition, print offers credibility to a story or advertisement – with no fear of spam and viruses, if it’s in the paper, it’s trustworthy.

Digital may be alive and well, but print is fighting back. People Magazine is addressing its 18.6 percent decline in single issue sales by adopting a comprehensive advertising campaign with an estimated budget of $16 million. Also, subscriptions sales have increased from 50 to 65 percent. Magazines are focusing on their ability to be an outlet for ideas versus news – ideas that they can elaborate on in print, where readers are more engaged and less likely to “scroll” or “swipe” to the next story.

Others are using shock value. Time’s breastfeeding cover proved that print remains immensely powerful, especially when it serves as a conversation starter. If print can tackle relevant, provocative subjects in a detailed, visual manner – then it will live forever.

[polldaddy poll=6574592]


  1. Reblogged this on Ryan's Digital Marketing Blog and commented:
    I found this article very interesting for several reasons. The company I work for does both print media and digital media and I can tell you that there is still a very large consumer base that loves print advertisement. Something about the “tangibility” of print keeps consumers coming back for more. As Whitney explains in the article, “it’s trustworthy”.

    1. Thanks for sharing, and providing your feedback, Ryan. I agree with you – the tangibility element can’t be competed with. In a few years, with changing generations, this might be different. For now, it’s too valuable to consumers.

  2. Finally got a chance to read this today and LOVED it. Both of you made great points. I wrote about the potential death of print magazines right after I started here a few years ago and it is interesting to me that this argument hasn’t changed THAT much in those two years.

    1. Thanks! Will you share the link to your post? I don’t think print will truly die until all of the living generations grew up with a strong focus on digital. Basically, when the millennial babies are adults.

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