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Why Paper Matters!

Julian Townsend's article in the Publishing Partners Guide 2016

By Julian Townsend

Thirty years ago, the permanence of paper was not a subject for discussion. Today, modern technology has had a huge impact on how we consume marketing messages.

Principally, this has been driven by the success and growth of the internet. In a few short years, it has developed from a tool for basic email messages, to today – an e-comms portal into a virtual world.

As ever, keen marketers have taken the opportunity to change the way that we are sold to. Mobile technology has become an important addition to the existing communication mix. In an ever competitive environment, some businesses, keen to seek out commercial advantage, have thrown their lot into this electronic future.

For the paper world, the decline in sales, at a time when the economy was already mired in recession, only fuelled those predicting “doom and gloom” in the sector. However, as the economy has recovered, more and more evidence has come to the fore that suggests that e-comms can only be an addition to the communication mix – not its entirety. Why?

2015 saw a number of publishers who had begun down the electronic route, heading back to the more profitable response route of paper. A great example was Newsweek. Printed matter is part of the communication mix and there is much research out there showing that people like to touch and feel paper.

Promotional advertising carried in magazines far out-performs its electronic rivals. People like to sit down, relax and read, and again, research shows that this is when they are most likely to absorb and take in the sales messages presented to them.

Additionally, the printed word is deemed more reliable and trusted – just look at how many people use ad-blockers in the digital world.

Look at B2B and B2C direct mail – the average response rate is 4.4%! Paper makes a real impact. 4.4% compared to figures that start with 0.something in the electronic world – there really is no comparison. As companies analyse the effectiveness of their electronic advertising, they start to understand this and there has been a slowing of the migration to digital, and indeed some flow back to paper and print.

Amazon’s recent opening of a “real” bookshop in Seattle, with 6,000 books and 400 magazine titles on the shelves, suggests that even the king of online retail sees profit in paper and print, backing up data from a recent survey of 1,000 UK millennials, that 64% had read a printed book – double the figure for an ebook.

Indeed, Sir Martin Sorrell recently said, “the death of traditional media is much overplayed… there is still value there” and as a mere paper merchant, who are we to argue?