Is the power of print marketing actually in decline?

Is the power of print marketing actually in decline?, stack of books on coffee table

It’s a tale as old as time. Cars crowded out carriages, video killed the radio star… and now, digital media is in the process of eradicating print marketing as we know it.  

But while the purpose of print marketing may have changed drastically over the past 50 years, is its power actually in decline (particularly in the world of marketing)?   

Let’s take a look. 

A brief history of print media

Print media has been around for eons. The Mesopotamians had their clay tablets, and the Egyptians had their papyrus scrolls.   

In the Second Century CE, A Chinese court official is credited with inventing paper and in the Eleventh Century CE, another Chinese man, Pi-Sheng, developed type characters from hardened clay. 

In the Twelfth Century papermaking reached Europe and the technology continued to evolve in China, Japan, and Korea. From the Sixteenth Century onwards, print media truly took off.  

The early Twentieth Century is when the rise of print as a commercial advertising media began to thrive.  

The year 1915 sees Hallmark create their very first Christmas cards, and magazines like National Geographic, Vogue, and Reader’s Digest began to reach millions of readers with their printed editions. 

Twenty years later, in 1935, Penguin Books ran their first commercially successful set of paperbacks.  

This period also saw the golden era of print marketing and advertising shine bright, with advertisements showing up in magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, and posters, among a wide range of other printed formats.  

From the 1970s, newspaper circulation hit its highest point ever and remained steady for more than a decade before a gradual decline set in from the mid-1980s.  

The slow decline of print media 

It was in 1989 that the illustrious machine that is the internet was first launched, connecting the world and its communication methods in ways never seen before.  

Since then, there has been an ongoing drop in print media and advertising. Digital mediums bring news faster and more directly to audiences. 

Online sources also eat into print advertising formats. From 2000 to 2007, Craigslist alone cost the American advertising industry $8.3 billion ($5.4 billion USD) in classified advertising revenue.  

Today, traditional print mediums such as newspapers employ massive digital and social media teams who focus on communicating news through digital sources, rather than the print papers the companies once built themselves on alone. The last newspaper revenue boom peaked at $173 billion ($113 billion USD) globally in 2007, and has failed to reach that level again since.  

In comparison, digital and social media marketing spend has more than doubled in less than five years between 2015 to 2019, with a global spend of $801 billion ($521.02 billion USD) in 2021 alone.   

The pandemic effect 

Print media also took a critical hit during the pandemic, with populations globally retreating inside and screen times rising exponentially.  

According to PwC’s 2021 Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook, print media circulation revenue in Australia dropped by 6.7% in 2020 to $735 million, and print advertising revenue dropped even more, down by 24% to $882 million.  

This retreat has also set a precedent for digital publications and advertising, among many other traditionally offline activities which now exist online. And based on these trends, the PwC report predicts that, until 2025, “print advertising revenue is expected to decline at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of negative 10% to $609 million, while print circulation revenue is forecast to decline at a CAGR of negative 5.1% to $577 million”. 

What is the future of print media? 

However, the future of print media shouldn’t be seen as desolate. While print media itself is in decline, its power as a news source and advertising medium is not.   

For one, print ads remain more trusted by audiences. While 91% of people report that adverts have become more intrusive over the past half a decade, 46% of adults in a 2021 Insider Intelligence survey said they find print media and advertising trustworthy.  

Print media also remains a unique (and preferable) medium for many types of published and advertising material. For example, you can’t put a website on your coffee table. Nor can you drop a TikTok video into someone’s letterbox.  

It allows advertising to cut through the digital noise in a post-pandemic era where a retro nostalgia resurgence is already thriving.  

And of course, 70% of people report that they prefer to read physical, printed books, as opposed to the 24% who report enjoying reading eBooks.  

It’s pretty obvious that, despite its decline, print media still has an impact on us.  

So, where does that leave us? 

At the end of the day, the world (and the technologies within it) will always continue to evolve. However, this does not always render past technologies redundant, particularly within the world of media and marketing.   

As with many factors when it comes to marketing, wholistic approaches continue to thrive. Paid social media should always be accompanied by a strong organic strategy. If you run Google ads, then you should ensure your website SEO is strong enough to tackle organic search. And your digital media strategies should be accompanied by a level of print media to help your ideas and your brand cut through the noise of the digital space.  

So while print media is changing…it is still far from dying out.  

If you’re ready to explore advertising options for your business – we can help! 

Get in touch with us today! 

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Lynda Schenk

An energetic and strategic marketing professional with over twenty years’ experience in industries ranging from wine, not for profit, transport, logistics and manufacturing. Lynda founded Purple Giraffe Marketing Consultancy in 2014 offering an end to end marketing service that draws on her proven ability to formulate brand strategies and marketing communications plans that build brand equity, growth and profitability.

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