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Are we still reading and buying print?

Published Jan 06, 2023 – By Katie Williams

Surprised, astonished. BW portrait of young businessman sitting on corner of red square reading newspaper or magazine.

In 2022 it saddened me to see the likes of Time Out magazine (one of the only rays of light in my weekly commute) move solely online, a decision that I’m sure was impacted significantly by Covid, but has been inevitable for a lot of print-based publications. This sparked a debate in the office about who still buys and reads print, so we decided to create a quick survey to find out more.

Our survey found that:

  • 90% of people still read printed content...
  • ...but only 72% pay for it
  • of those who don’t pay for it, 75% say they will pick up free print content, in cafés and waiting areas
  • of the printed content that people buy, 90% is also available online

People want tangible content

While the thought of sitting down with a magazine might, to some, seem like an activity of the past, it turns out 72% of people enjoy printed content because it’s tangible. In contrast, only 31% said they like print publications for the specific content they provide. This suggests that the simple fact of being printed content is enough to make that content appealing, and that, while online publications are more convenient in the world we live in now, there is still a valuable nostalgia when it comes to holding and absorbing content from paper and not through a screen.

People expect more from online content

More than three quarters of respondents (76%) expect to see a difference between print and online content, with online content providing differences in the specific content, its format and the allowance for interactivity. Let’s say you read a printed article that includes a graph; the very least you’d expect when viewing it online is a few pop-up boxes when you hover over information points. Video is being used much more, too, but not just ‘regular’ video – we’re seeing huge steps forward in interactive video content. But despite these developments in online formats, what online can’t do (yet) is provide that nostalgia that people love about print – and we must remember this.

Is printed content seen as a luxury format?

Think back to the days of endless catalogues coming through your letterbox, and newsstands filled with all sorts of titles appealing to every audience you could think of. Print was everywhere, and it was the main way we consumed content. Yet today, it is thought of differently. Over a third of respondents said they view printed content as a luxury, which is important to keep in mind when considering the context around either the launch of a new printed publication or the evolution of an existing one.

What does the future of print look like?

That’s the million-dollar question, and if we had a crystal ball we’d tell you. What we do know for certain is that print content is very much alive and kicking. There is significant demand for it, and we see this both with our clients and in the world around us daily. But to create meaningful and successful print content, we must understand how the context of content is changing and that what an audience wanted from print content five years ago is very different to what an audience wants today. And with that, related online content must be a consideration. By no means does every print channel need an online channel too, but as people expect more from online content, you should at least ask whether this is something you can offer.

Whether in print or online, or both, content is still as important as ever. And, if anything, higher-quality content is needed now, to stand out from the competition.

We’ve been pioneers in content for over 25 years and we expect to be for years to come. If you want to fine-tune your content strategy for either print or online, pop us an email at hello@wardour.co.uk – we’d love to have a chat.

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