It’s no secret that print advertising is declining. Magazine print ad revenue fell 16 percent in 2017. But what most people don’t realize is that this decline isn’t an indicator that print ads are becoming less effective. The reality is advertisers have more choices about how to spend their ad dollars than ever before.
Advertisers used to divide their budget between print, TV, and radio. Now, there’s a wide range of digital options as well—and their results are often easier to measure. So while overall ad spend increases every year, it’s not surprising to see more established advertising channels (like print) eat up a smaller portion of that spend as new channels emerge.
Of course, we also have to take into consideration the fact that print magazines and newspapers are declining themselves. But for advertisers with a well-rounded marketing perspective, that isn’t necessarily bad news.
“Print circulations are down, but in many cases, that means that publications’ readership has been culled to only the most engaged, which is a desirable trait, from an advertising standpoint,” says the American Marketing Association.
Still, the question remains: in the face of all of these new options, is print advertising worth it?
Probably. Here are four reasons why.
1. People trust print ads more than digital ads
This may come as a shocker, but when MarketingSherpa surveyed 1,200 Americans in 2016, they found that consumers trust print ads more than any other type of advertisement.
In the survey, people sorted advertising channels into “ads I trust,” and “ads I don’t trust.” These are the results for ads people indicated that they trust. Image source: MarketingSherpa
In their analysis, MarketingSherpa cautions advertisers: “Just know that advertising in newspapers and magazines will tend to add credibility to your product or service, while an online pop-up ad will reduce the credibility for your product or service.”
2. People recall print ads better than digital ads
The Internet is noisy. Any given page may have dozens of links, ads, calls to action, and choices competing for your attention. In a magazine or newspaper, readers still have distractions, but there are generally fewer of them, and you physically move through ads as you interact with the content.
“While digital content is scanned quickly, paper-based reading is slower and more deliberate, leading to greater rates of comprehension and recall,” says Media Space Solutions. For advertisers, this means that traditional print media ads are more likely to make a lasting impression and, thus, lead to more sales.”
That may be why neuroscientists have found that people are 70 percent more likely to recall your brand after seeing it in a print ad than a digital ad. Other studies involving brain scans have found that physical ads activate different parts of the brain than digital ads, and viewing them “involves more emotional processing, which is important for memory and brand associations.”
3. Print ads last longer
Imagine if someone kept seeing your Facebook ads until they decided to delete their account. Or they kept finding your ad on Google until they decided to stop using Google. It sounds crazy, but print ads last until the content they’re attached to no longer has value.
When someone plops a magazine on their counter, desk, or coffee table, your ads stay there until the entire magazine goes in the recycling bin—or to someone else’s desk.
“It’s a physical product, it takes time to arrive at a person’s house, it’s there for a long time so there are many impressions, and there’s a pass-along and an audience reach that accumulates over at least two weeks,” says Andy Blau, former CBO of Time, Inc.
While you can quickly see the results of your digital ads, print ads take longer to reach their maximum value as they pass from hand to hand, home to home, and office to office. The American Marketing Association says, “[print ads are] worth it in the end because of print’s longer shelf life and higher potential for reverberations beyond the initial reader.”
4. Readers engage differently with physical content
Even bland ads still benefit from one of the biggest advantages of print: people subscribe to magazines based on their interests. And the ads are part of that, because they align with the rest of the content and add to the magazine’s value.
In other words: magazine subscribers actually want to read the ads. People read magazines to get better at their jobs and explore their passions, and the ads are part of that experience, rather than an interruption.
“With print, I have to be interested enough in the totality of the content of a magazine to subscribe to it,” says Britt Fero, founder of PB&. “Online, you can find me alone, looking at me solely through my demographic, but when I’m looking at a magazine, that matters much less. The way people consume print, it just doesn’t work the same way as digital.”
When you’re reading a Christian lifestyle magazine, you’re not going to see ads for power tools you were just looking at on Amazon. Every ad is going to contribute to the type of Christian lifestyle portrayed by the rest of the magazine.
“People are in different mental spaces when they choose to engage with a printed magazine versus digital content,” Britt says. ”What does the reader want to get out of those five minutes that he spends with that particular title? This is really where, in marketing, you can actually add value to a medium because the reader is looking for a very specific kind of content anyway, versus just talking about your brand.”
Print advertising still has advantages
When you pick up a magazine, sometimes the advertising section is labeled outright. Other times, it’s more discreet, and ads are peppered throughout each article. Either way, magazines give advertisers the space to turn their ad into a visual story, not just a one-line product pitch. And the best print ads relate to and interact with the surrounding content in such a way that they add to the experience of reading the magazine.
Digital ads are great for delivering quick results with lots of data. But if you want to penetrate your market, print ads should probably be part of your strategy. By physically placing your brand in people’s hands, you create lasting impressions that engage your audience in meaningful ways.