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Writing and Editing > White Paper: Print Isn't Dead Yet

Print Isn't Dead Yet

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"Today we are living in the late age of print" (Bolter 2). Some may take this to mean that print is dead or near the end. Studies show that print advertising produces better return on investment over all other forms of advertising, including online.

Bolter clarifies that "the term 'late' does not mean that print technology is necessarily about to disappear" (Bolter 210). As long as advertisers see a return from their print advertisement, they will keep funding this medium.

Through the years newspaper ad expenditures have experienced ups and downs. However, overall from 1950 to 2006, print ad spending has increased over 290 per cent. There has never been double-digit negative growth, yet the early 80s and late 90s had double-digit growth numerous times. Even as late as 2000, print ad expenditure experienced growth of 13.7 per cent (NAA Ad Expenditures).

A Long Way From Death’s Bed

From an advertisers perspective print is an effective medium. Even with print advertising numbers down from the previous year, newspapers are still the largest advertising medium. Internet advertising made up only 5.4 per cent of total advertising revenues last year, according to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) figures (NAA Online).

The NAA reports the following advertising expenditures for 2006 (Marketing Daily):

  • Print advertising: US$46.6 billion (down 1.7 per cent from 2005)
  • Online advertising: US$2.7 billion (up 31.5 per cent from 2005)

Print is not new (far from it), so it isn’t going to experience the huge growth that a new technology or medium, such as the Internet, would experience.

Less Annoying | Newspaper Reader is More Engaged | Effective Way to Convey Information | High Consumption Rate | Conclusion | Facts and Figures | References

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Less Annoying

Readers remain loyal to their paper and trust it thus they build an emotional attachment and are more susceptible to receiving an advertising message (Print 2006).

According to the “How Powerful is Print 2006” report, 10 per cent of people surveyed find magazine advertising annoying compared to 51 per cent who find television ads annoying.

A Leger Marketing study found that four out of five Canadians think advertising in newspapers is more acceptable than any other form of advertising (Print 2005).

Media Saturation – What Is Acceptable To Canadians (Print 2005)

Advertising Technique



Print advertising in newspapers



Radio advertising



Posters on buses or subways



Television advertising



Billboards along the roads



Product placement in television shows



Ads in washrooms



Banner advertising on the Internet



Ads placed on personal property, like baby carriages



Ads on cell phone displays



Famous people appearing on talk shows and praising prescription drugs without mentioning they are paid



Pop up windows with advertising on the Internet



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The Newspaper Reader Is More Engaged

Print isn’t a passive medium. Readers are typically highly engaged when reading a newspaper or magazine. Television and radio are passive in that consumers sit back and experience it, not always giving it their complete attention and thus not necessarily absorbing a particular advertising message.

“Engagement improves return on investment,” says Jack Kliger, president and chief executive of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. He says, when people are reading magazines, they are unlikely to be using any other form of media. By contrast, when they watch television, listen to the radio or surf the Internet, they are usually multi-tasking, listening to or watching something else at the same time (Seelye).

People are also fast-forwarding through commercials and deleting pop-up ads as they see these as intrusions. However, magazine readers often see ads as part of the magazine (Seelye).

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Effective Way to Convey Information

Print aids more in purchase decisions than other media (Print 2006). A Leger Marketing study found that consumers consult newspapers to aid purchase decision more often than all other mediums for all products surveyed. The exception was travel, which Internet tied with print in its influence on purchase decision.

Actual Media Used In Purchase Decision (Print 2006)

For print ads, the message lasts and the consumer can experience and study it at their leisure. An advertiser’s website address is right there for the client to type in to a browser. With radio or television, the message is transient and replaced quickly by the next ad.

Print can be a part of a complete multi-media campaign. It can provide the means to advertise a new product offering to consumers and inform them to visit a website or store for more information. It can provide space for more information, such as a television ad for a new medicine that directs the consumer to a particular magazine for further details.

The Source for Products in Which Consumers are Interested in (Print 2006)

Consumers use newspapers as a source for product information more than any other medium, including the Internet (Print 2006).

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High Consumption Rate

Newspapers are cheap (often free), accessible and portable. They can easily be consumed during a morning coffee, a daily commute, or in a coffee shop.

According to a study released by Hill Strategies Research in 2005, Canadians spend nearly $23 billion on cultural activities each year, 20 per cent ($4.6 billion) of this is on reading materials (Print 2006).

Many publications are now available online, but print is still a popular choice by readers of all ages. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation in the U.S. found that in a typical day almost half of all eight to 18 year olds read magazines and another third of them typically read a newspaper (Print 2005).

Distribution of Print Newspapers and Magazines in Canada (Media Digest 06/07)

Number of Papers

Total Circulation

Daily newspapers


6.4 million

Community newspapers


15 million

Consumer magazines
(segmented into 46 categories)


64 million

Business publications and trade journals


For comparison (Media Digest 06/07):

  • Canadian population: 32.5 million (2006 estimate)
  • Number of households: 12.8 million (2006 estimate)

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It may be "the late age of print," but print isn't dead yet. Frederic Jameson writes, "[w]hat 'late' generally conveys is rather the sense that something has changed, that things are different" (Bolter 3). Print "[will] continue to survive and even prosper for an undetermined future" (Bolter 210).

With many consumers accepting of print advertising, and engaged in a media that they trust, newspapers and magazines will continue to be an effective way for advertisers to convey information for a long time to come.

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Facts And Figures

Media Digest 06/07:

  • 45 per cent of Canadian households receive a daily newspaper
  • 69 per cent of adults read the last issue of their community newspaper
  • 81 per cent of Canadians 12 and up read a magazine in a month

How Powerful is Print 2006

  • 85 per cent of Canadians state that they read a newspaper or magazine on a regular basis
  • 50 per cent of all adults read a daily newspaper everyday
  • 31.4 million daily newspapers are sold per week
  • Newspaper ads get twice as much attention compared to television ads

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(All online references accessed March 17, 2007.)

  • Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001.

  • How Powerful is Print 2005. Marketing, 2005.
  • How Powerful is Print 2006. Marketing, 2006.
  • Media Digest 06/07. Canadian Media Director’s Council, 2007.


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Further Reading

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