Outside the marketers’ echo chamber, print lives

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According to B2B magazine, ABM, the trade association for the business-to-business trade press, held a series of panel discussions recently in which participants declared that print isn’t dead.

Wouldn’t we expect them to say that? Of the four pro-print souls mentioned in the article, three of them still make their living by running, editing or selling for print magazines.

I’m not arguing their point either; I believe print is a vitally important communications vehicle and somehow will remain so in the future.

What’s notable in this discussion is the reasoning offered by the fourth panelist, Bob Drake, who runs Drake Creative agency. He said that a recent ad campaign that included a print component succeeded. He’s quoted by B2B as saying, “It goes against everything we’re hearing, but we can engage people for a long period of time (in print) and they stay engaged.”

I don’t know Bob Drake, and I don’t mean to pick on him. But if he’s hearing that print doesn’t work, then he’s talking to other marketers and not to marketees.

Marketers are abandoning print because it’s harder to measure as a marketing vehicle than Internet-based technologies. This is undeniably true. But at some point, that legitimate objection got simplified to the assumption that print is broken, which has been simplified even further to the notion that print is dead.

But if you ask readers, that’s not even close to the truth. The same article cited a poll by Roads & Bridges magazine (conducted by Internet, ironically enough) that indicated a strong preference among its audience for getting information via print. This is consistent with every bit of research and opinion I’ve ever seen. People prefer reading words on paper  – especially glossy paper with charts and pictures.

The point? Like everyone else, marketers are susceptible to the echo-chamber effect. Print isn’t in trouble because it doesn’t work; it’s in trouble because shorthand communications of marketers obscure the nuance that is the truth.


About the Author:

Bob Rosenbaum is founder and principal of The MarketFarm, a content-oriented strategic communications firm.


  1. Dave J.  April 28, 2010

    The echo chamber reminded me of this video:
    Outfoxed: Fox News technique: “some people say”


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