Is Digital Media a Threat to Print Media?

Image by Alicja from Pixabay

Since the economic downturn and the increasing rise of the Digital Marketing age, the printing industry, Including Newspapers, Magazines and Print Advertising has been directly affected, causing many printing companies to close.

This article will discover if companies can have an improved return with Digital Marketing and if it can respond quicker than Print. Will print become obsolete, or is there still a place for this media? This article will also explore Digital Marketing and discover what benefits it holds over Print, by looking at the analytics of real companies since the economic downturn in 2008.

As the World Wide Web, has developed, there has been ever-increasing popularity in using Digital Marketing. Why has this method become such a popular choice? Can Digital Marketing and social channels give the client more satisfying shopping and purchasing experience? It can offer demographic targeting, customer service, online reservations, fast payment options and home delivery services. Are traditional printing methods of advertising falling in popularity?

The Midlands has been described as one of the main printing industry bases in the UK, however, since the recession of 2008, companies have closed and hundreds of people have lost their jobs. The recession was not the only reason for the decline of the printing industry, the increase in Digital Marketing has been growing and developing, social media being a popular choice.

Some sources claim that will there be a gap in the market for traditional printing methods of advertising in the future. Is this true? Will traditional methods of advertising such as publishing in magazines, catalogues and brochures be a viable method in the future?

Smaller companies are also having to adapt and their marketing strategies will also be analysed. An insight into the small business market will help develop a more in-depth perspective of the overall statistics to this subject. Longevity, cost, reach and Just in time marketing seem to show evidence that Digital marketing benefits small business.

The Internet has grown remarkably over the last few years, both in consumer popularity and in what it can offer businesses. With the economic downturn of 2008, marketing strategies had to adapt and change their businesses to survive. This article wishes to establish how their methods of marketing have changed from an analytical point of view.

Print on a downward trend

The economy has indeed picked up since 2013, but print has still suffered a decline. This is showing that it is down to changes into how information is being delivered. The entertainment, transactional, promotion, marketing and education sectors are showing a lean towards digital media, with print unlikely to be competitive in the future, but instead will show a gradual decline. It has been recorded that consumers are spending more and more time digesting information online, which is causing a major fall in the demand for newspapers and magazines globally.

Web-offset printing companies who produce these will be hardest hit. There has also been a decline in the need for paper catalogues which is also made using web-offset printing methods. Suppliers to the print industry have not seen sales improvement since 2013, therefore sales of traditional printing machinery are plummeting. By switching to digital printing methods, this does seem a viable survival strategy and enforces the need for this kind of diversification as it can be produced quicker.

Media Insight into online and offline advertising markets

PwC has produced an annual outlook report to show growth in the offline and online markets. This report is respected and now in its 16th year. This report looks at growth within the United States up to 2019. The results of this report are clearly showing that growth in the Internet advertising market, but a predicted drop in print advertising, especially with newspapers, which will be hit very hard falling from $20.2 to $16 billion up to 2019. Consumer magazine advertising may hold steady for a while. Online advertising is very much on the rise showing a projected 11.5 % growth rate between 2014/19. Here is a diagram to show these findings:

US Advertising Media Market Sizes
US Advertising Media Market Sizes PwC

Printing industry — Significant points

· Computerisation will cause employment to decline.

· Increasing use of Digital Marketing or Online Marketing

· Printed matter volume will decline

· Pre-press Jobs now obsolete due to computers

· Digital Printing jobs have increased

· Printing businesses will try to operate on minimal staff

· Wages and working conditions are being affected. 15% decline of 2008–18

· Future jobs opportunities best suit computer & graphic design skills

The evolution of Digital Marketing

In the earlier days of the internet, the targeted demographic was the younger generation. Because of this, it was considered that older generations would have difficulty adapting to its use. From a business point of view, this made it a difficult channel to pursue at the time for the use of advertising and promotion of their companies. Since then, it has been proven that this was one of the lesser challenges for successful marketing campaigns because businesses had observed over time, the use of online media had become widely accepted by the market.

It is now becoming clear that older consumers are developing similar habits to younger consumers, with one distinct difference, the older generation is more inclined to use traditional forms of media as well, such as magazines. A research paper called; ‘Challenges and solutions for marketing in a digital era’. looks at 3 main challenges for digital marketers. These include: “To be able to generate the ability to leverage deep customer insights, to be able to assess the true effectiveness of Digital Marketing and being able to manage reputation and brand health where social marketing plays a large role in this environment.”

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a term that has been around since 2005. It is an umbrella term to describe web applications that are used for direct marketing, often through the means of social media. It can provide businesses with new opportunities, but also challenges in how to maintain a connection with their markets. Web 2.0 lets businesses gather intelligence and requirements about their potential customers, but also allow it to be done in a personalised way. Web 2.0 became a buzzword in 2005 and has kept that name ever since. Digital Marketers have adapted to this very quickly and are using it as a marketing strategy for today. The adoption of traditional businesses using Web 2.0 had started off slow but has gained traction in the years since 2005. It can also provide a great business model for small businesses wanting to reach customers with low volume products.

Web 2.0 applications can be split down into 5 different categories:

“Consumers are not trusting traditional marketers such as print as much as they used to. A recent study in the USA revealed that 62% of consumers read consumer-created online reviews to which 98% of people find more than enough. 80% say that these reviews have influenced their buying intentions.”

Web 2.0 as a Direct Marketing tool

Web 2.0 can cause complications in the customer decision-making process. As Web 2.0 and current technology matures, the influence of traditional marketing upon customers becomes far less effective. The mistrust in traditional mass marketing is becoming far more apparent to consumers.

Firms such as Disney, Coca-Cola and Nike have been experimenting in personalising one to one marketing. They have been using social media for the use of direct marketing strategies to gather feedback and interaction. This is done by the creation of Web 2.0 websites with the purpose of using user-generated content. Social networking is then encouraged to allow a more personalised customer experience with these businesses. Social Media is now here to stay, so marketers need to learn how to co-exist with the modern customer who wants to be equal in the marketing process.

Digital Investment Areas Survey
Digital Investment Areas Survey

Improving Digital Marketing with Web Analytics

Since the birth of Online Marketing back in the 1990s, it has always been important to be able to monitor the performance of marketing campaigns. Web analytics is as crucial today as it was then. Analytics has become more sophisticated because the various online technologies have improved, as well as a huge increase in web traffic as more people go online.

Traditional marketing suffers from not being able to offer businesses the same level of scope and data from their marketing campaigns. Digital Marketing, however, is open to a wide range of tools and services to allow results to be more easily measured. Customers are now interacting with businesses and services more than ever, and something Digital Marketing can take advantage of, over more traditional marketing channels. 60% of the top 10 million websites today use Web analytics (WA). This is helped by the fact that popular analytic platforms are free, such as ‘Google Analytics’. This allows businesses and webmasters to become high adopters.

By using WA, businesses can refine their data by knowing more about consumer behaviour and so increase traffic and sales. Research suggests that businesses are not using the fundamental WA best practices, thus not getting the returns that they could potentially have and that the main reasons for this because of the lack of budget and resources. An example would be that, for every $80 spent on driving web traffic, businesses only spend $1 on converting the traffic. Correct WA practices can improve this, but also shows the scope of how scalable digital marketing traffic and reach can be. The following chart shows these initial barriers as well as showing that there are issues with how websites are managed.

Barriers Preventing Organisations from Improving Conversion Rates
Barriers Preventing Organisations from Improving Conversion Rates
Recommended Process for Actionable Improvements from Digital Analytics
Recommended Process for Actionable Improvements from Digital Analytics

Changes in consumer behaviour and habits

The diagram below shows how US adult consumer habits have changed between 2010 and 2014 on various kinds of media, and the lengths of time spent per day on them. Print and digital media are included:

Consumer behaviour habits US Adults between 2010 2014
Consumer behaviour habits US Adults between 2010 2014 (

Neuroscience studies

Despite the reported success that Digital Marketing has over Printed advertising, some companies still believe that by providing printed documents, higher sales can be achieved. One of the latest technologies to measure consumer behaviours on advertising is neuroscience. These studies are clinically conducted in collaboration with Psychology specialists and/or neuromarketing specialists. This involves participants having their brain activities studied with expensive MRI scanning machines or EEG sensors and eye trackers, whilst looking at a variety of digital advertising and traditional printed marketing pieces.

The UK’s Royal Mail together with Bangor University used MRI scanning to understand how the brain processes physical printed marketing materials, compared to digital marketing material. The study involved 20 participants who all saw the same type and number of materials. The study showed that tangible items generate more activity in the brain and internal feelings, which in turn leaves a deeper footprint in the consumer’s memory. This study concluded that: “Greater emotional processing is facilitated by the physical material than the virtual”.

In 2015 Canada Post worked with a neuromarketing company in a similar experiment but measured EEG brain imagery and eye-tracking behaviour. 270 participants were involved in the study. The aim was to measure ease of understanding and persuasiveness. Their results showed: that printed advertising is easier to understand and is more memorable than digital media by 21%, printed advertising is more persuasive than digital media by 20% and printed advertising is visually processed quicker and is more likely to motivate consumer behaviour.

Whilst these studies were expensive and potentially intrusive to the participants, could they be argued as biased? Indeed, the mail companies around the world have lost so much business to paperless technology, they need to remind consumers that there is more out there than just visual display units.

Before the sophisticated online tracking tools and neuroscience studies, simple studies and national polls took place to measure the behaviours, concerns and commitments of consumers. It has been suggested that these modern research methods are invading consumer privacy. It has also been argued that “transparent research processes” are of more benefit to consumers and retailers.

The benefits of Digital Marketing

Traditional marketing is the oldest and most recognisable form of marketing. This takes the form of print, direct mail, broadcast or telephone. Digital marketing, on the other hand, is a way of reaching customers in a more personal way by means of electronic and digital delivery. The chart below shows some comparisons:

Traditional marketing and digital marketing comparison
Traditional marketing and digital marketing comparison
Benefits of Digital Presence Survey
Benefits of Digital Presence Survey

Benefits for consumers

There are many benefits that digital marketing can have on consumers. Shops and services can be accessed online every hour of every day, offering a photograph and clearly detailed information about their items. Cost comparisons enable the consumer to hunt for the cheapest price in the comfort of their own home. Often several delivery options are offered, ranging in price from next day to standard delivery with increasing numbers of businesses offering an order tracking service.

Shopping updates can be offered in a variety of ways, either through email, text or social media. Different options for customer support are available including online chat, customer service emails and a customer service telephone support line. The ability to share opinions and product reviews are very popular, either with each product on the business’ site, a review site or on a social media platform.

In addition to these consumer benefits, digital marketing contributes to a reduction in carbon emissions. With fewer customers driving to shopping centres there are fewer cars on the road, fewer trees are being felled as less paper is being used and less energy is needed to power luxury retail outlets for example.

Benefits for businesses

Businesses can have many benefits from the use of digital marketing. These can include offering customers personalised shopping experience by collecting data through web analytics, enabling business relationships to be established quickly. Product information and sales figures can be collected for analysation far easier with digital marketing as it is quicker and cheaper.

Digital marketing is a cheaper option overprinted methods due to the increasing cost of paper and photography shoots, for small companies, it is often free via social media websites. Competitor analysis is something that digital marketing handles very well. There an abundance of analytical tools available that will allow deep analysis of competitor’s business strategies including keywords and demographics.

Geo-targeting is another benefit for digital. Sponsored advertising such as Google AdWords and Facebook ads can target specific cities in order to laser target relevant customers. The ability to network and make connection such as using LinkedIn has also become important, as this can create new business and employment opportunities. The potential to gain online leads is a true asset for digital marketers, as this can be used with email marketing to build prospect and buyer lists.


This article looked at the decline of the printing industry, and how the landscape has changed since the economic downturn of 2008. It has looked at insights into the online and offline markets. The evolution of digital markets was discussed including the challenges for the digital era, Web 2.0, and the use of web analytics. Finally, the subject of Neuroscience studies was raised which involves experiments that were reviewed to support the use of tangible printed documents over digital media. These studies claim that using this media produce positive emotions and memories to consumers, and therefore generate higher sales. The choice is yours.




Web Developer Specialising in WordPress, Digital Marketing and Freelancing | BSc (Hons) in Business Computing |

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Rob Doyle

Rob Doyle

Web Developer Specialising in WordPress, Digital Marketing and Freelancing | BSc (Hons) in Business Computing |

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