Print VS Digital Media: The Death of Print?


(2018 edit: Since this article, we have launched many digital initiatives. Find out more about them here, and here.)


The rapid widespread influence of the internet and social media has left many in the marketing world pondering the answer to the print vs digital debate. Some have even gone so far to ask, “Is print dead?” Even though some businesses have focused their advertising efforts solely online in an effort to capitalise on the extensive reach, cheap cost and convenience of the World Wide Web, it appears that there are exclusive benefits to print media that companies should not overlook. 



Research has shown that print still is very much an integral part of an ad campaign.


A survey conducted by IPSOS last year comprising of 4,500 European consumers revealed that surprisingly, 80% of people prefer reading on paper than on digital media. Out of this, the digital natives (18-24 year olds) mirrored the same results, with 83% feeling that it was nicer to read off paper. From the same group, 78% had also extended the opinion that print and paper are more pleasant to the touch. Theorising from these findings, it appears that the physicality of the medium is a significant part of the reader’s experience. (IPSOS, 2011)


The Tangibility of Print

Now, you may have some doubts about these findings. After all, aren’t you reading off your screen at this very moment? However, results from a focus group discussion further conducted by IPSOS discovered many reasons why people would prefer physical copies over online versions.

• Firstly, there is a sense of comfort that is derived by the reader from holding and reading through a printed copy. Besides, a physical volume can beautify your coffee table.
• Next, familiarity with a physical copy allows users to be able to know where crucial information is located. Online media sites are less intuitive; one article leads to the next through multiple links, creating a disorientating never-ending cycle of articles. Navigation is only obviou
s at the home page, which could become a hassle to return to after finishing on each article.
• Lastly, -and this goes out to all working professionals- we clock in so much face-time with computer screens at work that most of us have a screen-avoidance tendency by the time we leave the office.


Print’s superior brand engagement

The physicality of a printed copy does not only inspire emotional states of comfort and familiarity, it also enhances the communicative strength in the delivery of a brand’s message. People are finding it easier to accept information published on a page. In other words, print media is more engaging as compared to digital media and this allows brand information to sit deeper within the reader’s mind. Here’s why:

1) Psychologically, according to a study by branding agency Millward Brown, tangible media evoked an increase in the processing of emotionally powerful stimuli and memory. When material on cards was shown to participants, they registered higher activity in the area of the brain that integrates visual and spatial information. This means that physical material is more ‘real’ to the brain. Therefore, it would better stimulate memory because it engages with spatial memory networks.

2) Biometrics, analyzed by Innerscope Research Inc., revealed that print is a cognitive media. Being a cognitive medium makes it easier to introduce complex issues and topics to readers. Crucial brand information that is usually forgotten now sticks in the reader’s mind. These include product details, phone numbers and urls.

3) Print produces a higher percentage of brand impact as compared to other forms of media. Once a print media has captured the attention of its audience through vivid pictures, it is then primed to deliver its cognitive message, captivating the peruser both visually and cognitively.

4) The credibility of online ads are often called into question in the face of possible spam and viruses. People are also weary of leaving their internet footprints behind when they browse risque articles online. Being bombarded by pop-ups and banner ads can also limit the pleasure of reading online.
It is clear that there are certain benefits to print that cannot be replicated digitally; it would seem that print isn’t entirely dead yet. However, there are also many advantages to digital media that print cannot match.

The digital side of the story

Since the introduction of the tablet as a new digital medium, the device has been flying off shelves. The tablet is fast becoming a common sight among digital natives. A global study by Ericsson estimates that almost one in three Singaporeans own a tablet. Singapore is the worldwide runner-up for the greatest proportion of internet users who own a tablet. The study also revealed that the tablet ownership rate is anticipated to grow nearly 60% by the end of this year. The popularity of tablets may prove to be the game changer for the print industry. (Straits Times, 19 June 2012)
Tablets have provided an easier way to read magazines digitally. The flat sleek design of the gadget and flip-motion page animation has brought back familiar aspects of printed media. But what online magazines truly value-add to consumers is the ability to offer varied mediums as part of the digital presentation that cannot be seamlessly executed on paper.

• It appears that US tablet magazine readers are eager to see video ads or ads that featured product information. Ads that took advantage of their tablet capabilities were favourites as well; zoom-in view ads and 360- degree view ads, photo galleries and slideshows were among the top desired ads. Interactive ads that offer the reader’s input also caught the eyes of 82% of the viewers. (eMarketer, December 2010
) A Nielsen survey expanded on these findings by proving that iPad owners were more likely to make a purchase based on such ads.

• Digital magazines could have drastically different layouts that integrate content, pictures, audio and videos. This is in contrast with a copy-and-paste transfer of the print format to an online page turning tool that offers little added benefit to the reader. Flyp, a multimedia publication based in New York, is making waves with its integrated multimedia storytelling, proving its tagline- “more than just a magazine”- accurate.

• Another great point of social media is that an article can be shared through multiple platforms, allowing it to go ‘viral’ on the internet. When an article goes viral, it can reap in a few million hits. Article sharing also generates more publicity for the magazine.


Print and digital media triumph in areas where the other is lacking. Thus, when used in conjunction, they would complement the failings and strengths of each medium. Print has its boon in its tangibility, high level of engagement and superior brand recognition. Print is also considered to have higher credibility as compared to digital media. However, digital media’s forte lies in multimedia storytelling, low cost ads and its wide audience reach.

Print isn’t dead yet, but it can sure use a partner-in-crime: and that is where the digital story begins.



Related Stories:

Digital publishing success requires distribution innovation

Can magazine brands, advertisers reach Millennials?

Will Digital Advertising Survive Its Current Challenges?


SPH Magazines Blog

Welcome to our blog. Through this new channel, we hope to connect better with you, and provide you with the latest happenings at SPH Magazines, such as our new titles, new sections in our magazines, events you can participate in and best of all, attractive promotions. We hope that you will find the postings here informative and fun. We would also like to hear from as many of you as possible. So leave us a note and let's connect now!
>>Read more about SPH Magazines

Key Events



Featured Videos

Back to Top


Are You An Advertiser? Contact Us For A Customised Proposal!