Why Copywriters Shouldn’t Rush to Go Digital Because 60% Prefer Print

It appears as though the printed word is on its deathbed. The Yellow Pages is now more widely used as a doorstop, whilst many newspapers are wheezing their final breaths.

Many expect direct mail to go the same way.

So is learning how to write direct mail, brochures and sales letters a waste of time for aspiring copywriters?

Are people so plugged into the digital world that they won’t turn away long enough to read your printed words?

Print advertising in freefall, whilst internet marketing grows nearly 20%

According to recent Advertising Association figures, last year in the UK press advertising fell 11.8% and TV fell 4.9%. Spending on the internet, however, shot up a recession busting 19.1%.

eMarketer has also poured more fuel onto print’s funeral pyre, with estimates that online spend should grow a further 10% by 2011, as companies chase after eyeballs focused on pixels.

So should your copywriting expertise follow the same trend?

Does print marketing need to be recycled permanently?

60% are more likely to respond to print than email

In the face of such relentless attacks on print, Pitney Bowes has come charging to the rescue whilst sounding its bugle on research of its own.

In a pan-European study it found that 60% of people are more likely to visit a website in response to direct mail, compared to 24% who’d respond to an email or sponsored web link.

This follows on from previous research in which Pitney Bowes found that 73% prefer to receive offers and promotions in the mail, rather than their email inbox.

So, whilst print is indeed expensive and should shuffle its feet in embarrassment at its ROI, Pitney Bowes’ research indicates there’s life left in the old warhorse yet.

In fact, print can be the introduction to digital campaigns, and its ROI can be improved by being more targeted, personalised and relevant.

So copywriters shouldn’t rush to abandon the printed word just yet.

10 thoughts on “Why Copywriters Shouldn’t Rush to Go Digital Because 60% Prefer Print

  1. Hi Matt,

    I have carried out surveys in many industries over the past year or so, the most recent being a survey of entrepreneurs that achieved half a page of coverage in the FT a couple of weeks ago.

    We always try to establish whether people prefer online or print versions of magazines and newspapers. The result, for the population as a whole, is actually more like 80/20 in favour of hard copy.

    Vast swathes of the populace don’t even know what an RSS feed is, so they’re still coming to terms with the electronic revolution. Personally I’m strongly in the 20% as I hate paper clutter, and when I file documents electronically I can find them in an instant … helped by having some very good systems for doing that. See: http://marketingwizdom.com/knowledgebase

    Print is definitely not dead, even though I’m one of those who can manage very well without it, for the most part.

    Having said that, I argue against people offering things like e-books, e-brochures etc. (like the e-book you’re offering!!) as people download them and never look at them. It’s far better, and provides far more sense of occasion, if you send a nicely designed printed document, which is far more likely to be read. See: http://marketingwizdom.com/archives/1476 to understand a technique we often use to generate an avalanche of qualified leads.

    So I agree with your premise, but think the overall ratio may be more 80/20 than 60/40. I’m sure that will change though.



  2. The Copywriter Underground

    Spending on print still dwarfs spending on digital marketing, and the real pros are those who are finding ways to integrate multiple channels into unified campaigns.

    Much is made of the occasional campaign that goes viral, yet no one’s focusing on all the failures.

    Best here is to look for ways that social media can compliment other advertising channels – not simply replace them.

    Finally, the online marketing world is something of an echo chamber. You’d think TV was about to die, but more hours are being spent on broadcast than ever.

    I think print advertising is going to take a real beating for a while, but then, it’s hard to ignore the fact that online advertising channels aren’t performing very well either.

    It’s not supposed to be “either/or.” It’s supposed to be “what works best for this audience?”

    Good post!

  3. Robert,

    Thanks for sharing your data, and 80/20 certainly sounds realistic. When you spend all day online it’s easy to get trapped into thinking other people do as well. The fact is the majority of people prefer the physicality of print and aren’t as tech savvy as the 20%.

    I agree with you on eBooks. It still surprises me how some people can charge more than price of a book for a 30 page downloaded pdf.


    I agree that integration obviously seems to be the key, although doing it successfully seems to be easier said than done otherwise everyone would be doing it by now.

    It certainly shouldn’t be a case of either/or despite how internet marketing and print related companies like to present their research findings.


  4. Matt,

    I have often pondered too about the reason why eBooks often sell for more than the real thing, and I can only put it down to the fact that you can buy it instantly and have immediate gratification.


  5. An interesting phenomenon isn’t it?

    Just to pour fuel onto the fire – I’m a person who *writes* eBooks. And I’m sick of reading ’em. Give me paper any day.

    A simple sense check confirms most people are on my side. So agreed – print media will enjoy a well-deserved stay of execution methinks 🙂

  6. … and a 2007 TMP survey found that readers of local newspapers believe the ads they see there 77% more than those on TV or online …

  7. I agree that print copywriting isn’t dead, but I’d be a little more sceptical about that Pitney Bowes research — as I recall, they make things like franking machines, so they have got rather a vested interest in talking up direct mail campaigns!

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