In June 2014, a startup called PaperLater launched with a novel idea. Online readers could save digital pieces that they were reading and have the clippings mailed to them via old-fashioned snail mail for later reference and keeping. While the company shuttered the service in December of last year, it hints at an important trend that newspapers and publishers need to pay attention to. Print may actually be a key to capturing the interest of younger readers. As you go full speed ahead to develop websites and mobile channels, here’s a closer look at why it’s important not to neglect or abandon your print channels just yet.
Is Print Publishing Dead?
In this age of websites, mobile apps, and eBooks, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if print publishing is dead. It’s important to remember, however, that print publishing remains a viable and even important revenue stream for many publishers. But there’s an association that it’s likely older readers who are resisting the technology changes impacting publishing that represent the biggest market for printed materials.
Counter intuitively, it may actually be younger generations that are the fastest growing market. It’s important that you understand how each of your core demographics feel about printed materials.
Why Print is Popular with Younger Readers
Millennials have a wide range of reasons that they’re excited about print publications. In some cases, it’s the gravitas or seriousness associated with the publication. There’s a certain intellectual cache that a reader is perceived to have if they’re walking around with a print copy of The Economic or The New Yorker, for example. This can be appealing to younger readers who are figuring out their brands and determining how best to project those.
In the case of publications that are more recreational reading, some younger readers prefer printed materials simply for the vacation that it gives them from being tied to electronic devices. Determining whether there’s any advantage to your brand for printed materials – either in the branding sense or as a means of offering your readers an escape – is a valuable exercise for any publication.
The Intersection of Novelty and Curation
Some have suggested that the appeal of printed material is actually novelty. After all, the vast majority of things that we read and interact with are in digital format. Reading a printed publication offers a tactile component, or even an experience that’s simply not associated with digital reading.
In fact, some have gone so far as to make the connection to the hipster-focused music trends of collecting vinyl records. Is listening to music on a vinyl record different than downloading it from iTunes? Maybe. In this same way, getting the printed version of a newspaper or magazine may offer something unique to the reader over a digital subscription.
The bottom line is simple: while PaperLater may have refocused their efforts on other projects, it’s probably just the first in a series of explorations on the power of printed publications. From startups that are dedicated to offering younger readers the chance to connect with printed materials to publications that find unique ways to value-add their print editions, a printed publication may be the best way to capture the attention of younger readers.