29 . 03 . 23

‘I don’t think that print has a fundamental problem of perception.’

Words by: Print Power
The #printproud initiative and magazine is gaining traction in Germany, whose print market is still the largest in Europe. Founder Andreas Plettner shares his passion for print, and why, despite the shift to digital, print media is holding its own

The power of print at a glance…

  • In Germany, online media spending is down 10% on last year. But print media spending overall stalled at 555 million Euros in February – a good result.
  • Regional newspapers generated one billion Euros in sales for the first time through digital subscriptions. That can only strengthen print and create stability in advertising sales.
  • Almost 57% of Germans are between the ages of 35 and 80. That's 48 million people from the Baby Boomer and Gen X generations who have an affinity with print.

Andreas Plettner

Head of New Business and Marketing at print media production specialist MedienSchiff BRuno in Hamburg, Andreas Plettner is a champion for print in Germany. So much so, that he and the crew members of MS BRuno founded the #printproud initiative – a movement and a magazine for anyone who has ‘dedicated their heart and soul‘ to print. From publishers and agency owners to art directors, editors and marketing managers - Plettner and his colleagues share their creative ideas and concepts on the #printproud channels: on social media on web, or in their innovative #printproudmagz.

MedienSchiff BRuno is so-called as it’s housed on a vintage 1912 ship in the Port of Hamburg. Their clients include Hamburg Airport, McKinsey, UNICEF and the German National Library. Before joining the MedienSchiff BRuno crew, Andreas worked for leading media and publishing agencies Axel Springer, BILD and ZEIT Sprachen, where he developed his love for print. Print Power caught up with Andreas to find out more about why print holds power in the German media landscape.

Can you explain the origin of the magazine you founded?

MedienSchiff BRuno wanted to get to the heart of what we actually stand for. Our USP if you like. And we wanted to be able to sum that up in one word.

We all agreed - we are ‘printproud’! Our team is passionate about this fascinating, multi-faceted media channel. Also, our customers are just as crazy about print as we are, giving us huge creative know-how and collective potential. So we decided to set up an initiative that put print in the spotlight.

Despite rapid digitization across all industries, #printproud isn’t promoting a backward-looking argument against the move to online channels. Rather, it’s celebrating print’s positives right here in the present. After all, print has repeatedly proven its raison d'être. And it’s even experiencing a renaissance in certain areas.

With #printproud, we have a platform to get print lovers talking to each other. We showcase just how innovative print can be and what is possible. The #printproudmagz is published twice a year in German and currently has a circulation of around 1,500 and rising. Issue No.4 will be released at the end of March.

Printproudmagz_Cover3_Print-Power.png (1)

You cover a broad spectrum of subjects in the magazine – how do you select these subjects?

We don't see ourselves as a pure trade magazine, but rather a special interest publication for print enthusiasts. The stories are as diverse as our industry. We often focus on the people behind the subject matter and projects: Why and how do they work with print, and how have they made a success of it?

Each article is beautifully illustrated by our design team and each page is a work of art. I don't know of any other industry magazine that’s anywhere near as visually opulent. It’s important for us to look ahead: What surprises does print still have in store for us, how can technological developments inspire and impact the industry, where are the opportunities? Whether that’s the analogization of non-fungible tokens (NFTs are wholly digital products from the blockchain world) that are printed, multichannel marketing measures such as programmatic print or direct mail retargeting or printed electronics which are suddenly showing rapid growth figures. For instance, did you know that batteries can be printed on paper or foil? With real colour? We tell stories like that.

What are the most important themes in the German advertising industry at the moment?

The biggest topic is the effect that the struggling economy has had on the advertising industry. As Nielsen recently reported, the media spend in the last few months closed with a double-digit minus1 compared to the same period last year. That’s across the board in all media channels. Numerous media budgets were reduced or put on hold. Only cinema advertising is the exception, with a + 44% rise in February compared to last  year. But that’s due to having disastrous cinema results in 2022.

Otherwise, in my view, digitization, personalisation and raw material prices (paper/energy) are still among the top issues. But the retail media sector is definitely one of the winners.

And I'm personally very excited to see to what extent AI will influence the advertising industry in the future. In my opinion, CHAT GPT and its AI siblings have raised a topic that fires the imagination of our fellow human beings enormously. There is still a lot to be expected.

"But let's not fool ourselves: even a CMO prefers to present the board with detailed data from online marketing"
Andreas Plettner
Medien Schiff BRuno

And how does this affect the position of print media?

The exciting question is how the markets will continue to develop, and they are diverse. Digitization will continue, that's for sure, but online media spending is down 10% on last year. On the other hand, print media spending overall stalled at 555 million Euros in February, which is a pleasing figure. Popular magazines are losing, but newspapers are gaining. For me, this is down to three factors:

1) The desire for reputable and reliable news sources. During the pandemic and the Ukraine war, social media lost a lot of credibility. Not least through initiated and controlled fake campaigns. Newspapers and news magazines benefit, circulations even increase, and the reach becomes more interesting for advertisers.

2) Regional newspapers are increasingly installing good payment models for their digital offerings. In 2022, they generated one billion Euros in sales2 for the first time through digital. This circulation stability also leads to a certain stability in advertising sales. That's good news for everyone, because even if new subscriptions are digital, they support the necessary investments in journalism overall. And that can only strengthen print.

3) Almost 57% of Germans are between the ages of 35 and 803. That's 48 million people from the Baby Boomer generation (1946 to 1964) and Gen X (1965 and 1979) who grew up with print. A broad base with an affinity for print that is currently stable.

From an interview with Tyler Brûlé we understand that distribution of newspapers and magazines is a growing problem.

Yes, I can confirm that. The changed reading behaviour and the associated lower demand for print titles has led to falling circulations at publishers and to a market shakeout in press distribution. Both on the part of wholesalers and in retail. The pandemic then acted like a fire accelerant. Retail sales fell sharply as shops were closed for weeks. And working from home became the new norm. This meant that there was a lack of important demand from kiosks and newsagents, even when they opened their doors again after the lockdowns. From autumn 2021 to autumn 2022, around 5,600 press retailers closed their businesses forever – that’s around 4% of all retailers. However, there are fewer bankruptcies than in the two previous Covid years. I attribute this to the fact that the Ukraine war increased the demand for seriously researched and edited journalism.


We notice a reluctance among advertising and media agencies to talk about print advertising. Is that also true for Germany?

We do sometimes observe a certain reluctance among potential customers. But I don't think that print has a fundamental problem of perception. At least not for those who grew up with it. However, it’s obvious that younger planners and marketing decision-makers in particular rely on digital channels more frequently than older colleagues. Which is understandable as they are digital natives.

However, these reservations are only superficial, because the advertising medium advantages of print have been sufficiently researched and are well known. Large agencies are still well advised to empower their strategists, planners and accounts to look across all channels. But... it is sometimes easier to make a decision that’s not questioned by everyone, but is waved through by decision-makers and customers without hesitation. In my opinion, anyone who supports a print campaign is often questioned more critically. But print performance and effectiveness is trackable and, in some cases, can have a significantly better ROI than its online counterparts.

But let's not fool ourselves: Even a CMO prefers to present the board with detailed data from online marketing, all of which can be more easily tracked. When it comes to print, we have to accept that not everything can be tracked campaign-specifically.

Finally, has there been any recent research in Germany that shows the effectiveness of print advertising, direct mail or other print media?

From my point of view, in the past 15 years there has been nothing new or ground-breaking in print research. The qualities of print are well known and have the same validity as ever. There are three things that have changed in print’s favour:

1) The need for reliable media, as mentioned above. Traditional media like print relies on high quality journalistic standards. Other genres like TV and/or radio, also benefit from this.

2) Oversaturation with online formats: e-commerce, newsletters, news apps, out-of-home media, gamification approaches... they combine to form a veritable overload of information leading to more and more people wanting a digital detox. Classic print products are a haven of peace in comparison.

3) Regulation: With GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the digital industry was effectively prohibited from sending people personalised advertising without their explicit consent. Also-called ‘double-opt-in’, this has been a requirement since 2021. This does not apply to print - I can target a named person by post at any time. And if I then combine this postal mailing with a print product that is particularly appealing to the touch... et voila!