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28 . 01 . 22

The future for print in 2022: predictions from the experts

Words by: Print Power
Direct mail is a hit with households. And book sales have sky rocketed. Has the pandemic directly impacted the print media industry? And as restrictions lift, what does the future have in store for print and print advertising? We asked the industry’s leading experts for their 2022 print media predictions…
Juan Senor Print Power Europe.jpg

In a triumph of affirmation last year, a number of research studies brought some positive news for print advertisements. They reinforced what we’ve known for a while – that print can provide a huge boost to digital channels when used in an omnichannel mix, and that it scores impressively highly for audience attention and brand recall versus social media.

But how have the last few years changed print’s course, both from the industry and the consumer side? Have these unprecedented times and its resulting trends impacted print perception and use? And as we tentatively come out of the worst of the pandemic, will print’s course run smoothly going forward?

Print & the power of the pandemic

COVID-19 and its endless lockdowns have impacted every business, and none more so than the paper and pulp industry. Paper production has slowed due to capacity closure as a consequence of the pandemic, meaning stocks have run low and prices have soared due to input costs and increased energy surcharges. This has created an order frenzy in the business, with clients trying to buy before a new price increase is announced. 

But the good news? The pandemic has defined a new normal. And in some ways, it’s great news for print. As consumers spent more time at home, we relied on digital outlets for our information about the world. But that same reliance and exposure accelerated our mistrust of social media and its propensity for fake news and misinformation.

Bad news for advertising on social media sites, but great news for the more trusted print marketing and direct mail. It’s testament to the public’s trust in print that back in 2020, the UK government chose to run a multimillion-pound print advertising Coronavirus campaign in regional and national newspapers, encouraging the nation to stay at home.

Print’s potency has been further cemented by the success of direct mail. Recent research by the Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMAIL) found that door drops are value for money, as one piece of direct mail typically gets seen around three times by different members of a household. Interaction with mail has also increased during lockdown, with door drops far more likely to be read and kept in the home. And because of this household interaction, door drops deliver a greater volume than advertisers pay for (but more on this later).

James Hewes Print Power Europe.jpg

By the book

In the quest for comfort and escapism in the face of uncertainty, one of the biggest success stories of the last few years that looks certain to continue is the printed book, whose sales have skyrocketed. Consumers have rediscovered the joy of thumbing through the physical printed page. According to KVB Boekwerk, in The Netherlands, 5 per cent more books were sold in 2021 than in 2020 (the biggest increase being in children’s books and non-fiction) – that’s more than 43 million books. Ironically, slightly more were sold via e-commerce than through physical stores, but that’s no surprise given lockdowns. It’s the same in the UK too. According to Nielsen BookScan, the UK enjoyed a 3 per cent increase on 2020, with sales worth an incredible £1.82bn – the first year on record that sales have topped £1.8bn.

But how do the print media industry insiders think this year will unfold? We asked leading experts in advertising, media, publishing, printing and commerce for their insights into how print is perceived in the industry. They overwhelmingly agreed that brands and agencies often ignore print media as part of the media mix and agreed that more awareness of print media towards brands and agencies will increase the importance of print in the mix.

But how do they think the pandemic has altered the course for print media and what they predict for the print and printing industry for 2022? Here’s what they said:

President & CEO of James Hewes says: ‘Consumers have spent a lot more time at home during the pandemic, probably more than they’ve ever done in their lives! We’ve seen a dramatic increase in print subscription numbers for many publishers, as people look to relax in the face of dramatic events in the world around them. We also saw dramatic increases in digital subscription and web traffic numbers. All of this suggests people were reading more and – crucially – not just about Coronavirus! The expectation should be that these new reading habits continue, as it looks like emergence from the pandemic will be slow and steady, not sudden and dramatic.

Print innovation is key

We must continue to highlight innovations. We produce an annual report on innovation in magazine media and every year, without fail, we uncover new innovations in print. It never ceases to amaze me that a medium which is hundreds of years old is still capable of new things.

Embrace change

My predictions? We very much see the industry in two camps – those that ‘get it’ and those that don’t. For those that get it, they will continue to build a portfolio of diverse revenue streams – including a profitable and perhaps even growing print business. Digital subscriptions and e-commerce will dominate their thinking, but it is the range of opportunities to engage with readers that is the driving force.

For those that are still struggling to adapt to a changing industry, 2022 is the year when they really have to bite the bullet and embrace change. You can’t cut your way to growth and, after two years of the pandemic, there is nothing more to cut anyway!’

E-Commerce consultant, expert in web-to-print solutions and founder of the Print.Watch blog Ludovic Martin says: ‘We’ve seen an acceleration in marketing spend shifting from print to web. This has had an impact on hand-to-hand support, reduced by the pandemic.

Trust in print

The recent research around print’s highly scoring power of attention and recall didn’t change my point of view about print, but rather confirmed what I already thought about it. There’s a digital fatigue, and print media is appreciated for its comfort, relevance and passive mode, especially regarding data privacy. I think the worst weakness of print (no interaction, no digital output, passive reading, no spying), is in fact, its best strength. In the face of data breaches or hacking, print is often the most secure option.

Paper’s positives

My predictions? I think it will be a difficult year for the industry because of shortages, the end of the pandemic, lack of events and price increases. But longer term, I strongly believe people will rediscover print’s benefits – for them, for their privacy and for the planet.

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Chief Executive Officer of pulp, packaging and speciality papers company Sappi Europe, Marco Eikelenboom says: ‘A significant proportion of the world's population has been consuming unprecedented levels of media to keep itself entertained whilst staying indoors. However, consumption has not been the same across generations and the type of media we are consuming has been affected by generational culture gaps. People’s time that would have otherwise been spent on outdoor activities, has now been spent on the sofa. Regardless of what type of content we are consuming, fact is that every generation has been relying on their devices during this pandemic to inform and distract more than ever before, creating a huge opportunity for media companies to engage a captive audience. Although print media has been riding this wave at somewhat lower levels, the proposition of being a credible and trustworthy alternative to digital media has definitely increased print’s importance.

Print 2.0

Print should still be a part of any marketing campaign, not to leave social media ads out or skip on e-mail campaigns, but to integrate them as the different medium. It is the best way to see a return on investment and print campaigns will reach newspaper and magazine readers, but also appeal to the digital and device-loving generation! Print 2.0 has its place with all generations and should make use of any new technology available. The key is creativity. Creative advertising is more memorable, longer lasting, works with less media spending and builds a fan community faster. Print in the media mix starts to become more and more unique and therefore original and more creative. Advertisers will notice this difference and will not forego on a fair part of print creativity in their media mix.

Appealing to print buyers

My predictions? After almost two years of restrictions and lockdowns it appears that much of the world is at last beginning to experience a period of growth. However, this growth comes with a number of challenges, which will most likely have a key impact on the paper and printing industry's performance, profitability and investment decisions over the coming year. Already being experienced are rising costs  ̶  in materials, energy, labour, shipping and distribution. This in turn will put pressure on paper producers and printers to look at trying to increase their prices. This will not be easy as print buyers will probably be looking to contain or even reduce the price they pay for print media. The industry will therefore be in for some interesting discussions on this with customers and it will be crucial to start thinking how the print media value chain can even better add value, so as to justify any increases.

Project and Process Manager for fashion retailer bonprix Susan Fulczynski says: ‘The pandemic has had a very big impact on print, and thus on customer behaviour. Plus, the costs for paper, printing and postal services are rising. As a result, the cost of journals is also going up. We are an e-commerce retailer and have reduced our catalogue runs due to the rising costs. I can see from my own buying behaviour that I use more digital channels than offline.

Connecting print to digital

However, we have a positive insight in Germany due to the pandemic. Through the Corona warning app, the Germans have learned how to use QR codes and AR. You can now use these codes in print catalogues and mailings to better link offline with online and create a better experience.’

President of INNOVATION Media Consulting Juan Senor says: ‘The migration from digital to print has been universal and irreversible, but for the daily print experience, weekend print is growing globally. People associate print with a defined cognitive experience with a beginning and an end. As a long read, lean back medium, print for news is becoming a bookazine proposition, not a quick read proposition.

Luxury defined

Print for advertisers is best used for prestige and for its keepsake elements. Think haute couture versus Prêt-à-Porter in digital.

Prolific weekend print

My predictions? Continued growth of reader revenue and a focus on weekend print editions with more and more print supplements.

Ulbe Jelluma Print Power Europe.jpg

Managing Director of Print Power Europe Ulbe Jelluma says: People have rediscovered the value of reading from paper. They have rediscovered the value of having something physical in their hands that will not fade or disappear in seconds. Something they can put aside and restart reading, without feeling pressured for time. They have had the time and attention to give to reading longer form content. More time and attention also implies increased response rates for direct mail and door drops.

Creative potential of print

The marketing and advertising industry is conservative despite the technological and creative innovative power. The majority of brands and agencies are not leading when it comes to technology and creativity. That also includes innovations in effectiveness measurement. As studies from Ebiquity have proven, decisions for media budget allocation are based upon perception and not on facts.

However, contrary to common beliefs there is substantial level of print innovation in the industry. One of the tasks of Print Power and more broadly of the entire sector is to get these innovations on the radar of the marketeers and ad people. The likeability of advertisements is a predictor of print advertising effectiveness. These innovations enable more likeable ads and more effective ads. There’s absolutely no reason to not use this amazing creative potential.

Print still packs a punch

My predictions 2022? Encouragingly, there has been no change in the effectiveness of advertisements in newspapers and magazines over the last couple of years. Yes, circulation figures are down, but that leaves the effectiveness unaffected. We know that the use of direct mail, door drops and catalogues has increased because of the increased time at home. Effectiveness data shows that these printed channels have also scored higher than during the pre-Covid period. And we know that the combination of print and digital or TV creates higher overall effectiveness scores. Therefore, on purely rational grounds, I would argue that advertising in print media in 2022 should be flourishing.

However, decision-making in advertising is not always rational as one might expect with the overload of research and data. It will be the task of the paper manufacturers, printers, print equipment producers, publishers, other print media channels and companies that depend on printed materials, such as mailing companies and  kiosk, to continue to promote the use of advertising in print among the marketing and advertising sector.

Tim Bond Print Power Europe.jpg

Directory of Insight at the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Tim Bond says: ‘The pandemic accelerated a trend that has developed over recent years – the transition from non-digital to digital channels. However, according to the DMA’s latest Acquisition and the Consumer Mindset report, this is not to say that physical media will not continue to have a significant role in future brand awareness and customer engagement campaigns – in-store (38%) and magazines/newspapers (25%) remain popular sources for brand discovery. Mail is also one of the most preferred methods of engagement by Baby-boomers (52% stated this). It also has a higher degree of relevance compared to many other marketing channels such as phone and social, according to older generational cohorts.

In fact, post-pandemic there are already early signs that mail is playing a crucial role in encouraging consumers back in-store – according to data from JICMAIL.

Print is a keeper

Print mediums have always had a unique place in the marketing mix, as their tactility offers brands the opportunity to make a meaningful physical connection with customers. Figures from JICMAIL highlight the real impact advertising mail can have, with customers returning to items they receive multiple times, as well as these items remaining in the home for over a week.

Finding its niche

Print continues to find new ways to create even more engaging experiences through innovations and integrations. Whether these are new experiences with the print media or bringing together the non-digital and digital worlds through technology, I’m personally excited to see what creative brands can and will do.

Jaguar Land Rover won this year’s Gold for Best Use of Mail at the DMA Awards. They created a direct mail 'offline configurator', to stimulate interest, educate people about the different models and options available, and help them overcome choice paralysis when they came to configure their car.

Bounce back

My predictions? After a challenging couple of years for the entire industry, I expect and hope to see 2022 be the year we’re able to bounce back. The pandemic has changed how many of us live, work, play and shop, but as restrictions are lifted, and some sense of normality returns, the early signs for this year are encouraging. As with anything business-related, the opportunities are there for those who identify and utilise them – mail might just come back stronger than ever.