The Persistence of Paper

Recently in a shopping area we needed to find a specific shop. We reached for one of the paper maps provided in a holder attached to a large graphic map on a stone plinth and inspected it to find the stores we needed. It was a case of paper being expedient and helpful, especially as we put the map in a pocket and carried it away. What made it ideal was that the design of the map was well thought out. The fonts were a good size and the scale of the map made it easy to identify a path to the stores we wanted. One critique is that it was printed on a paper stock that did not stand up to the stiff breeze that day. In an ideal world we would have loved that map on a slightly stiffer stock.

In a museum in Amsterdam with Print Media Centr's Intergallactic Ambassador Deborah Corn,  we were trying to find our way to Rembrandt's NightWatch and then on to Vincent van Gogh. The usually wonderful signage in the museum and the excellent museum app just couldn't get oriented correctly, and then we pulled the paper map out and found our way there! We found the paper map easy to navigate, and it didn't drain our phone batteries!

What came out of these two experiences was some musings on when paper provides the best communication medium. Paper is persistent. It doesn't run out of battery life! Paper-based communication isn't constrained to the size of a phone screen or a tablet. It can still be portable, but using good design and the power of the fold, it can meet the needs of map makers as well as marketers.

When I attend a conference, I see the value in apps to direct me, but I still look for the paper agenda to refer to while navigating the conference halls. When I'm at a trade show, it is most often the paper show map that I rely on to find vendors I want to speak with and demonstrations to see. Even at a restaurant, I prefer the paper menu to backlit displays mounted to a table top.

It is the persistence of paper that I like.

We continue to ask, Is Print Dead? We ask because there are segments of our communication world where it appears to be waning, but for these applications, I still prefer paper!



Can We Define "Print"?

The podcast is called Is Print Dead? The underlying premise is that forms of communication are changing and print as we know it may not be the winning medium as we move forward. But a series of conversations with guests on the podcasts and comments from LinkedIn and Twitter got me to thinking that we might all be using the word "print" differently.

Drawing a box around the word "print" turns out to be tricky. We all tend to agree that books, newspapers, direct mail marketing, and marketing collateral are "print". Depending on the industry you serve, you might add banners, printed billboards, and wide format work to the list. But do you include flexible packaging? Printed corrugated boxes? Vehicle and building wraps? I find that I have been including them in my definition, and these are areas that are clearly expanding, even as some more traditional forms of print are declining.

And then it gets even more complicated when you look at printed textiles, direct to garment printing, and direct to shape printing. Especially in the digital printing world, these functional industrial printing areas are growing at a fast pace as new inkjet head technologies paired with new ink technologies and drying technologies lay the foundation for new product offerings from both major vendors and emerging providers. We might still agree that it is printing since there is a target substrate and marking technology, but I have had some pushback.

Now let's take a walk on the wild side. Is 3D printing really printing, or, as some call, additive manufacturing? What about printed RFID tags or other circuitry, that uses the same methodology as other forms of printing? I'm struggling here.

It seems that over the next decade we will see printing technologies continue to expand, but I'm not sure what that means for the concept of "print".

Why We Are Having The Print and E Debate

Pat McGrew

We've been asking the questions "Is Print Dead?" for the last couple of months. It started as a conversation about digital first strategies and some of the ways we've seen print disappear. It turned into an idea for how to foster smart conversation about the power of print, but also the power of digital communication and picking the right channel for the conversations. The amazing thing about our title is that we've been able to draw people into conversations that focus on print advocacy, discussions that promote digital first, and dialogs with people who are firmly committed to making decisions based on their current needs. And through all of the conversations, there are the people who tell us that Print is not dead but growing in new directions. And those directions open opportunities to link print and digital, enabling even more types of conversations.

There is a divide among us on the value of print. For some of us, it holds the power to communicate, while for others it is the medium of the past. It depends on who you are talking to, and if you are referring to bills and statements, marketing mail, educational content, or even signs and displays. There seems to be more heat in the debate about transactional documents and if all bills and statements should be banished to bits and delivered to phones and tablets and personal computers. Educators have been in deep debate for years about when to use printed books, when to create customized books, and when to put content online or on tablets. There is growing debate in the world of sign and display. The rise of digital displays of all sizes sees some of the traditional wide format printing replaced by giant LED panels manned by programmers. If you are in the marketing business you look at marketing budgets and communication requirements to see how to meet your brief most effectively: sometimes that is in print and sometimes it is not.

In all of these aspects of communication and many more, there is always an opportunity for both print and digital delivery. In many cases using print in concert with digital enhancement (QR codes, bar codes, Augmented Reality), digital communication over the web, or mobile communication via apps, is the basis of the most effective communication plan. And that is true whether it is a bill, a statement, a book, a marketing offer,  or a book designed to educate.

If we've learned anything in the last decade it is that people are different. Some people learn aurally, others visually, and still others through reading. Not every millennial wants everything on their phone, and not every senior wants everything on paper. That leaves us looking for guidelines on how to pick communication options when budgets are tight and the option to communicate in every channel is financially blocked.

Pick Print First When...

Print when the law requires print. This may seem like it doesn't need to be said, but at this moment there are many documents that must be printed for delivery, confounding people who want to live paper-free. Many financial transactions and legal interactions require print today, though some of this is changing. Know your legal requirements before you start making decisions that could pose business problems down the road.

Print when your customer tells you they want you to communicate in print. And once they have specified print, respect that option.

Print when you are building omni-channel campaigns that touch the web and mobile. Enhance those campaigns with signs, displays, catalogs, coupons, and point-of-sale collateral. The point here is to not forget the myriad options for print. It's not just a letter or A-4 size piece of paper with some ink or toner; print has many personalities.

Pick Digital First When...

Use mobile and web-based communication when it provides the best customer experience. Online applications, real-time notifications, location-based communication, near-field communication alerts, and a host of other communication options are made for digital first communication plans.

Offer options to interact in print, like offers to send a print catalog or printed coupons. You can create a cycle of communication by using digital to drive to print to drive back to digital. 

Use online communications to create immersive experiences, linking video, music, lectures, and instruction. But remember that there are consumers who do not have access to the internet or smartphones, so your best way to reach them will be in print.

We will be exploring print, mobile and online communications because we want to know if Print as we know it is dead, or if, like Mark Twain, rumors of its death are premature. Talk to us on Twitter at @IsPrintDead2018 and use the hashtag #IsPrintDead to share your thoughts.





The Waste of White Space

Kevin Craine

Companies spend millions of dollars to send millions of customer statements each and every month. While the stats and numbers can vary, let’s assume that it costs your company approximately one dollar to print a simple, one page statement. Then add to that the cost of an envelope and the postage; another dollar or so, give or take. Now multiply that $2.00 by the number of mail pieces that go out the door each month and my guess is that your company now has invested a significant amount of money into this routine customer communications process.  So the question becomes: is that investment simply a lost cost, or are you wasting an important opportunity to build revenue instead?

Customer Bills and Statements Get Noticed

Customers are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day through the internet, television, radio and social media. Most of those messages are ignored as part of the endless chatter of today’s media. But monthly customer bills and statements get noticed and often rise above the clutter or competing communications. Indeed, analysts tell us that plain old paper is experiencing a comeback; especially when the content is directly relevant to each recipient. In other words, people most often open and read their monthly statements -- you can’t say that for many other forms of customer communication.

Don’t Waste the White Space

On any typical statement there exists open “white space” that does not contain any text or images. Depending on the design of the document and the content included, this white space can be significant, often leaving potentially valuable real estate on each page unused. In many document designs, especially those associated with legacy output, there is fixed space that is intentionally left open, such as the area in the header or footer. This can be used for branding or advertising. Other areas of white space are available only when dynamic content does not fill the space. For example, the area left at the end of a page or end of a document set that is unused and open for your marketing message. Some leading organizations today are even working with space created dynamically between line items, or sections of a form, to place relevant information based on that particular item or service.

Leveraging Wasted Opportunity

Companies already invest the time, money and effort to create recurring monthly customer statements. Why not leverage each “customer appointment” by including relevant and targeted messaging for additional products and services?  It costs six times more to gain a new customer than it does to sell to an existing one, so leveraging unused white space on transactional documents that are already being sent just makes good business sense.

Moving Forward

There are a variety of factors to consider in the proper use of white space and some very important strategic and technical issues that must be addressed. The good news is that there a number of next generation document composition tools to consider to get the job done. How should you move forward? Look for providers and partners that provide the right mix of experience, vision and advanced capabilities that will help you make the most of your wasted white space.

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