Why is it that people who are so quick to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing are equally as quick to tag the toe of whomever or whatever they assume this big thing will replace?  Yes, the print industry was mind-numbingly slow to embrace the internet and the opportunities it presented, instead viewing it as a competitor.  Yes, many publications died because of this miscalculation.

Does that mean print is dead?  Of course not.  An industry that’s been around for hundreds of years doesn’t go six feet under in 10 years.  Yes, newsstand sales are down, but a new report from the Audit Bureau of Circulation shows subscriptions are up.  And more publications are bundling their subscriptions, offering print, digital and mobile packages, with unique content for each.

So rather than asking if print is alive and well, let’s ask a question that’s much more relevant. Is print right for your business?

To answer that question, you have to answer a few other questions.  How does your target audience consume information?  People respond to different media in different ways.  Some prefer reading newspapers and magazines, some people’s eyes and ears are forever attached to their smartphones, some can’t get enough of YouTube.  Some include a combination of all of the above, which is why it’s important to put every option on the table for consideration.

What types of print publications does your target audience read regularly?  Monthly magazines may make more sense for branding, while daily newspapers allow for a more tactical approach, whether that involves time sensitive offers, daily tips or testing different content and design strategies.

Print’s greatest strength may be the credibility that it’s built over hundreds of years.  Many print sources are still regarded as the authority for the industry they serve, whether it’s a national powerhouse, or a small niche publication.  What source does your target audience trust?  Associating your brand with an industry authority and capitalizing on that innate trustworthiness is a no-brainer.

Ever see the recent TV commercial for the New York Times?  It’s a great reminder of how print can be as much a part of someone’s daily routine as a cup of coffee.  People are reading – on the train, during lunch or a coffee break, and in bed on Sunday morning.  Can you picture your clients doing any of these things?  If they’re not enjoying the crinkle of a newspaper or the high gloss of a magazine, maybe they’re reading on their tablets.  As a matter of fact, with the emergence of tablets, major brands are optimizing their websites and creating new ones to make them look like – wait for it – a more visually appealing magazine.

Most marketers who dismiss print as a viable marketing platform do so for two reasons.  First, they think it isn’t cutting edge enough. Second, they just don’t understand how to use print effectively.  For example, content marketing – the creation and sharing of relevant content for the purpose of building relationships that drive revenue – was happening on paper for decades before social media made it cool.  And now, with advanced barcodes, QR codes and Microsoft tags, print ads are more interactive, trackable and easier to respond to than ever.  Some may even call them cutting edge.  In addition, with the bundled package opportunities offered by the publications, it can be a great opportunity to create a more integrated marketing program, hitting your target via print with a branded message while simultaneously providing a time-sensitive offer via mobile.

While others keep trying to write print’s obituary, determining whether or not print is right for your business is a much more productive question to ask.  Maybe it’s not.  But if it is, and you can harness the power of print, you can put some serious distance between your business and the competition.

Agree or disagree?  How do you integrate print into your marketing mix?