Almost every time I visit a company’s facility, or meet with coatings manufacturers and suppliers at conferences and trade shows, I am asked about the future of print media. Everyone has the same question: Do people still read print magazines? While I can’t speak for all publications, my answer for PCI is always, “Yes, print is still very popular in our industry.”
I base this answer on our biennial Reader Preference Study (RPS), which asks questions about how our readers access industry information, as well as their opinions about PCI’s content, webinars and events. These studies continue to show us that our readers prefer print. According to our 2017 RPS, although 100% of our surveyed readers have access to an electronic device, and 95% of them have accessed industry information online in the past 12 months, 78% of respondents rank PCI’s print edition as the primary method of accessing our magazine (when compared to our digital edition, website, eNewsletter and mobile app).
I have learned through discussions with readers that many people like to have physical copies of the magazine – often marked with sticky notes – at their desk or benchtop/laboratory space for easy reference. Others travel frequently, and save their issues to read on flights. And there are those people that just enjoy the feeling of holding a magazine.
It looks like the coatings industry is not alone. A December 11, 2017, Folio article by Steve Smith, titled, We’re Still Here: Media Buyers Keep the Print Faith, notes that “advertisers and agencies do retain faith in print as a medium.” When Folio asked media buyers how they would likely reallocate funds from their zero-sum budgets, the first answer was always “print.”
In his discussions with these buyers, Smith learned that print’s special mode of consumption offers a quality that other media don’t provide. It is less cluttered and fragmented, and is more focused. Ginger Taylor White, EVP, Managing Director, Publishing Investment at Amplifi, tells Smith that magazines themselves and their reading experience are the cure for digital.
“Magazines are still that lean back, tangible indulgence,” she says. “For some it is aspirational and for others it is that time to take a deep dive into something they are passionate about. Regardless of what a magazine means to a reader, it’s time that a person takes for themselves.”
However, the challenge with print is the difficulty in measuring an advertisement’s impact and effectiveness among readers. For digital ads, click-through rates and other data can easily be tracked, including where viewers are from, what time of day or day of the week they viewed, how much time they spent on the page, etc. Measuring the effectiveness of print ads is more time, cost and labor intensive, and is done through measuring ROI, conducting surveys or using ad measurement services.
Vanessa Watts, EVP of Media at Laughlin Constable, tells Smith that a digital presence can actually help print. She says, “With publishers providing more digital solutions, measurement becomes easier and more robust than say, typical Starch (a print ad measurement service) reporting.” She notes that experimenting with different mixes of media, both print and digital, helps to compare print with other platforms.
The takeaway for publishers and media buyers is to not rely on print alone. Diversification is essential, and it is important for publishers to offer companies a variety of ways to engage with their customers, whether it be via print, digitally or in person at live events. PCI Magazine’s publishing company, BNP Media, saw the writing on the wall years ago, and in my opinion has done an excellent job in developing multiple media platforms among all of our brands for companies to choose from – mobile-responsive websites, weekly eNewsletters, targeted eBlasts, social media, videos, webinars and annual live events. And it is beneficial for media buyers to choose a mix of print, digital and in-person packages to share their messages with subscribers.
It will be interesting to see how our RPS answers change over the coming years as the next generation of coatings experts – a generation that was raised in a digital world – enters the field. I expect the percentage of people who prefer to access PCI digitally will increase, however I am also confident that as a resource and reference tool, there will always be a place for a physical copy of PCI in the lab and at the benchtop. I welcome your feedback on how you prefer to access PCI – feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.