The death of print has been heralded for decades. Prophets of woe daily proclaim, on websites and especially Twitter, that consumers – especially Millennials and Generation Z – have entirely abandoned ink on paper in favor of the glittering screen.
Not so fast, self-proclaimed pundits!
Leaving aside the obvious fallacy when it comes to packaging, printing in general is certainly not doomed. Total print volume and value is increasing worldwide. Serious, peer-reviewed studies have shown that the haptic (touch) properties of print make a measurable difference in communicating a lasting, memorable message. When several major retailers abandoned print catalogs in the 1990s in favor of online alternatives, store sales plummeted. Even printed signage has endured as a cost-beneficial alternative to expensive digital displays.
What happened? The advent of digital communication technology did not replace print; it transformed it. Old forms, such as newspapers, declined or transitioned to mobile content delivery. Giant consumer catalogs like Sears & Roebuck have disappeared, except for the annual Ikea catalog, which remains immensely popular. However, these have been replaced not just by online e-commerce sites but also by hordes of customized print catalogs, mailers, and inserts.