What do we need to know about millennials and print?

column-Millie Dizon-PR Matters

Part One


Dear PR Matters,

I work in a corporate communications group of a medium-sized company and often hear my marketing colleagues say that the younger generation prefers digital news to print.

With that, there is an ongoing debate of how much budget we should give to print. Should it be more or less, or do we just put our resources in digital. We would like to get your thoughts on this so we have a better perspective of this situation when making our plans.


Pia C.

Dear Pia,

You letter is very timely and, I think, expresses the thoughts of many marketers.  We have seen the evolution of media, from mainstream to social media, and there is that mind-set that it should be one or the other.

One thing we have to remember about the digital revolution is that it is constantly changing. How many popular platforms, like My Space and Friendster, are no longer active? At the same time, mainstream media has adapted to the changing times, and now has social-media formats in the mix. With that, the mainstream and digital can actually coexist and complement each other, and it is up to the skill of the marketing team to make these two worlds work together.

While many marketing programs are focused on millennials, we should not disregard other generations when making our programs.  Likewise, we should also keep an open mind about millennials and not label them, and we will find many surprises.

In an article in Marketing Professors Today, Nicholas Brown shares with us What Marketers Need to Know About Millennials and Print.  And this will surprise you, as his take is backed by solid data.

Brown says that, “The more our lives are influenced by digital media, the more we are drawn to print as a retreat from online space.  This unexpected tendency is especially noticeable to a demographic you’d least expect to trend this way:  Millennials and their younger siblings [what’s being called Generation Z].”

He goes on to say that, “statistically, millennials consider print media as more trustworthy and authoritative, and report a stronger connection to messages delivered on paper.

“Even if millennials are the most digital-savvy generation, surprisingly more than half ignore digital advertising and, instead, pay the greatest attention to direct mail and print advertising, “Quad Graphics, a global provider of print and marketing services reports.

Part of this behavior, “comes from their having grown up in the digital space, where widespread access to new information spawned new concerns about authority and safety while traversing the Web.”

Brown also says that, “Digital natives, those born after 1980 or so, tend to see print as a respite from the online world—a place away from sterile and physically taxing screens, free from distractions.

For marketers, this means that a “proper reallocation of resources might be necessary to acknowledge and respond to offline consumer preferences.”

How strong is the relationship between young people and print?  If we consider data from researchers at TRU, a division of TNS Research Global, it appears to be strong, indeed.

Brown cites a survey of 600 young adults aged 16 to 26 in 2011, which touched on various corners of the print industry, from magazines to advertising to direct mail.

He says, “it found an overwhelming preference among respondents for print in several categories, despite their fluency in social media and mobile media. People surveyed by TRU acknowledged digital as an easier and greener option, but still preferred getting news and information in print by large margins: they favored print over tablets for books (78 percent), magazines (71 percent) and newspapers (52 percent).

Why these surprising results? Brown lists some things for marketers to think about, which we will discuss in next week’s column.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the UK based International Public Relations Association, the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the local chair.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations.  Please send your comments and questions to [email protected].

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