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Print vs digital: why it’s time to put an end to the modern-day feud

Grace Procter • 1st February

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Whether you’re a tech-savvy lover of the digital age or a total print traditionalist, it’s time to take a look at why sitting on the fence may be the way forward – at least for the moment.

We’re all guilty of it, aren’t we? We committed to using less paper, to putting everything into a digital format. Newspapers did it. Magazines too. And yet we still can’t quite kill off our emotional and tactile attachment to print.

It might die out eventually – and that’s debatable. But right now that possibility seems so far away that it could actually be time to rethink print altogether, rather than dismissing it entirely

Here’s a cautionary reminder: there were once rumblings that video (and, later, film content on demand – think Netflix) would herald the end of the cinema. That hasn’t happened yet!

But back to print. As you’re sat reading this blog on your phone, tablet or laptop, take a look around you. Are there any pieces of paper scattered around? Your notes for that presentation you have next week? An article you’ve printed off for later? Perhaps even a book? A hold-it-in-your-hands, flip-through-the-pages, real life book! 

We’re willing to bet that there’s at least something nearby – or perhaps even a whole load of somethings. 

So, do digital and print both have a place? We think so, and evidence supports it.

For the love of print

A recent article from Ella Rhodes at The Psychologist – a publication that, interestingly, opts to use both digital and print – points to the benefits of the printed word. 

Sure, reading on a digital platform can be better for immediate information gathering. And, according to Roger Dooley at Forbes, it’s great for things like browsing and scanning, keyword spotting and reading more selectively – but it doesn’t inspire in-depth reading.

Print, on the other hand, can encourage ‘deep reflection and original thought’, suggests Ella Rhodes.

Research she draws on also reveals that people who read something on paper start to ‘know’ material more quickly than those who opt for screen reading. Roger Dooley, too, highlights a study that shows people who read texts in print score higher on reading comprehension tests. 

You can probably recall a time you’ve skimmed through something you’ve found online, decided it looks interesting or useful, and then printed it out for later – you know… so you can read it ‘properly’. This is pretty common practice, says The Psychologist – a reader can more easily focus on a single page without losing sight of the whole text; you can clearly see where it begins and where it ends.

The future’s…both?

Here at Words&Pictures, we’ve recently seen more demand for magazines than we have for four years – through internal surveys, client colleagues have really shown their love for print. An increasing number of companies are now opting for dual-channel projects, from printed publications with a PDF version to digital channels full of rolling, magazine-style content with the option to print. 

We agree with The Psychologist’s notions that digital and print should be viewed as complementary, rather than competing formats. We need to make the best of both worlds.

While there are surely great things ahead when it comes to communications – we’re already more than a little excited about the possibilities innovations like virtual reality offer – print still matters. And we’re certain it will for some time to come.

01943 854 800

Words&Pictures (Commercial) Ltd
The Editorial Design Centre
Wharfebank House
Ilkley Road
Leeds
LS21 3JP