The Future of Print in a Digital Age – TALK.GLOBAL in conversation with Duncan Chater

According to Social Media Week, we check our phones up to 200 times a day, spend at least five hours per week on social media and, if you’re a millennial, spend a third of your waking hours online. So, it’s no surprise that for years now, marketers have been proclaiming ‘Print is Dead’. But are they right?

Duncan Chater, Global Vice President of Hearts Digital thinks not. “Although the world is more digital than ever, and marketers continue to up their spending on digital campaigns rather than traditional print, don’t underestimate the power of print brands (and their online alter egos). Magazine editors are experts in creating desire for things you don’t even know you want. While the social and digital space allows brands to predict behaviour and deliver what they know consumers already want.”

Chater argues that in a crowded digital world, trusted media brands not only stand out, they set the agenda, through powerful editorial storytelling. That is, if they adapt to the multi-platform world – print, social and digital working in harmony. The rise of the ‘editorial’ influencer is the natural result of this symbiosis – professional journalists who educate and inspire in print/online and take to social to tell us where to find what we want. Chater adds, “Those brands that are using both print and digital influencers to voice their message are experiencing deeper engagement. On average this is three times higher than if brands limit their campaigns to one or the other”.

The multi-tasking nature of journalism now means that the teams at Hearst often come from Google or Facebook, rather than fashion and journalism degrees. Chater says the reason they’re drawn to Hearst and other publishers is the same as it’s always been, “Media brands are rooted in creativity and driving passions. That’s as true now as it was ten years ago and is still helping us win the fight for talent.”

So, it’s the power to inspire, born of editorial expertise, that keeps print brands relevant. But how do they compete with the often huge reach metrics digital campaigns return? Metrics that somehow translate into ROI stats. For instance, according to Celebrity Influence’s report, Influencing Beauty, every £1 spent on influencer marketing in the beauty sector results in an average ROI of £8.81.

Chater reckons the next frontier in campaign measurement will move beyond KPIs such as impressions or engagement, which are ‘translated’ into ROI. “The purchasing funnel is what matters now. Testing what content and metrics can show how far your work has got a customer down the path to purchase. We’re doing a lot of work at Hearst on how we can demonstrate our impact on sales.”
So where does that leave us? The rise of experiential marketing, particularly beloved of millennials and Gen Z, indicates that brands who live both online and in the real world, and who understand the need to both inspire and convert sales will thrive. Print brands are well placed to do both. Long live print.