Buyers have been slow to pick up on digital’s image problem

Richard Stuart-Turner and Rhys Handley
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

While printers have had to face up to many challenges over the past few years, consumer trust hasn’t been one of them.

If anything, the proliferation of ‘fake news’ from online media has downgraded the general public’s faith in digital sources, and consequently boosted print’s standing.

Recent research published by paper and print advocacy group Two Sides found that the majority of people polled (almost four-fifths of 10,700 consumers) are more trusting of information provided in printed formats than they are of digital equivalents, while nearly three-quarters of respondents were worried about fake news being propagated on digital platforms.

Most respondents also had concerns about hacking and leaks when their personal information was stored digitally, with almost three-quarters of those polled keeping paper copies of documents at home for safety and security.

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold says print tends to be more trusted than digital formats because of the “time, effort and expertise required to produce and publish something in print that means that there’s a value attached to it”.

“And it’s that sense of value that connects with an audience. Digital is great for fast and immediate, but it means that anyone can produce electronic communications and, frequently, too many people do,” he says.

“If you’re doing something in print, you will often be attaching that content to a brand, whether it’s a newspaper or a magazine for example, and that brand has a reputation and an audience, which adds a lot of credibility to the whole process.”

He adds: “It’s been particularly clear recently that you simply can’t believe everything that you read, and if you haven’t got a good idea of what the source of that information is, it should be treated with a very high degree of scepticism.

“When you read it from a trusted source – a newspaper for example – then you have a higher level of comfort that it’s going to have gone through more review processes and may be more reliable.”

Smithers Pira print consultant Sean Smyth says “there’s a little bit of credence to ‘they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true’ that still exists in the market”.

He adds: “I think what we’re seeing is general dissatisfaction with provision of information and it just so happens that recently we’ve seen an awful lot of bad publicity about Facebook, and brands having their names linked to unsuitable websites, and people are asking questions about the effectiveness or efficiency of these new media.”

Concerns around programmatic advertising and online ad fraud have been steadily increasing and a CNN investigation revealed last month that digital ads from more than 300 major companies have recently been found on YouTube channels promoting far right extremism, paedophilia and North Korean propaganda.

“There is a concern from brands that their advertising will be shown in the wrong place,” says Chris Liversidge, managing director of digital marketing agency QueryClick.

“That is the main danger and then the second aspect is around the confidence and transparency of the platforms being used to place those ads.”

Safe haven

It’s perhaps hardly surprising, then, that the tried and tested environment of print advertising feels increasingly like a safe haven for brands.

Local newspapers are particularly benefiting from the renewed trust in print, with new research commissioned by Local Media Works, part of the News Media Association, finding that readers are more than three times more likely to trust their local publisher than information they see on Facebook.

74% of 2,131 respondents to the survey, carried out by YouGov, said they trust the news and information in their local newspaper, while social media was trusted by only 22%.

News Media Association deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson says: “Occasional errors are unavoidable in the fast-paced world of news generation and they will be swiftly corrected but deliberate fake news is not a newspaper phenomenon because the industry is committed to very high standards of journalism.

“What needs to be addressed is the fact that ad spend by major brands and public bodies such as the UK government remains inexplicably skewed towards the digital platforms, despite all the well-documented problems with ad fraud, inappropriate content, fake news, and a lack of understanding among consumers of how they are being targeted.

“This needs to change urgently otherwise journalism risks becoming unsustainable as a business.”

This continued disconnect between print’s proven effectiveness and the ways it is actually used – or not used – by brands is an issue that the IPIA aims to help address at its annual Everything’s Possible in Print event, which shows marketers why they should not overlook print’s numerous advantages.

Mike Roberts, IPIA chairman and managing director at PMG Print Management, says many younger marketers don’t understand the value of the medium because colleges and universities no longer cover print.

“You’ve got this whole swathe of people in marketing and branding who don’t have an awareness of print.”

But he adds this generation is “slowly but surely starting to realise the value of it”.

“There’s a value and emotion to print. Picking a mail piece up off the floor has a uniqueness, particularly if you’re a millennial who might not be used to receiving things in the post. That gives it a cut-through from a marketing point of view, particularly if it’s a programmatic piece of mail that’s personalised with something that’s very dear and relevant to that recipient.”

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation later this month will help print’s cause even further as marketers will be able to use ‘legitimate interests’ to contact consumers by post.

The digital age may have inadvertently enhanced print’s status and gravitas, and there are numerous opportunities on the horizon, but the industry now needs to get out there and shout about the power and value of print in order to reap the benefits.


Findings paint a damning picture of social media sites

martynMartyn Eustace, chairman, Two Sides

Fake news, social media and an individual’s lack of control over their own data have created an atmosphere of suspicion and caution towards all forms of digital communication. Without trust, any brand – whether high-street shop or global digital platform – will suffer in the short and, if they don’t act quickly, the long term.

Most people agree there’s a link between the rise of social media and the increase in fake news. But what that link is and what difference the medium makes is currently under debate.

More time spent on social media, particularly by young people, has led to Two Sides surveying more than 10,000 consumers in 10 countries about their view of print and paper in a digital world. Issues of trust and fake news emerged clearly and also striking consumer preferences for reading news in print.

Our findings paint a damning picture of social media, while firmly holding print up as the most trusted source of news. Out of all UK respondents, 76% agree that fake news is a worrying trend, while just 16% trust the news stories they read on social media. This compares with 39% that trust the news stories they read in print newspapers.

Our research chimes with Edelman’s Trust Barometer, which recently reported a 13% lift in trust for traditional media – reversing a five-year decline to reach 61%, while trust in social media dropped two points to just 24%.

What this means for brands is that traditional media – such as direct mail and newspaper and magazine advertising – is becoming more attractive again, with companies able to control what their message is, where it’s seen and how much they’re spending. Brands such as Sky, Unilever, Tesco, Samsung and Google actually increased spending on traditional media in 2017.

It’s clear that when it comes to brand safety and trust, print comes out on top – something the world’s biggest brands are starting to remember.


What is the secret to print’s success in the digital age?

whiteGary White, managing director, Northside Graphics

“I think it is like vinyl in music. Everyone thought it was a dead format and, suddenly, its sales have shot up recently. Print is in our DNA because it has been around for so long. It has a tactile feel – you can handle it and make notes on it. I can’t quite explain it, but there’s just something about it that feels comforting and right. There has generally been bad publicity with fake news and such in digital and that has impacted on our own business positively, especially in direct mail where our static figures have suddenly risen.”

doddPhilip Dodd, managing director, Healeys Print Group

“I think a lot of young people in businesses are discovering print for the very first time. Rarely has anyone seen any digital marketing you can describe as beautiful – but everyone remembers a truly beautiful print piece. One of my colleagues said to me recently that we are entering a golden age of print. Over the last few years, we have changed how we work by getting closer to customers, so they trust the format. We find out what their aims are and host seminars to keep them informed. Print has been around for 600 years because it has evolved.”

kirkKirk Galloway, chief executive, Buxton Press

“I don’t think trust in print has ever really gone away – I think advances in other technologies may have temporarily put print in the shade. We live in a world of supposed fake news where it is increasingly hard to distinguish what is reality and what is not but print still provides the trusted benchmark for many industries, engaging with the reader on a far more emotional level. We constantly hear from many clients that revenues generated through ink on paper adverts are far greater than those achieved online.”


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