Long Live Print! A commentary

22 June 2017

Long Live Print! A commentary



Print media has experienced a downturn in recent decades following the birth of the internet and the subsequent ascent of all-things-digital. But is there a print resurgence on the horizon?

Statistics from across Europe show that after years of decline, print is beginning to stabilise. Decreasing industry turnover is slowing and there have even been some cases of a complete reversal in fortunes for the sector. The Portuguese printing industry has seen turnover increase for the second consecutive year (5.66% in total) and in Austria there has been a 0.8% increase on last year. In addition to this, overall production volumes in Latvia and Lithuania have increased substantially, by 4% and more than 9% respectively. Intergraf publishes an annual economic report (available free of charge for companies belonging to one of Intergraf’s member associations) which gives detailed statistical information about these developments.

As the European printing industry association, Intergraf hears regularly about the many opportunities out there for printers. In advertising, for example, changing perceptions and regulations are causing some companies to return to print. Customers do not as frequently click on online ads (prevented to in many cases by ad-blockers) and the success rate of print ad campaigns have in numerous cases and across generations proven to be more successful than their online counterparts. In Germany, this has culminated in companies spending an average of 3.7% more of their advertising budgets on print for three years running, and in France printed advertising has also experienced a moderate rise.

For printed books, too, there have been positive signs, such as a 5.4% overall increase in book production in Europe. Print is increasingly being used to supplement digital in the book market, with the sale of e-books dropping in some countries. In the UK, for example, e-book sales have decreased by 3% since 2012 – a figure complemented by an 8% increase in physical book sales. Some e-book sellers such as Amazon have even begun to open physical bookshops, highlighting consumers’ persisting desire for printed books which they can see and touch, appealing to the senses in ways that can only be achieved in print. In addition to this, research consistently suggests that information retention is higher when reading from printed products.

Alongside the well-known challenges, digitisation continues to offer many opportunities for printers. Data privacy and security, for instance, is quickly becoming a vastly marketable tool. The time is ripe for European printing companies to harness this significant opportunity by becoming experts in the field, using the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as a catalyst for change. Intergraf has prepared a guide (free of charge for Intergraf member companies), inclusive of specific case examples and a checklist for printers to help them make the most out of this new legislation.

Still thought of as a highly dependable and trustworthy mode of communication, print also plays an important role in wider society, given that an estimated 15% of persons in Europe do not have access to the internet. The success of the EU- and national-level ‘Keep Me Posted’ campaigns are a testament to this, with the movement expanding quickly across Europe and achieving many advocacy successes along the way. Keep Me Posted now enjoys a high level of support in the European Parliament and among European/national civil society actors, as well as in other print-related sectors.

All of these statistics and developments together help to improve the image of print. Misconceptions about print and paper still remain issues for the industry, although Intergraf and campaigns like Keep Me Posted, TwoSides and PrintPower work hard to correct any misunderstandings. Print and digital are highly complementary in an increasingly innovative and diverse media mix; long may this continue.

Long live print!


Written for Druck&Medien Magazin (Austria)

Background photo: Mike Lewinski, Sunrise, Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ikewinski/8072216534/