There’s been a minor buzz this week in B2B circles about recent survey results suggesting that paper magazines and newsletters remain extremely important to business professionals. I’m sure it’s true. I’m also sure it’s not very meaningful. Just because you like something doesn’t mean it’s not dead.
The findings are from Readex Research, and are based on a series of media usage surveys conducted over the last year or so. The results show that when asked what forms of media these professionals use in their work, 74% chose print publications, just three percentage points below the top choice, search engines, and tied with e-newsletters. These results, according to Readex sales director Steve Blom, “help publishers prove to advertisers—whose own ideas regarding usage may be terribly wrong—that professionals haven’t replaced one media form with another.”
Now before I say anything more, I should mention that in my previous career in publishing I was a Readex customer for 20 years or so. I have nothing but admiration for the company and its staff. So anything I say here is not intended as a criticism of the company.
But the thing about Readex is that much of their work is for publishers. Those publishers usually ask Readex to survey their readers. And the readers who bother to reply are usually those who, first, recognize the name of the publication, and second, like it enough to bother replying.
In most of our magazine surveys, we asked our readers to rate us in comparison with our competitors. We always found that our publications were generally liked the best and read the most frequently. No surprise, really, because the readers who responded were generally the ones who knew and liked us.
The Readex press release doesn’t give much detail on the demographics of respondents, but I’d guess that most of them are existing readers of legacy publishers. In addition, a significant chunk are probably older white males—the last bastion, I’d also guess, of committed print users.
So in essence, you’re asking people who subscribe to print publications and who are more familiar with print than any other medium, which media they prefer. It would be shocking if print didn’t come out well.
That doesn’t mean advertisers shouldn’t keep advertising—the numbers of print readers are still substantial. But it also doesn’t mean that print is particularly vital or that it has a bright future. Yes, many people still love print. But in the end, economics and technology will prove more powerful than emotion and habit.