Print vs. Digital

Everywhere you look, it seems there are new digital developments and cutting-edge technologies vying for attention. Despite all the noise, print still occupies a powerful place in the marketing world. Digital has its own set of advantages, of course, but it’s hard to beat print when you’re looking to make sure your brand is noticed and remembered:


  • Print can build stronger recall and emotional connection with its multisensory approach. As a physical, tactile piece of media, print can engage more of the senses at once, which leads audiences to form a stronger connection and have better recall of the content down the line.
  • Print requires less effort to pay attention, or reduced cognitive load, versus digital. Reading on a screen may result in distractions from multiple elements, but print readers can pay attention to just one, singular message. This, too, corresponds with better focus and recall.
  • Reading a message in print, rather than on a screen, increases reading comprehension. For marketers, this means audiences get a better and deeper understanding of the brand’s messaging and are more likely to be persuaded into action.


The Science of Print and Comprehension


Marketers often know from considerable experience how powerful print can be, but if you need the science to back it up, we’ve got that too. Several studies have looked at print in the context of memory, reading comprehension, and other factors important to marketing.


One 2023 study, first published in the journal PLosOne, reported that the act of reading from a screen requires greater cognitive load and leads to less attention than reading physical print.[1] The study measured brain activity in certain regions of the brain during both screen and print reading as a means of gathering neurobiological evidence of the effectiveness of both types. In the end, print was found to be superior at activating higher-level frequency brain activity, which in turn is connected to greater attention, recall, and focus.


Another 2023 study, from the University of Valencia, analyzed reading comprehension by comparing print and digital leisure reading habits and their corresponding levels of comprehension. The researchers ultimately found minimal relationship between reading comprehension and digital reading, but a significant, positive relationship between comprehension and print reading. It’s not even close, either; the study suggested that print readers may have six to eight times higher comprehension than others who read for the same amount of time using digital devices.[2]


Even a decade ago, researchers had begun to notice the gap between print and digital content consumption. A 2014 study from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand found that increased digital reading leads to an increased amount of reading overall, but lacked other benefits. Digital reading was also linked to a negative effect on readers’ patience, increased multitasking and skimming, and led to higher distraction and more eye strain.[3]


Today’s marketing landscape inevitably includes both print and digital components, and when they work together in harmony, they can produce something even greater. Digital enhancements, from QR codes to personalized URLs to augmented reality and more, can add an intriguing and interactive layer to a beautiful, traditional print piece. The two approaches can combine to create a bigger experience that allows audiences to experience both the personalized interactivity of digital and the tactile memory-building of print.


At Allied, we’re committed to bringing clients the best of all marketing possibilities – print and digital alike. Our team brings a wide range of expertise, matched by our equally wide range of resources and solutions. We work with you to explore creative options and ensure that your brand makes a mark on the world in its own special way.




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