Doom-and-gloomers say that print is doomed. Direct mail is a goner. What started with the ancient papyrus-wielding scribes, grew exponentially when Gutenberg discovered offset printing, is finished. Caput. Stick a fork in it, they say. It's done.
They name the internet as the one singlehanded instrument of destruction. They cite video-game-generation short-attention spans as an accomplice and falling postal usage as evidence. Those of us in the putting-ink-on-paper business might as well be selling buggy whips, they say. We're done for.
But whoa, there, guys. Not so fast!
A leading marketing research firm, the Winterberry Group, has dramatic evidence that flies in the face of these print pariahs.
Winterberry predicts that direct mail spending will grow by 5.8% this year; while direct response print will increase by a not so robust, but still sweet 2%. But Digital and the variable data printing it provides—will increase by a whopping 14%.
14%! Wow! But let's back up a bit.
2008 to 2009 was catastrophic for print-based marketers. Printing and direct mail volume declined by a staggering 16.7% in that one 12-month period, ending up the year at $43.8B sales volume. But by mid-year 2010, things were turning around. From July to December, volumes bounced back by 3.1% producing an EOY value of $45.2B.
Winterberry predicts that all signs are for 2011 to continue the rebound, increasing by 5.8% and coming in with an EOY value of $47.8B—$4B higher than we were just 2 ugly years ago. Not bad for an industry on its deathbed, eh?
So what's going on?
The great recession seems to be easing. People are spending more again, and many marketers are returning to the mail. Furthermore, the long-touted email revolution isn't panning out quite the way it had been expected to. So marketers are abandoning the electronic world for good old fashioned print again.
At the same time, USPS-enforced regulations to keep lists cleaner, and greater acceptance of detailed response analytics mean that mailers can mail smaller, but more accurately and with more highly targeted campaigns. Hence, they should see better ROI for their efforts.
The USPS is doing its part by not seeking huge postal increases for 2011.
Digital is the big winner because as marketers mail with greater specificity, their volumes drop. And as you—savvy marketer that you are—probably knows, digital is more economical at lower run lengths. Added to the digital difference is digital's ability to create custom pieces for each recipient, thus targeting the messaging even more tightly.
So before you believe the doom-and-gloomers who are predicting the end of the print world, please consider that we are in rapidly evolving times. It's happened before and it is happening today.
We're at the conflux of technological availability and economic necessity. Printing and marketing is changing; it is not going away.