Published June 15, 2016

Printed media in a digital age

The electric toothbrush should have marked the end of the bog standard toothbrush, with its static bristles and playful colourful tips. Social media should have wiped out the concept of meeting up for coffee and Saturday carnage at the supermarket checkouts should be no more thanks to online shopping and delivery.

But none of the above has happened…why not?

Something the makers of the Back to The Future films acknowledged was the idea that the future doesn’t start from scratch. This concept is clearly evident in the world we live in, and captured perfectly in this photograph of the Bullring Shopping Centre in Birmingham, specifically of the modern Selfridges building and St Martins Church.

St Martins & Bullring
Selfridges building and St Martins Church

Every technological development occurs in a world that still retains everything up until that point. Even in the home, who else had a shelf of VHS tapes with labels like “Terminator 2 – KEEP THIS” and “You’ve Been Framed” next to a DVD player? If you were born after 2000, a VHS cassette is like a bulky rectangular DVD that we used in the late 20th Century to watch, record and accidentally delete films from – the protection mechanism being a hole and some sticky tape. You will never experience the rage provoked by having to rewind a cassette you rented from the video shop because the last person to rent it couldn’t be bothered.

Today’s Use of Print Media

Digital screens have reached a point where they’re no longer prohibitively expensive to use in promotions, even for smaller budgets. But the adverts we see around us are still often on a printed media: the sale signs in a shop window, the catalogue you can pick up from a high street retailer that sounds like Bargos, the large billboards on our streets. Could it be that that digital media isn’t cutting the mustard?

We think not. Digital and printed media simply have their own strengths and weaknesses. One has not replaced the other, one has merely given us two options where there previously wasn’t a choice. Much like how the electric toothbrush has to bow to the flexibility and space saving qualities of a normal toothbrush when packing an overnight bag, the digital screen has to admire how a printed sign manages to stay alive without a constant source of electricity. Many, many businesses still leverage the power of print media in the form of brochures, menus, booklets, business cards, and a whole host of other material for branding and promotion, not to mention information dissemination. Companies like Duplo International have a wide range of printing equipment with versatile functionalities to cater to the thriving print media industry, and it’s not going anywhere soon.

Both print and digital media can be engaging and effective, we simply have to weigh up the options available to us for an individual application and choose on merit.

Merging Print and Digital

Print and digital media occupy the same world and for some time there have been efforts to merge the two. This makes sense now that in almost everybody’s pocket sits a smartphone with enough processing power to crack the Enigma code in the time it takes to say the word “kitten meme”. The usage of smartphones in this digital world is no longer a transition but a revolution. If interested, you can head down to blogs written by Cell Phone Deal and similar others to see the impact of smartphones in this 21st century and how they affect digital media.

That said, a great example of how merging print with digital can be used to good effect is how pin badges have evolved over the years. Pin badges were once a festival fashion staple, and still are, but nowadays you can go online and design your own pin badges on sites like Pincious. From these sites, you can ask for anything you want to be printed on your pin badge, from hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, to QR codes that people can scan if they place their phone near to you. Similarly, Max Factor made its products scannable through a smartphone app. By scanning the product the consumer can gain access to related content such as reviews, tutorial videos and a whole host of other information. The idea came from an analysis of market trends which showed that 70% of women research online before purchasing in-store. By providing this information at all touch points, Max Factor was able to empower the consumer to help them make the right choice.

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We mustn’t forget social media as Twitter hashtags have evidently thrown their online shackles off nowadays and we can happily include a hashtag on a printed advert and not have people flag it up as a spelling mistake or typographical error! We’re even seeing political parties using them in the displays behind speakers who will receive media attention. Also, businesses that are based a lot on social media are able to utilize social media management software from websites like, so they can focus on print media at the same time.

Let us know what you think of printed media in a digital age over on our Twitter or LinkedIn.