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Will Digital Only Work?

Let’s be clear. Digital communications can include email, website, social media and mobile. Many marketing, communication and development professionals have made digital their main focus for the last several years.

Let’s also be clear about print. It’s the promotion of anything from a product to a service to a brand via print materials like posters, fliers, postcards, newsletters, catalogs, etc.

It strikes me that there truly is a very real symbiotic relationship between digital and print and when that relationship is ignored results can often be negatively affected.

Here’s one example of how “just” digital doesn’t work well: A study done at Virginia Tech tested the effectiveness of print and online versions of the university’s alumni magazine on open rate and recall. Half of the subscribers received a print version and half received an email link to the online version.

Subscribers to the magazine remembered the online version 49% of the time, vs. 82% for print. The open rates were 77% for print and, again, only 49% for digital. In addition, people who viewed the print version recalled more articles than the online version. When asked which delivery method they preferred, 63% were for print and 26% for online; the remaining 4% said “both” or “neither.”


  • Print stands out more;

  • Print is remembered more; and

  • Print is better understood.

Yes, it’s true, in some cases, digital alone may be less expensive, but you’re probably sacrificing readers (and for you nonprofits out there, donors) in the process.

Anyone out there willing to share their experience in the digital vs. print arena?

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