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Fiber space vs. cyberspace

Jun 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Despite traditional print continuing to grow, more advertisers are looking to the Internet and other forms of e-advertising, such as PDAs. This was just one of the findings to emerge from the 129th annual PaperWeek conference, staged by the American Forest & Paper Assn. April 9-12, 2006, in New York.

Despite the rivalry from e-media, all is not doom and gloom for the American commercial print sector, if other forecasts are to be believed.

Print wins on effectiveness
According to Chuck Richard, vice president and lead analyst with industry evaluators Outsell (Burlingame, CA,, print spending continued to grow by 3.3 percent in 2005. TV and radio ad spending fell 2.4 percent. Online mediums are being used by some 80 percent of advertisers—a massive adoption rate that is set to hit 90 percent by 2008.

According to Richard, who spoke at PaperWeek, online search engine Google now is rated more effective than Yahoo! or MSN in keyword advertising, and more than Yahoo in contextual ads. Richard forecasts online marketing spending will grow 19 percent this year. That’s eight times greater than TV or radio; six times greater than print.

But, as Richard is keen to point out, the traditional commercial printer need not look to sell off its newest press just yet. “Trade magazines, events and direct mail marketing are rated the top three most effective for both branding and lead generation,” he states.

Outsell’s latest research study forecasts print spending to grow during 2006 at the following rates:

  • Direct mail, 1.5 percent.
  • General magazines and newspapers, 2 percent.
  • Custom print publications, 2.2 percent.
  • Trade magazines, 3.3 percent.
  • Newsletters, 6.1 percent.
  • Directories, 8.5 percent.
Catalogs, magazines evolve
Nina Locke, president and CEO of the Magazine Publishers of America (New York), underlined the growth in magazines and the apparent buoyancy of that market sector.

Locke said that in 2005 alone, there were approximately 1,500 new magazine launches. She also noted that the Hispanic readership market is one of the fastest growing sectors, currently worth $41 million, a figure that is set to triple in the next 50 years. Contrary to public opinion, Locke said 84 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 or older are reading magazines, on average nine issues per month. Most significantly, they are more likely to react quickly to advertisements within the pages of magazines.

Magazine advertisement revenues in 2005 increased 7.2 percent to $23 billion, with advertisement pagination repeating the trend, up from 234,000 pages in 2004 to 243,000 pages in 2005, an increase of 0.5 percent. This is especially significant, as Locke revealed that for every one percent rise in ad revenue, some $1.3 billion in magazine revenue is generated.

John Gillen, president and regional manager for Stora Enso’s North American division, said print is now the largest driver of traffic to the Web, underlining the connection between “fiber space and cyberspace.”

“Consumers have taken control and are in the driver’s seat,” said Gillen. Where consumers go, advertisers will follow, and he forecast this will determine the future of print. If one resource is found to be unsuccessful, then another is chosen.

Gillen said while the magazine market continues to thrive, this helps other print elements, such as direct mail and preprinted inserts. At the same time, catalog printing also is on the rise. Although catalog pagination is decreasing, catalogs are increasing their frequency by targeting individual customers. This is playing a major part in showing that the two elements work together well, as consumers are steered toward the Web via a direct mail shot, while at the same time choosing to receive a traditional print catalog. “Print is and will remain an indispensable part of the integrated media mix,” he said.

FSC certification on the rise
The conference also highlighted the growing number of paper merchants and printers earning Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Michael Washburn, vice president of brand management for the FSC in the United States, said there are now clear links being established between producers and end users, with both merchants and printers embarking on the certification process. This is enabling paper merchants and distributors to sell more FSC-certified papers. More importantly, the printer is better able to use them and carry the all-important chain-of-custody certification symbol.

All of this sends a significant message to the U.S. commercial print sector: Work in certain areas, especially that of direct mail, catalogs and magazines, still is out there and growing.

Andy Scott is a freelance consultant to the print and paper industry in the United States and the United Kingdom. Contact him at