Science Shows Why Print Media Still Works

ScienceToday’s blog is a science lesson explaining why print ads are still just as effective as ever, despite what you may have been led to believe. A recent white paper from MPA (The Association of Magazine Media) takes a close look at the cognitive reasons behind the consistently strong performance of print when compared to other forms of media. There are a number of reasons why.


People pay more attention to something in print. Studies show that on-screen-based reading precipitates more browsing and searching for keywords, as opposed to print, where people spend more time looking at (and considering) each word – mentally highlighting the most important items to them. As the white paper says, “The preponderance of research on reading speed indicates that paper-based reading is slower and more deliberate, while screen-based reading is faster and more superficial.”


It’s easier to comprehend and recall print materials vs. on-screen items. The white paper cites a 2011 Ackerman/Goldsmith study testing the ability of college students to comprehend difficult texts both in print and on screen. Students reading the text on paper scored, on average, 10 points higher than their counterparts. According to the study, “the paper-based readers applied better metacognitive strategies to regulate their comprehension of the material, and they had a surer sense of the degree to which they had understood what they were reading.”


Readers of print focus better and have fewer distractions. One cited example: hyperlinks are associated with lower comprehension and recall.


Print media adds another sense to the equation – touch. Because people are more likely to grasp and retain information gathered through multiple senses, being able to touch a print-on-paper item gives them one more recall trigger.


Long-term remembrance is better in print than on-screen. The white paper cites a Millward Brown study that showed “stronger memory encoding among those who encountered the physical format (direct mail) pieces, compared to the digital format subjects. Their data suggested that the paper format stimulates a strong emotional response that, in turn, makes the materials more memorable.”



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