The Future of Digital is Print


Why is a guy who is all about digital marketing talking about print? It’s simple: Print is one of the most misunderstood and missed opportunities in the digital world. Today we learn about these opportunities to leverage print as a healthy piece of one’s media marketing mix as Shweiki Media Printing Company teams up with marketing expert, speaker and best-selling author Andrew Davis to present a must-watch webinar on a new way of thinking: The future of digital is print.



The Future Of Digital Is Print

Let’s talk about information overload: Information overload is a paradox. Just because there is more information available, it doesn’t mean one can consume more. There are 17 new webpages published every second. Think about that…17, 34, 51, 68, 85 published in just five seconds. Is somebody supposed to consume that?

What information overload looks like today:

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In 1950 there was not a big gap between the what one could actually consume and the information one thought was available. The gap starts to widen in the 1990s when with the cable television revolution and the amount of information one can actually consume and the amount of information one thinks is available. While watching ESPN, one is wondering what’s on ESPN2. That is the gap between the information that can actually be consumed and the amount of information that is available. Today, there’s the giant gap. There’s this huge hockey stick of perceived information available, and there’s always one more thing to consume when looking to make a purchase decision.

Marketers are chasing the social stream, chasing the perceived opportunity and trying to get and squeeze into that gap.

Quality Over Quantity

One of the biggest opportunities today is to be a part of the information  thatone can actually consume. This is all about creating quality content over quantity. There’s a tremendous opportunity to fit print into this. Think about higher-quality print products as a big piece of the marketing mix. You should try to fit into the information that one wants to consume and not contribute to information overload.

Think about how to use all of the digital content being created to elevate content to print. Elevate short-lived digital successes to high-quality print products. Extend the digital content lifespan and reap the rewards for four to six weeks. That is a tremendous opportunity that many of us are missing in the online landscape.

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The consumer market has a really good eye for finding these new kinds of trends. Let’s look at one platform and how the digital content is driving print success.

Instagram, in April of 2012, hit the billion photo mark. Spinoffs of Instagram content have been creating printed products from Instagram photos. Printsagram is a great example. You can create notecards, mini-books, posters and stickers. People use CanvasPop to print their Instagram photos on canvas. Age-wise, the people printing these range from 18-35. Futuresource believed this business, called Photo Merchandising, would be about a $2 billion business by 2015. Infotrend predicts it to be a $15 billion industry by 2017. Amazing!

It is not just consumers that are using this; traditional publishers are doing this is as well. During the riots in Baltimore this year, Time Magazine had a great photo on their cover for one of their issues that was actually shot by an amateur Instagram photographer.

Aspiring Baltimore photographer makes Time magazine with poignant photo -
Aspiring Baltimore photographer makes Time magazine with poignant photo –

The New York Times has been doing this for a while. In 2012, they invited consumers to take pictures of what they called the Roof Life and post them on Instagram and hashtag them. They were in the print magazine and they captured a really good slice of the summertimeliving in Manhattan.

Think about how one platform–like Instagram–is pushing this desire for you to elevate your best content to print. There is a print product first, then there’s a digital outcropping and a mobile outcropping. Currently, when creating a great print brochure or print magazine or print book, the thought revolves around how it can be repurposed for digital or mobile. It needs to be re-thought.

The Content Continuum

There is no specific beginning, middle and end when creating content, but it is suggested to start at the digital level. When thinking about what to print, look at all the digital content created in the online world and look for the stuff where there have been some success. With the New York Times, one can leverage the digital universe to prove what works, build an audience, grow reach, and then elevate the best content that readers want to print.

In 2011, IBM made a big splash when they were trying to transition from a manufacturer to a service provider. The idea was they would build a machine that would win at Jeopardy. The computer could beat the biggest winning contestant on the game show at their own game. It was a big challenge, and it received lots of press. Today, Watson  has transformed the organization and it is what people talk about. In their digital world, they created a ton of content.  Then they created a long-form book called Smart Machines: IBM’s Waston and the Era of Cognitive Computing. It is published by Columbia University and has basically leveraged all the insight they’ve learned in the digital world and transformed it into a book. They elevated the content to print.

The Last Piece Of The Content Continuum Is Mobile.

How can we think about our print products driving the experience through a mobile device back to a digital experience?

A few years ago The New York Times contained a print ad in the travel section. The print ad had links in it. It is in print, so you cannot click it, but, they’re shifting the mindset with the design of the ad to help one learn and feel like there is more content behind the print ad. If one looks down the page, they can see pictures and ratings. One is even invited to take an architectural tour of Montreal through scanning a QR code with a mobile device. The experience is then shifted from digital and mobile. The ad is trying to get one to go to Montreal with compelling content and shows that there is digital content behind it. What is more interesting about this ad is that they created the content by using what had been uploaded by consumers and businesses onto the advertiser’s website. Submitted photos and videos are rated and reviewed on the site. All of the sudden, they had a great digital campaign that was extending their brand, engaging consumers, and had a real world extension. A print product that drove that digital experience.

There is another way to think of this: from novelty to utility. We have to start thinking about using the real-world printed products as a gateway to the virtual world.

Augmented reality is using a printed product to create a marker than then puts a digital overlay ocer the real picture one is seeing. For example, a Mini Cooper ad on the back of a magazine that shows a car when held up to a digital camera. GE has done one with a windmill. When you hold up the target, a wind scene pops up. If you blow into the microphone, the windmill would spin. This is novelty.

Another example is Ikea. Ikea created a new take on their catalog. When the cover of their catalog is printed, one can pick a product and actually see the product using the camera on either a phone or iPad in the space in ones house. That is utility.

Think about leveraging the mobile experience from a print product to reignite that content continuum. This is the perception change that must be made.

Three Smart Ways To Convert Digital Content Into Powerful Print

1. Start Small, Think Big

To be successful this way, think about a big project that can be done in print, but experimented with in the online world.

Justin Halpern in August of 2009 was an out-of-work screenwriter and author. He was a writer for Maxim, but he had to move back in with his dad. He then realized his dad says some really funny stuff, so he started a twitter handle called @sh*tmydadsays. He’s a 29-year-old guy living with his 74-year-old dad and just started writing the funny things his dad said.

Example: “I didn’t say you were ugly. I said your girlfriend was better looking than you, and standing next to her, you look ugly.”

From August 2009 to October 2009, he grew to 100,000 followers on Twitter with just this little piece of punchline. By November of 2009, he had a deal with Warner Bros. People got so excited about the punchline, they wanted to build a story behind it, so he ended up elevating that content to a print book.  June of 2010, a year later, he had a New York Times best-seller published by Harper Collins. It was number-one on the list for a few weeks. He ended up with a television show on CBS. His book was elevated from Twitter to TV. There are an infinite number of combinations like this to elevate digital content to print, but think big using small successes.  If you have something simple that works on Twitter, what can you do to extend it’s life in a deeper way? Print. I actually give out business travel lessons on Twitter and LinkedIn because I travel a lot. People love these things and have even asked why I don’t write a book using them. That is what you want to look for.

2. Uncover The Stories From Within was sold to Amazon for $928 million. They have alwasy been known for the culture they created and the customer service they provide in the marketplace. Every year, they take all of their employees best stories about consumer successes, the best events they have done, and the insight they have learned and they turn it into what they call a “Culture Book.” It is a 329-page, four0color, hardcover, embossed book. The return on investment for every one of those books that is sent out is about $1.3 million. If you were to email the CEO of and ask him for a 2014 Culture Book, they will send one free of charge. Why? Because they know you will spend more money with Zappos.

What if we mine our internal data, insight and stories for great content? Ask the question “What content are we collecting at a rapid pace but not elevating?”

3. Leverage Content With The Shortest Half Life

In 2007, a woman named Rin from Japan started writing a little book every day on her mobile phone and texting 200 characters to her friends about the plot. All of a sudden, millions were following along with these text messages and subscribing to them every morning and it spawned this mobile phone-book experience. What people wanted was a deeper way to engage with the content, something to keep physically. She ended up with printed books. By 2008, these mobile phone books were eight of the top 10 best-selling books in Japan.

Another great example is the Tumblr site Texts From Dog. This guy in London makes up these texts as if his dog is texting him during the day while he is at work.


Dog: Where are you?

Owner: Where am I? WHERE ARE YOU?

Dog: I’m at home eating Poptarts.


Dog: What are you doing there?


Dog: Oh yeah. Totally couldn’t find it.

This guy posted the texts on Tumblr everyday and today he has a book, Texts From Dog: The Dog Delusion. by October Jones. You can buy it on Amazon; it came out last fall.

Take the shortest half-life content from Twitter, Tumblr, your blog and your texts, and uncover valuable content. How can you extend the life of the content you create in a deeper, richer way that maybe is elevated to print?

An example would be a guy named Myles Bristowe, who use to work at a company called CommCreative, a marketing and advertising agency in Boston. At the time, Myles was the Chief Marketing Officer. He wanted to come up with a new way to create content for his blog. One of his interns suggested he open a fortune cookie everyday and turn it into marketing advice.

Example: It is a great piece of skill to know how to guide your luck. Even while waiting for it.

Myles started to do that every day, and he called it “Today’s Marketing Cookie.” That is a content brand. He took a fortune cookie, turned it into marketing advice, and people started consuming it everyday. He built this giant audience. His subscription is the sign of a good content brand. It reads:

Subscribe to “Today’s Marketing Cookie” Challenge:

Every day, Myles Bristowe, the CMO of CommCreative writes a post that connects a fortune cookie with marketing… no matter what it says. Most of the fortunes come from cookie fans from around the world. The next time you have Chinese food, snap a photo of your fortune and send it to Myles to have a blog post dedicated to you!

This is done every day, and it is great content, people started consuming it, and people started submitting their own fortune cookies. It has got momentum behind it. People love this. Here’s the thing: No one asked Myles if he wanted to turn this into a book. You have to look for these ideas yourself within your own organization and elevate those kinds of content to print.

The Fact Is The Future Of Digital Is Print

Start small, think big. How can one find those good pieces of content that actually can be elevated or expanded to print.

-Find those stories from within. Where are the stories collecting lots of data or insight from consumers or customers or clients or even employees? Elevate those to print and send them to customers or potential customers and clients.

-Find the content with the shortest half-life, and take that content and turn it into something that has a longer lifespan.

-Think like Myles Bristowe: Create a great piece of content over and over that builds momentum and then elevate that content to print.

-Re-think that content continuum. Start with digital successes. Learn from what the audience wants. Elevate those to print then drive them back to the digital world.

-Look at the consumer market and think about Instagram and all those offshoots.

-Elevate short-lived digital successes to high-quality print products. Extend their lifespan and reap the rewards. It is a much missed opportunity in the marketing world and it is an opportunity to cut through information overload.

Remember, the future of digital is print.

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Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis’ 20-year career has taken him from local television to The Today Show. He’s worked for The Muppets in New York, written for Charles Kuralt and marketed for tiny start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. In 2001, Andrew Davis co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where he changed the way publishers think and how brands market their products. His most recent book, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships hit shelves in September, 2012.

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