The print industry is still going strong and is set to grow even stronger, according to a groundbreaking study received by The Jordan Times on Tuesday.
Commissioned by Canon Middle East , the study found that 97 per cent of organisations in the Middle East and Africa still consider professionally printed materials to be important to their business.
Furthermore, more than half of the organisations surveyed (54 per cent) consider print to be more effective than any other type of media, while 90 per cent stated that they would include print in their multi-channel communications tools, the highest percentage by far amongst all the different types of media.
“The findings are in stark contrast with the widespread predictions from industry experts at the beginning of this decade that digital would gradually replace print in terms of its importance to a company’s marketing and communications strategy,” the study said.
“In fact, the research results show that print and digital are both expected to grow in tandem and complement each other as part of integrated cross-media campaigns  rather than competing for singular usage,” it added. “This is further verified by the fact that almost half of organisations said that they expect to increase their use of print in the near future.”
The report is based on a detailed survey of 210 users and commissioners of professional printing conducted through in-depth interviews in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and Kenya.
“Print continues to be the number one choice for organisations in the Middle East and North Africa due to its effectiveness in transmitting a message to the end- user,” indicated Naoshi Yamada, deputy managing director, Canon Middle East.
“The findings show that the world is not moving from one medium to another as expected a few years ago, it is moving towards a convergence of mediums where print, digital, social, mobile and broadcast have equally important roles as part of a multi-channel communications strategy,” he said.
The research also showed a strong lack of awareness surrounding the latest technological developments in cross-media, with many of them unaware of the meaning or benefits of print-on-demand, web-to-print, professional photo books and customised direct mail, revealing further opportunity for the print industry in the region.
Only 47 per cent of print buyers are aware of web-to-print services, and 22 per cent have actually used them, so the potential market is set to be sizeable. However, applications such as web-to-print and print-on-demand are producing tangible benefits for many customers, suggesting that their usage will rise as awareness grows.
According to the study, there is an enormous opportunity for printers to educate their customers and raise awareness of what print — especially benefits of digital print applications — can do to reinforce their brand and increase the effectiveness of their marketing efforts.
“Customers are actively looking for better education, more creative input and insights into print innovations,” it said.
“It is clear, therefore, that commercial printers are missing out on significant potential opportunities for growth and need to communicate far more frequently with their customers, putting aside any presumptions they may have about the level of their customers’ knowledge,” said Hendrik Verbrugghe, marketing director, Canon Middle East.
The research results showed some similarities with attitudes and outlooks in Europe on certain fronts and some major differences on others.
When it comes to the importance of print to their organisation, 87 per cent of companies in Europe agreed, which is less than the Middle East and Africa percentage (97 per cent) but still extremely high considering the trend towards digital/online channels in more developed European markets. Furthermore, organisations in Europe see print as one part of a multichannel approach while organisations in the region see print as the principal, main media in their approaches.
US newspaper industry
Separately, another study showed that the US newspaper industry is seeing some glimmers of hope after being battered for years, a prominent study concluded Monday.
While the industry is about half the size it once was, there are some positive signs, including new revenue streams from digital paywalls and a general economic improvement which is aiding newspapers, the study found.
“For the first time since the deep recession that began in 2007, newspaper organisations have grounds for a modicum of optimism,” said the authors of the study by the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The 2013 State of the News Media report said newspapers “have started to experiment in a big way with a variety of new revenue streams and major organisational changes.”
Some of these, such as using social media  to help advertisers, are too new to be measured, but are part of a trend which suggests stabilising revenue, the researchers said.
Among other positive signs, the report said:
— Digital pay plans have been adopted at 450 of the 1,380 dailies US and “appear to be working not just at The New York Times but also at small and mid-sized papers.” These are helping add new revenues and reduce dependence on advertising.
— Publicly traded newspaper companies saw their share prices rise in 2012, albeit from a reduced base, with several up 30 per cent or more.
— Newspapers coming onto the market are finding buyers. Among the notable investors are Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway bought a group of 63 newspapers and several others.
— The modest improvement in the economy has eased pressures on the industry, with auto advertising reviving and real estate and employment ads recovering in some markets as well.
Nonetheless, the authors say these positives “are, for the time being, mostly promise rather than performance” and that the basic indicators remain grim.
Print advertising fell for a sixth consecutive year in 2012 — by a significant 7.3 per cent or $1.5 billion. National advertising is especially weak, suggesting that corporations are shifting to other platforms.
The Pew research shows digital advertising now represents 15 per cent of total newspaper ad revenue, but has grown anemically the past two years and does not come close to covering print ad losses.
The study indicates newsrooms are still being slashed and that readership from mobile platforms is failing to generate significant revenues.
“Though the great majority of newspaper organisations are profitable on an operating basis, many companies continue to struggle with debt and pension obligations assumed in better times,” the report said.
“In a symbolic indicator of decline, newspapers are abandoning the grand headquarters buildings that used to help anchor downtowns in favor of smaller, less expensive offices. Those that stay are starting to rent excess space to other businesses,” it added.
Some dailies have cut print frequency to three times a week, which has sparked a heated debate in the industry. The most prominent of these was the New Orleans Times-Picayune and its parent Advance Publications.
In Pew interviews with executives at 13 major newspaper companies, the most common prediction was that more papers would soon adopt the three-day-a-week publication schedule.
The report said newspapers continue to slash staff, making it harder to cover news in the way readers have expected.
“This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands,” the report said.
And a public opinion survey released in the report showed that 31 per cent had “deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to,” Pew indicated.
Overall, Pew said media organisations — including newspapers, broadcasters and cable news operators — were shrinking further, driving consumers to seek information elsewhere.
“There are all sorts of contributors in the evolving landscape of news and, in many ways, more opportunities for citizens to access information,” said Amy Mitchell, acting director of the Pew Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
“But there are more signs than ever that the reduced reporting power in the news industry is having an effect and may weaken both the industry’s capacity to produce in-depth journalism and its credibility with the public at the same time that others are gaining more voice,” she added.