I’ve got a mix of news items in my head that I’m trying to process. In yesterday’s blog post, Dr. Joe reported that printing shipments are up .3% on a current dollar basis compared to September 2010. On an inflation-adjusted basis, they were down -3.5% compared to the prior year.
Around the same time, I was reading a variety of other posts. Among them is that Google+ now has 40 million users. As I’m reading this online guru talk about the value for e-marketers, I’m thinking, “Ugh! Another social media site? I can’t keep up with all the social media sites now.”
Really, how many ways can consumers slice themselves up? At some point, whatever slice of attention marketers do get will be so think as to be all but useless.
Then there was the article on how Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is pushing its new $60 print edition of The American Heritage Dictionary, complete with online version and tablet and mobile phone apps. Part of the “big deal” nature of the story was that HMH’s research showed it wasn’t just older consumers who were drawn to the print edition. It was the younger, digitally enabled consumer functioning in a multi-format world, as well.
You know what? I’m with them. Unless I’m some kind of alien, I can be sliced and diced only so many ways before the slices are just too thin. Just as a direct mail piece can cut through all the online chaos, a printed book, manual, or report cuts through the social media, mobile, online clutter and gives me something e-media cannot — simplicity.
So how deep can e-media bite? Print shipments are down on an inflation-adjusted basis, but not precipitously. When you look at Dr. Joe’s chart, in fact, the numbers are fluctuating but appear to be holding at some level of stasis over time. Maybe there is a reason for that.
Could it be that the easy pickin’s for the electronic world have been skimmed off? That the deeper cuts into traditional print will be much harder? Or even in some kind of desperate search for simplicity, we might even see a rise in print shipments again?