Print: Still not dead

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iPads may be everywhere, but data from three distinct publication groups indicate that despite its seeming ubiquity, it's too soon for publishers to ditch print for pixel-only publications.

Kantar Media, for example, found that even though younger doctors are more inclined to seek out digital journals that they still have an appreciation for the print edition of the current journal, much like their older colleagues. According to Kantar, the digital divide shakes out as follows: 90% of doctors read print journals and 40% rely on print and digital. In terms of single channel readership, Kantar said 50% of doctors were print-only and just 8% never let their fingers touch ink, relying solely on digital editions.

This print-digital mix syncs with the wider publishing world, according to research by the UK-based Professional Publisher's Association that predicts a surge in digital magazine use but notes that 96% of tablet owners have picked up and read a printed publication this year, beating the national average, which is 80%. PPA's head of research said in a statement that the numbers “suggest that digital editions are reinvigorating the appetite for magazine media,” and that tablet and print publications “appear to be working in combination to expand consumers' reading repertoire.”

The desire for the retro handheld experience is not limited to journals and magazines. Communications and research firm CMI/Compas found that while the numbers of sales reps has dwindled, the new information hierarchy puts direct marketing materials as one of the top ways primary care physicians want to get their drug information – beating out e-detailing, faxes, podcasts, and text messages. Direct mail was bested only by email. This new data complements the firm's August findings that showed direct mail was the single most effective platform for reaching doctors, with the potential to hit 95% of physicians.

While these findings are a significant endorsement for print, none of the reports encourage publishers to slow their digital development, with CMI noting that every channel has its purpose, and it's a matter of finding the right mix for the right target. Kantar's findings echoed this point, noting, for example, that if a print issue wants to capture a key opinion leader's attention, digital is the way to go, since they are among the heavier digital users, with twice the tablet use and two-thirds greater web readership that other medical professionals. Similarly, Kantar found that while family medicine, dermatology and pulmonology were the top print readers, infectious disease specialists, general surgeons and allergists leaned heavily on digital.
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