RIBA Insight Monthly Briefing

Print versus digital – part 1

When it comes to receiving product and industry information do professionals prefer their media diet served digitally or on paper? Writer and editor Andy Sivell argues that as it is with food, so is it also with marketing communications: it's all about variety and balance.

Print versus digital – part 1I, like most office-based workers I suspect, start each working day by checking my email. I'll take anything up to a whole second a time to decide which emails to read and which to discard. A little later, according to the whim of our local sorting office, I'll repeat the same routine with my post. But here's the thing; email newsletters that I set aside to read later, I hardly ever do; but printed newsletters that make it to my 'pending' tray will get at least another 20 seconds while I scan front, back and middle for useful content. And if I find something of interest, I'll usually read it from start to finish.

My habits may represent an unscientific sample of one, but as anyone who sends out regular email campaigns will know, my approach to in-box management is statistically very much the norm.

A recent survey conducted on behalf of United Business Media* shows that architects consistently favour a mixed diet of print and online overall, but that – unsurprisingly – their media preferences vary according to their particular information requirements. When it comes to finding breaking news, for example, 42 per cent favour the immediacy of online, with only 13 per cent preferring print – although interestingly 45 per cent still rely upon a combination of both. At the other end of the scale, 28 per cent favour print when it comes to finding creative inspiration, against 22 per cent who prefer online.

It's surely simple common-sense to acknowledge that print and online media are consumed in different ways because they perform different functions. For that matter, the argument works just as logically the other way round. Sometimes information benefits from being 'touchy-feely', or portable, or pre-printed in full colour. Other times it needs to be immediate, interactive, and disposable.

The huge cost of printing and mailing over 20,000 copies of the two-volume RIBA Product Selector directory would have been abandoned years ago had there not been clear-cut evidence that it was still widely used and valued. And there is: requested by all practices listed in the AJ100 2010, four out of five recipients claim to have specified a product having first identified it in the directory**. Presumably a fair number of those are also among the 221,000+ users of ribaproductselector.com each month.

Similarly, Monthly Briefing is a highly efficient way of monitoring the industry's preoccupations and gathering feedback. But I'll bet RIBA Insight's print newsletter the Bulletin is more often read at leisure, or on a crowded train.

As you segment your data and refine your messages to diverse groups, remember too that different ages, genders and even professions favour different media and methods of delivery. You cannot rely upon one medium to achieve all things. One size does not fit all.


RIBA Insight offers a diverse range of on- and offline media with which you can communicate with specifiers at every stage in the design and build decision-making process. We also host frequent FREE Consultancy Days featuring marketing experts from around the UK.
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Andy Sivell is a copywriter, editor and director of Working Titles.


* UBM Built Environment media pack
** RIBA Product Selector registration forms


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