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Digital vs Print Media: Battle for Creative Storytelling

Matt Peters
November 01, 2018

The Reading Experience

There are pros and cons to both print and digital media, and a lot of them are based on what an audience is looking for in their reading experience.

See What Makes Your Story Connect

The motivation behind print reading is more intimate. Unless you are in a book club or cutting newspaper clippings to share with friends, print reading is a more personal experience. Print publications are tangible objects that you can move in your hands. You actively touch the pages, dog earring the content you like. Maybe you can even smell the ink on a page. It engages some of the senses that are impossible to engage through digital media.

Digital media on the other hand is a more social experience. Maybe you watch a movie with friends or share a story across social media. We retweet, like, or pin the things that we enjoy and revisit them later. Digital is more about the engagement aspect.

These associations with the type of experience an audience is looking for when they choose between the print or digital medium explain why higher memory and comprehension is attached to print but higher engagement is associated with digital.


Most standard print advertising is intrusive, but one method for capturing your target audience's attention creatively with print ads is through advertorials. Advertorials are advertisements disguised as editorials, so they blend in with the rest of the content within a print magazine.


When it comes to creative storytelling with print, the advantage is that there are fewer internal distractions. Unlike digital, which has outside links, millions of pieces of content and digital sidebar ads, the reader is able to more actively pay attention to the content being presented in a print publication.

For content this means that the importance is on the narrative and telling a good story all at once. 

While the art of storytelling via print has been a long-perfected art form dating back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the digital world is evolving right in front of our eyes. The same aspects of a good story, such as an engaging plot, humanlike characters, and a compelling narrative, are still vital. But the art of storytelling has changed significantly, and the frame and platform we choose to present a story is almost as important as the story itself. 


The digital and print worlds are very different in terms of what creative techniques capture people’s attention. The human attention span is at an all-time low, some say down to 8 seconds. While we might be able to stretch that for print when there are no other off topic content, embedded links, or sidebar ads, we really see the effects of our short attention span in the digital realm. 

With so little time spent by viewers on each piece of content, digital content creators have only a few seconds to get their story across to their target audience.

The good news is that with digital stories you don't need to tell your whole story all at once. Social media allows you to weave digital narratives across multiple platforms, a method called transmedia storytelling. This technique not only can you cater aspects of your story to the intended audience on each channel, but you can also modify the medium in which you convey that message.

Digital media excels in visual storytelling. In addition to graphics and illustrations, it can utilize motion graphics like videos, gifs, and animated photos. Some social media platforms, like twitter, also cater to sharing user-generated content which can be a compelling way to share customer testimonials.

Sponsored content is at the forefront of digital advertising. Native advertising uses ads that are designed to blend in with native content on websites. The difference between content marketing and native ads is that native ads are paid advertisements that are designed to look like content, as opposed to actually being it.

Audience Differences 

In terms of demographics, there is a significant difference in the age groups that are print subscribers verses digital subscribers. While some of this has to do with the intended reading experience, a lot has to do with emotional attachment to either format.

Older adults are much more likely to pay for a printed version of something than the digital one. This is because of the nostalgia that comes from doing something a certain way the majority of your life. On the other side of the spectrum, we have our digital natives. Digital natives are people who grew up in the digital age, so it is as natural to them as print is to older generations. Digital natives first started with the millennial generation which is why many current students lean towards the digital medium.

Because of this stark age demographic difference, most marketers agree that even if your print story isn’t being affected yet, it makes sense to include a shift to digital in the future. 

So, does this mean that, in terms of storytelling, print is a dying art? Not necessarily. Print has many advantages that the digital world is unable to reproduce, such as the power that comes with actually having a tangible object. Additionally, there has been some movement in the print industry for implementing augmented reality to engage consumers. This mixture of print and tech is the best of both worlds. 

If you are interested in the evolution of storytelling using multiple medias and where it's headed, stay tuned in the coming weeks.

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