Members of the oft-scrutinized millennial generation are commonly portrayed as caricatures – each donning a flannel shirt, thick-rimmed glasses and unable to put down the iPhone that is welded to his or her hand. However, this generation has, contrary to popular belief, proven to feel very favorably about print media.
While some printers might assume this demographic is simply a lost cause due to the stereotypes surrounding it, there are plenty of stories circulating around the industry of print products appealing to young adults. As digital natives – and members of the generation that has grown up being bombarded with media from all directions – millennials are constantly seeking new sources of information. In many cases, this means turning to good old print.
Publishers are finding that millennials are more fond of print books than e-readers
The first example of young people's affinity for print is their widespread appreciation of physical, tactile books. What They Think's Patrick Henry wrote that, despite overwhelming competition stemming from constant access to social, television and digital media, millennials are still very fond of reading books. Henry noted that this generation has an extraordinarily high number of students in its ranks, and these students have reported their preference toward hard copy texts, as opposed to e-books.
The author cited statistics from a study conducted by content solutions developer Publishing Technology, in which 2,000 American and British millennials were asked about their reading preferences. The study found that 79 percent of Americans and 64 percent of Britons had read a print book in the past year, while the corresponding numbers for e-books were significantly lower – just 47 percent of the U.S.-based respondents indicated that they had read an e-book, and a shockingly low 28 percent of those from the U.K. said the same.
Henry also referenced 2013 research from JWT in which respondents from various age ranges were surveyed. Millennials rated the highest of all the groups in terms of appreciating the smell and feel of a book, while they finished second only to the 69-plus group in a category that asked whether receiving a physical book as a gift would mean more to them than receiving an e-book.
Youths are supposed to be neglecting old-school media, but they instead appear to be gravitating toward it to a greater extent than their predecessors – a positive sign for the future sustainability of the print industry.
Niche magazines are finding sustainable success with younger generations
Fast Company contributor Evie Nagy reported that Alternative Press, a magazine that spotlights underground and indie music, has spent three decades operating in a primarily print-oriented setting – though it does have digital offerings, as well – and has achieved high levels of success. The publication boasts a circulation of 225,000 and, according to Nagy, on average adds 70,000 subscriptions from promotional offers that make the rounds on the Vans Warped Tour. This event is the punk, alternative and indie rock scene's annual summer staple, and primarily attracts teenagers and twenty-somethings.
Alternative Press has become as synonymous with this crowd as tattoos of song lyrics and skinny jeans over the years, and has grown to the extent that it currently ranks second in the U.S. music magazine market. Only the ever-popular and, depending on whom you ask, illustrious Rolling Stone tops Alternative Press' sales numbers, a fact that is indicative of the fervor for print magazines that exists among the millennial generation.
Gillian Orr of The Independent presented further evidence of this trend, arguing that non-traditional periodicals are thriving in the midst of the overall print media decline. Orr spoke with industry veteran Ruth Jamieson, who suggested that there has never been a more comprehensive array of niche magazines available to consumers. As independent publishing has become more common, individuals are finding it easier to get their products on the market, according to Jamieson. And while it might seem like this could lead to an oversaturation, she instead pointed out that each magazine's content has to be unique in original in order to survive. The generic publications whose content may appear in various replicated forms on the Internet should be weeded out by lack of market demand, while the specific and high-quality magazines will continue to prosper.
Jamieson also postulated that magazines offer readers a rare breath of proverbial fresh air, a chance to temporarily be removed from the perpetual inundation of information that is inherent to the digital realm. Mainstream publications might not be faring well, but indie mags are doing just fine within the scope of the market.
The millennial generation is a fascinating demographic. Its members are supposed to be slaves to their mobile devices, but as it turns out, they may actually value good old-fashioned print more highly than their parents. This preference is great news for the printing industry, as it indicates that the market for its products should remain strong so long as this generation remains interested.