The Role of Print in Times of Digital Overstimulation

A Commentary

Even if one might think that print media have long since been overtaken by online media, print still has a decisive advantage.

Reliability in the “online world”

Print is more trustworthy, readers do not doubt the credibility of printed words – “after all, it says it there in black and white”. Again and again, doubts arise, some of them justified, as to whether the truth is being published in times of fake news and deepfakes on the web, because who exactly verifies everything that is so rapidly published and widely spread there?

The seriousness of the author is difficult to ascertain. So what of the information that is written can I believe? Has anyone fact checked it? What kind of sources does the information come from? – Questions that you don’t ask yourself with print media, they create a trusting atmosphere, you feel taken along by the haptic experience that they bring with them.

The feeling of “being at home”

For many, leafing through daily newspapers, quiz magazines or the TV guide is part of a kind of everyday routine. For some, it starts with a short walk in the morning to the nearest newsstand. While the daily paper is taken from the magazine shelf, small talk ensues with the nice saleswoman who has been working there for ages; she greets everyone in a friendly manner every day and already knows the names of her frequent customers.

Back home, the newspaper is opened while enjoying a fresh coffee, the combination of colour and paper emits a familiar smell that has become a habit for many. Without this smell, the turning of each page and the sound it makes, there would not be this warm feeling of security – it triggers something of “being at home, feeling comfortable” in them. It is an experience and at the same time radiates a certain peace and relaxation in a time when efficiency and speed determine our professional and private everyday life.

Print pursues goals

Articles and texts should not just be skimmed over, one should take time for what is printed. Behind this is a person who has taken a lot of time to research, structure and formulate what has been written. Online, on the other hand, texts usually don’t get much attention, they are simply skimmed over, usually only the headline is read or just enough to get an idea of what the text is about.

Print pursues the goal of engaging the reader, starting with the physical appearance. It tries to attract the attention of potential readers through the interplay of colours, patterns and fonts. The emphasis is on quality, everything is coordinated down to the smallest detail in order to make the value of the content appear on the outside, because “first impressions count”.

But not only the first impression is important, it also counts that something of what is written will be kept in mind. Especially for information that has a long validity, as is the case with historical events, for example. Print is of particular value here, because the feel, the appearance and the design ensure that people do not forget what they have read so quickly and are more likely to empathise with what they are reading.

Special attention is paid to enabling the reader to devote his or her entire attention to what is written, because in a magazine or book, small pop-up advertisements do not suddenly appear, flashing wildly in front of us to show us shoes that we searched for online the day before yesterday or that we may have just clicked on by accident. It is not the intention of print to distract from what we are actually trying to do, through ads or cookie settings that you have to agree to before anything can be read. It is about providing consumers with information, not about influencing them to make purchases through intrusive advertising.

A certain aspect that many people probably take for granted

It can also be assumed that in times of digitalisation and high online presence, there are still people who do not have the opportunity to click through the internet to read the latest news because they themselves do not own a computer or any other internet-capable device.

And if they do have a device, it is not to be assumed that they will be able to use it properly to read the articles of interest to them on online portals. Often they do not even know how to log on to certain platforms in order to be able to read the articles published there beyond the headline.

And they usually don’t want to be dependent on someone explaining it to them.

Even if the young generation can’t imagine life without being “connected everywhere and at all times”, it doesn’t mean that this also applies to people of an older age.

The easiest way to stay up to date? – Print media: read, relax, be happy.


In a nutshell:

  • Print creates the feeling of security and being at home
  • Print is a credible, trustworthy medium
  • Print is unobtrusive and accessible to everyone


Jana Fölsch