Are you a millennial? If you’re not, the chances are that the person filling your seat – after you’ve moved on – will be. Millennials have been entering the workforce en masse for a number of years now and their influence is inescapable. Everything the rest of us are doing today will be transitioned to and carried on by them. We all know that they are the first generation raised surrounded by digital technology – the first purely online generation. So how have they embraced print, assuming they’ve embraced it at all?

A 2014 survey by the marketing communications firm JWT showed that eight out of ten adults prefer to read magazine articles in printed form rather than online, and two-thirds of them would prefer to read a book in print form rather than on an e-reader(1). In itself, those finding should not surprise anybody. What is surprising, however, is that the findings were similar when millennials were surveyed(2).

Among millennials, the preference of a tactile experience — seeking out the traditional over the electronic when reading books or magazines, playing games, or even exchanging greeting cards – runs almost parallel to the preferences of Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and even the Silent Generation (age 69 and older). So despite being raised around technology-driven experiences, millennials still value print.

Experts believe the main reason behind this is simple – the digital experiences that we willingly engage in don’t necessarily provide the connections and emotional experiences that we also require.

Trust and Paper
New technologies have also ushered in new problems. Our online world can seem fraught with security issues. Click the wrong link and you can enter a world of pain. For millennials and everybody else, digital content often lacks the security and authority that are intrinsic in traditional forms of content. Millennials, though, are the first generation to successfully embrace both worlds.

In her 2015 book “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World”, author Naomi S. Baron verified that while millennials accessed content digital mainly for practical reasons, those surveyed also held fairly universal reasons for preferring analog versions: reading text on a screen tends to force content skimming, viewing advertisements and other non-relevant content distractions while accessing digital content is inevitable, and comprehension suffers.

Hand in Hand
Millennials naturally integrate digital and analog access and content into their daily lives. They access multiple resources when seeking information, entertainment, connecting with others, and even shopping. On most college campuses, students can still can still be found toting backpacks loaded with books, even as they increasingly utilize laptops to take notes and participate in their social media circles.

Alive and Kicking
There have been numerous claims that “print is dead” over the last 10 years, but the rumors of print’s demise, as they say, have been greatly exaggerated. So when your organization puts together it’s next advertising campaign or outreach program, remember that millennials have not abandoned the technologies that we expected them to. They have learned to embrace the new without forfeiting our past.

Thank you, millennials. We have a lot to learn from you.

1 “Embracing Analog: Why Physical Is Hot”, JWT, 2014
2 ibid

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