Should you ditch your print content for digital?

Photo by andre robillard
  • By Team CSI
  • |
  • Feb 12 2018
Categories: |Toolbox

Sometimes going completely digital with your content can seem too far.

And that may be true, depending on what industry you’re in and what your audiences want. Sometimes it makes sense to keep producing those print brochures or PDF reports. But how do you know?

Use an evidence-based approach

There are a few ways to determine whether your print content is effective, or whether you should move your efforts to digital formats.

Put print products on hiatus

We call this the bold method. If you strongly suspect that most of your audiences are only engaging with you online, consider taking a year off from creating print content. Or six months, for the slightly less bold.

During the hiatus, dedicate your print resources to doing audience research and improving your digital content in ways that make sense for your organization.

At the end of your designated time, look at your metrics and make decisions about which print products should continue, and in which ways.

Wait for pre-orders

Create a list of your print material to provide to your distribution contacts. Ask them to select the publications they want to receive and the quantity of each. Allow them to re-order publications as their stock runs low. This ensures you only produce content as needed and provides evidence of the popularity of various materials.


Distribute your professionally-printed publications in a controlled environment where you can track the impact compared to similar households, areas, or events that did not receive the print content.

Make sure these print materials have a clear call-to-action that drives people online where interactions can be measured.

Printed content types and tips

If your evidence points to keeping your print content, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Produced PDFs

Professionally designed and produced PDFs may be an effective campaign or awareness tool.


  • Marketing collateral such as brochures, pamphlets, postcards
  • Informational or educational booklets


  • Provide high-priority details and/or teasers.
  • Direct people to the website for more information.

Self-printed content

There may be a rationale for providing PDF versions of online content designed for audiences to download and print themselves.


  • Reports
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Lists
  • Maps


  • Make sure content will be readable in black and white.
  • Don’t use large or uninformative images.

Self-curated content

Depending on your industry, you may want to empower your audiences to curate and print content according to their specific needs and interests.


  • Curated event, course option, or activity lists
  • Contact information
  • Checklists


  • Make all content blocks optional.
  • Don’t include large or uninformative images.

It’s never a good idea to waste time and money on ineffective content, but the costs associated with print content make this even more apparent. Make sure you have proof it’s something that your audiences want. Otherwise, save your budget and put it toward planning and developing digital content that meets your audience’s needs.

Further reading

Is this thing on? 4 ways to measure content

Start the content strategy conversation: Prepare your organization for change

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