Three Main Differences Between Print and Digital Publications


Online publication on Mac and paper catalogs on table.

Print has been the last marketing channel to be disrupted. COVID has given many marketers the last push towards digital catalogs. Here are three often-heard challenges for digital publications to help you make the switch confidently and how to overcome them.

With COVID-19, a new reality emerged worldwide. People are working from home more than ever before. This has created a new challenge for marketers. How to reach those working from home? You used to send 20 catalogs to an office. Should you be sending out 20.000 catalogs to every employee working from home? Print is already taking up more than enough marketing budget as it is.

You wouldn't be the first marketer to think, 'Can a digital publication replace print?' With the pandemic still going on, now could be the perfect time to switch from Print to Digital publications. But how can you be sure? How do you know if your marketing department and the C-suite are ready to take a giant leap forward into a Digital transition?

For your convenience, we listed three of the most striking differences between Print and Digital publications. We'll explain what the new and improved digital publications will add to your reality as a marketer, and how your clients benefit.

The three main differences between offline and online publications are:

  1. How to keep or expand your reach
  2. How to determine goals & attribution
  3. How to present the right content

1. Reach:

We get it. You worked years to build up a physical address database to send your paper catalog and flyers to. Marketers can be daunted by the prospect of letting go of their trusty old offline reach and having to start building online reach.

When you manage to build up a renewed online contact list, you'll likely be competing on a much larger, international, or even global playing field. In the olden days, when your Print flyer dropped on the doormat, it would only have to compete with two others pushed through the mailbox at the same time. Now, if you want to use Display Ads or SEA to promote your digital catalog, you'll be competing with global players.

Luckily, there are solutions for that.

With the right strategy, you can reach more people than you ever did with Print. Keep in mind digital publications are available for shoppers anywhere, anytime, not just when sitting on the couch at home. Moreover, according to our usage statistics, we crunched that Digital catalog readers view more than 200 products per session. Compared to offline Print, you get more people viewing your catalog for longer with the bonus Shoppers who can share the catalog on Social. You do the math!

How do you do that?

  • Start working with publishing partners to build up your reach.
  • Integrate your flyers directly into Shopper apps; shoppers will be able to find your digital publication next to, for example, their online loyalty card.
  • Set up SEA and Display campaigns to target the specific top and mid-funnel shoppers. Yes, you might be competing on a larger playing field, but you'll be able to target leads much better than your Print catalog could.

The combined reach of the channels will help you to build the reach you want.

2.Goals & Attribution

When your offline Print flyer drops on the doormat, that is usually the end of it. When you do a TVC or radio campaign, the same applies. As a marketer, you're in the dark from now on.

With digital publications, things couldn't be more different. The great advantage of Digital marketing is that everything can be measured. The great disadvantage with Digital is that, yes, everything can be measured. But that doesn't mean you always should.

To not get tangled up in vanity metrics and bucketloads of less-than-relevant KPIs, make sure your Digital publication performance goals are clean, and your attribution model is undisputed. You need to measure what matters most to your readers and internal stakeholders. In the case of digital catalogs, finding a way to measure the journey of discovering products is paramount.

With a Digital flyer, you can map the good old discovery journey that people love about catalogs. You can observe and trigger readers' latent needs by promoting articles people aren't actively searching for. Readers can enjoy the journey of discovering new products as they do in offline Print, but with added dynamic content for individual readers.
You could say, Digital publications are better at Print, than Print itself.

During COVID-19 a shopping trip has become more of a destination trip; why not make sure shoppers are up-to-speed with the latest promotions and even give them a chance to discover more even before they enter your store?

Make sure you set up your attribution model in a way that plays towards the strengths of the digital catalog, measuring the journey of discovery your viewers go through and serving up personalized suggestions to take it one step further than Print could ever go.


Getting a printed publication in the hands of your target audiences is a loooong process. To get the right product shown in your flyer, you'll have to take action up to 11 weeks before publication. That means last-minute changes in price/stock/products are extremely difficult to process, or sometimes even impossible.

From a process perspective, it is a slow and inflexible end-to-end process from creation to distribution.

The dynamic nature of online publications makes composing a catalog easier than ever before. You don't need 15 last-minute, shouty calls with agencies or the printer to get the right products in the right place.

With a Digital flyer, you can measure and promote store traffic. When you use dynamic content on your flyer, you can let shoppers not only enjoy personalized promotions but also assure shoppers the product's price is up-to-date and in-stock. Changes can be made in real-time out of your product feed.

With a Digital flyer, Product grids are populated from your feed, and there are self-learning AI algorithms that automatically improve your product grids. It might sound difficult at first, but you'll be amazed at how quickly you won't want to live without dynamic content allocation engines.

A new era, starting today

Marketers that are used to working with Print are facing some exciting changes. They'll encounter a new way of working. You might even say a whole new way of thinking, reaching your audience, re-shaping attribution models, and placing the right content.

After a brief transition period, marketers will be able to settle into a new Digital routine. You'll be able to reach and engage your audience better, measure your audience's behavior, and you'll be able to serve your audience the content that makes their reading experience better than it has ever been in Print. It's the same exciting journey of discovery that used to be. In many ways, offline is just like online, but better for both marketers and their clients.

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