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Print versus Other Media

July 14, 2009

Print versus other media

By Denise Scammon

Do statements that appear in print seem more true than those that are presented through some other medium? Why?

“Print in the Mix,” published by the Printing Industry Center at Rochester Institute of Technology, posted the results of research on this topic at:

The results: “Advertising in broadcast media is more likely to be avoided than print advertising. Though this research was completed more than 10 years ago, it presages the recent interest in measuring “engagement”. This study finds that print ads are less aggravating and more believable than ads in other media.”

Rudi Volti, in “Society and Technological Change,” explains that Marshall McLuhan believed the greatest consequences of printing lay in the different modes of thought and perception that printing fostered. Each medium of communication is linked to a different way of looking at the world: “the medium is the message” (216).

When a person reads printed material, except for a few languages, the reading is done in sequences from left to right: letters are recognized, then words, then phrases, then sentences, then paragraphs, and so on. Thoughts form as words are recognized. These thoughts are based on a person’s view of the world and pre-knowledge: “Reading produces an egocentric view of the world, for the reader’s involvement with the printed word is solitary and private” (Volti 216).

There is a difference between the printed word on paper, as in a newspaper, and that same printed word on the newspaper’s Web site, according to Julie Stroebel in her article, “Print Versus Web Journalism: Examining Two Media Through the Lens of Marshall McLuhan,”

“In this case, the form of transport (either the print newspaper or the website) changes the message sent to the reader. The interactivity of the online version sends a message of greater reader involvement and symmetrical interaction. The print version, on the other hand, translates into a message of greater distance and establishes a stronger professional boundary between the journalist and consumer.”

So, that’s it. The print paper version gives more authority to the written word than the online version. Perhaps, this is the case when someone is reading an article based on a topic for which s/he has little knowledge, but, in my opinion, if someone is an expert in a certain field, s/he might not feel that boundary.

I posted this question on Twitter and received two responses. The first relates to priming, and I think it relates to the “if it’s in print, it’s true” type of mentality. The second relates to the lasting quality of print versus the immediate disappearance of audio/visual messages.

1. Markus Roder says, “It’s an effect called ‘Priming’ that Neuropsychology is looking at very closely since a couple of years. Print is ‘priming’ the motif of ‘truth’ in our brains just as the smell of Citrus-Fruit is priming the motif of ‘Cleanness.’”

2. Jeff Sonderman says, “Printed statements endure, so sense of seriousness and authority. Radio/TV message disappears instantly, so less accountability.”

I have concluded that there is a difference in the believability / credibility / reliability of a message that is read in print (paper) versus messages received via television / radio / Internet.


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