Sales of print editions of The Times leapt by more than 50,000 in 2016. So what does print still have that digital doesn't?

Is print so out of fashion that it’s actually back in vogue? You might be forgiven for thinking so if you look at the round of hipster print launches recently. Glass, at JW Thompson, was the magazine the advertising giant published to showcase this year’s report on young millennial women. Pineapple is Airbnb’s company magazine, Porter continues apace at Net-a-Porter and The Times has just recorded its 13-month year-on-year print edition increase. Yes that’s right – a newspaper putting on print sales.

Blame it on Brexit (which added a collective 175,000 print sales to The Times and The Sunday Times), blame it on the uncertain times (people want familiarity), but advertisers need to look at print again. What we do know is that when print is included as part of a campaign, it significantly increases ROI. In September and October Nissan ran a tactical campaign across The Sun, Times and The Sunday Times print and digital products, around relevant motoring editorial. It was promoting Leaf, their new electric car. In testing, one in three readers recalled the campaign, but this increased to two in three among those who read via print and digital (online and tablet). Results showed an increase in brand consideration, awareness and recommendation: 34 per cent of Sun and Times readers said the campaign made them more likely to consider the Leaf, increasing to 46 per cent among those who read via print and digital.

So what does print deliver that digital can’t? Firstly, authority. It’s a legacy medium with history on its side. Know Your Times is the new campaign News UK has launched to promote our titles, conceived as a result of research that shows readers come to us to cut through the noise: they want clear, trustworthy reporting and analysis. Our In the Heart of The Sea campaign for Warner Brothers demonstrated this perfectly – director Ron Howard wanted authenticity to be the guiding principle of his film.

Secondly, engagement. You can’t second screen while you are reading a paper; it’s a lean back, finite experience. Print allows you to come to the end of a story, it doesn’t hyperlink you to related content; it protects your reading experience to offer a sense of resolution. A campaign Bridge Studio ran for Brand USA earlier this year across The Sunday Times Travel magazine, Sunday Times and Times Travel supplements and online via a hub and digital “saw terrific engagement across all channels and some fantastic results,” said Sarah Barnett, communications director at Brand USA, referring to the two thirds of readers who plan to travel to the USA in the next two years – with an estimated spend of £4m.

Thirdly, luxury. In December The Times launches LUXX, a new 120-page glossy magazine, which sold its advertising pages in just two months. As Dante D’Angelo, communications director at Valentino, said to us: “It’s all about print. This is the only means to reach reliable, upmarket, wealthy consumers. Added to that, newspapers have the integrity brands want to be associated with.”

Luxury is also reflected, albeit in a slightly different manner, in the new print launch for The Sun this year: Popcorn, a new monthly film magazine. Produced in partnership with Sky, alongside editorial coverage of theatrical releases, it showcases the new premium viewing experience from Sky Cinema. Recent reader testing of this upmarket title has proved it is a resounding success with readers.

Finally, innovation. It’s easy to forget in this digitally obsessed landscape that print can still surprise and delight. The translucent Oreo wrap of The Sun on the day of the eclipse was seen by more than 4m people, and gained acres of coverage. Likewise the panoramic fold out cover of The Times for In The Heart of the Sea was a first for newspapers. Two more exciting print innovations are due to hit our papers before Christmas.

Watch this print space.