Digital – The End of Print? (Guest Article)

Chris Ashworth, founder of Competitive Advantage, looks at some of the trends identified in their Construction Media Index published last Autumn.

Having been in lockdown for recent weeks, it is pleasing to see that the Construction Leadership Council is making proposals to the government to support the construction industry as we start to think about exiting lockdown. Part of their message is that now is the time to drive through changes in the way the industry does things. I’m sure that with many people working from home, the adoption and use of cloud-based systems has increased significantly. Probably making specifiers and decision makers more open to digital media.


Good news for the construction marketer, as the range of digital communications available today makes life so much easier. An article like this one can be prepared quite quickly and simply. Then if you have an established network of subscribers it can easily get before many relevant readers. And afterwards, there are a host of metrics to report who read it and when. We are also seeing the development of the integrated approach by online publishers of product directories and providers of specifications and BIM objects. It is becoming possible to deduce which projects specifiers are working on when they review information. This in turn enables a very focused approach to potential specifiers and installers if manufacturers chose to use it.

There are also the social networks, which not only provide a means of communicating with our audiences, but also of growing that audience as people ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ articles. Our research found that growth is starting to stabilise, but over half of professionals will access their networks at least once a day and only 16% do not use social networks at all. And 15% said they expect their usage to increase over the coming year.

But what of the hardcopy publication, is it still relevant? From our research last year for the Construction Media Index it still is. Overall, 23% of respondents still only read industry publications in hardcopy format. While there has been a very small year-on-year reduction in these numbers, almost a third tell us that they expect to change their readership from hardcopy to digital next year (2020). How will the lockdown impact on this I wonder?

When considering the publications with the highest hardcopy readership, they tend to be the professional membership magazines; RIBA Journal, Modus and Construction Manager. So, are people reading them because they land on their desks and would this stop if they were in a digital-only format? Comparing the readership across professions, it's also interesting to note that the architect reads a wider range of hardcopy publications than his peers. Possibly because imagery is important.

Today, more than ever before, we have the tools available to engage with our prospects in a meaningful way. We also have the capability to bombard them with levels of information like never before. To be effective, companies must think about each customer persona and provide them with information that is relevant and meaningful. Not bombarding them through the same channel but using a range of communication channels to drip-feed a consistent message. Done correctly it can build trusting relationships. But to do that a thorough understanding of your prospects is required.

Competitive Advantage can help you understand your customers through reports such as the Construction Media Index, a range of Personas and by conducting bespoke research on your behalf.

Digital – The End Of Print