In amongst this sea of screen-watching and button-pushing sat a young woman who, despite the noise and activity around her, was serenely calm. In her hands was a fashion magazine and, as she casually flicked through the pages, occasionally stopping to read an interview or column, it struck me that out of the entire carriage, she was easily the most relaxed.
This is a perfect illustration of one of the most overlooked advantages of print. Yes, it can deliver information. Yes, it's portable. Yes, it can be glamorous. But one of its greatest qualities is its ability to relax, pushing away the daily grind by drawing you into its world. That's something that no computer or mobile, no matter how hard they try, can achieve.
Maybe it's the satisfying touch of glossy paper or the high level of control you have over how it's read - there aren't many websites you can quickly flick through from back to front. There could even be an element of showing off, as you display the front cover to everyone around you. Whatever it is, there's no denying the enduring power of print to captivate and entertain the reader on a number of emotional levels.
This isn't just opinion; it's scientific fact. Research carried out by neuroscience specialists has found that print drives an emotional response, creating a strong personal bond with the reader. People describe the experience of reading their magazine or newspaper as being in a bubble where the outside world doesn't intrude. No wonder the woman on the train looked so calm.
Of course, mention the words ‘emotional response' to any marketer and their eyes will immediately light up. Creating a connection with a consumer on a deeper level than mere brand-recognition means that your products will be front-of-mind when it comes to the purchasing decision. And if your consumers feel that strongly about your brand, it's likely they will pass on this enthusiasm - and the magazine - to their friends.
There isn't room on the page to list all the top brands that understand the power of the printed word (and image and design and paper stock...). Suffice to say that they all regard print as their number one method of communicating with their customers, largely because they know they provide the longest amount of time in which to get their messages across. That's pure one-to-one time, with no other marketing medium competing for their attention.
Surrounded by screen-based technology, magazines now seem to have taken on the role of stress-reliever for the modern world, soothing their readers by giving them content they can truly lose themselves in. Whether it's a travel piece about touring Bavaria, an exclusive interview with a Hollywood actor, a guide to this season's on-trend shoes or the best way to cook shallots, there's always plenty of escapism available to the overworked commuter.
So next time you feel the need to switch off, put down the mobile and the netbook and open up a magazine. Either that or do a spot of people watching - you never know what it might show.
Julia Hutchison, COO, APA (APA monthly newsletter March 2011)