I’ve always maintained the power of printed media, and while there is no denying the digital world has provided us with speed, accessibility and new ways to connect, I hold firm in my belief that print continues to have an important place in communications. Here’s why…

It’s environmentally friendlier

It’s often assumed that printing publications, such as newsletters, is environmentally unfriendly – especially when compared to online options. But you may be surprised to learn it’s quite the opposite.

For the purposes of comparison it takes:

  • 5g of CO2 to produce one A4 page
  • 1g of CO2 to laser print one A4 page

Unlike e-readers, monitors and the internet which also have a CO2 impact, paper reading doesn’t require electricity.

Reading a document for 30 mins on a device produces:

  • 8g CO2 on a laptop
  • 5g – 62.4g CO2 on a desktop computer

FUN FACT: The carbon footprint of one cheeseburger is the equivalent to printing between 400-800 pages of paper.


People prefer it – even millennials

I don’t know about you, but I prefer an actual book to using my phone or a kindle when reading for leisure and I am far more easily drawn in to a printed communication than a digital one. It’s so tangible. I am a bit ‘over’ using digital devices and am finding that too much screen time actually doesn’t make me feel that great.

Seems I am not alone.

An international survey in June 2017 (see references below) found that 72% of consumers prefer to read the printed version of books or magazines and 55% prefer newspapers/news in print.

“Across the scientific community, consumer markets, academia, and modern enterprises, studies have all shared a common thesis in their findings; there is significance in communicating through tangible, printed materials in a digital age. Significance that is somehow lost in translation when moved to digital form. Significance that is strengthened by print’s rarity as digital consumption increases. As companies continue to migrate many initiatives, very much including training, to digital formats, there is growing preference and evidence of print’s critical role in a digital world.”

I admit, I too have been quick to assume millennials favour social networking over ‘real books’ and no longer know how to spell out words in full thanks to the influence of txt culture. However, I’ve been wrong, LOL.

“A 2017 Forbes article11 indicates that contrary to popular belief, millennials read more than older generations do—and more than the last generation did at the same age. Similar to the Statista and Nielsen findings, new research shows that this group still generally prefers print books to e-books. In 2016, unit sales of print books rose 3.3% over the previous year, making it the third straight year of print growth.”

Extracts from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/oboclientassets/ADP/assets/Deliverables/Print+vs+Digital.pdf


It’s more effective

In a world of ever-present screens and devices, printed communication is a welcome change, effectively cutting through the clutter and having a longer-lasting impact.

The same international survey also found:

  • 65% of consumers believe they gain a deeper understanding of a story when read in print verses online
  • In addition, consumers also trust the stories read in printed newspapers (51%) more than stories found on social media (24%)

“After reading for an extended period of time, it’s much easier and less strenuous to read something in print. T.J. Raphael of Public Radio International explains, “Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards ‘non-linear’ reading—a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.”

“… as digital fatigue, clutter, and noise all grow alongside the adoption of digital, print breaks through that noise, resonating across the generational divide in a human-compatible format, improving information retention and helping make your programs even more successful.”

Extracts from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/oboclientassets/ADP/assets/Deliverables/Print+vs+Digital.pdf


So, whilst we certainly need to continue to embrace new and smarter ways of doing things, it’s important we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. Print continues to be a very valid element of an effective communications strategy because it can really connect with people and, contrary to popular opinion, it’s also surprisingly good for the environment.

In my experience however, print does take a bit more effort because it’s going to hang around for a while, so it needs to be right. Which is why organisations that take their communications seriously will continue to use print as part of their ‘mix’, and that, in itself, will send a strong message to their audiences that they’re serious about what they’re sharing.




https://www.ezeep.com/co2-neutral-printing/ – comparisons between reading a document on screen and printing it:

https://www.fujifilm.com/fbglobal/eng/company/technology/production/ma/electronic_media/case1.html – carbon footprint of print vs digital consumption

https://twosides.org.au/Paper-is-Energy-Intensive-and-has-a-High-Carbon-Footprint – carbon footprint of paper

https://twosides.org.au/People-Want-to-Switch-to-Digital – print vs digital survey*

https://s3.amazonaws.com/oboclientassets/ADP/assets/Deliverables/Print+vs+Digital.pdf20 page print vs digital discussion and research paper