3 Myths About Print In the Digital Age

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I’m sure you’ve read the headlines—we are all going paperless.

Of late the news has been filled with headlines surrounding the fall of paper products. This, despite the fact that worldwide paper consumption has actually increased by roughly 400% in the last 40 years. 

Yes, we humans love to overreact to our changing economy. The reality is paper products and companies are going to be around for the next 100 years plus. 

Whether its office paper, printed graphics(think realtors, presentations), envelopes, books, or the most common corrugated boxes, paper products are thriving—even in the digital age. 

Still, myths about the fall of paper continue to spread. 

Going Paperless is Carbon Neutral

The most common myth that has been circulating about print in the digital age is that going paperless is carbon neutral.

This is just not true, in fact when you digitize billions of documents that are now required to be stored electronically, you are putting a huge strain on the power grid. Remember, in the U.S our power still comes from mainly non-green sources like petroleum (36%), natural gas (31%), and coal (13%). 

Going paperless has fueled the expansion of giant industrial warehouses filled with servers that require A LOT of power. That is hardly carbon neutral.

Take a recent study done in the UK as an example. Reuters found that the UK could reduce their carbon output by some 16,000 tonnes a year(equal to more than 80,000 flights from London to Madrid) by simply not sending useless thank you emails. 

We often forget in the digital age just how our actions affect the environment. It’s easy to see direct consequences, but more difficult to spot our newly developed indirect ones.

The False Dichotomy of Paper or Paperless

Another myth about print in the digital age is the false dichotomy of paper vs. paperless. The obsession with going paperless has many individuals and businesses believing they can do away with all paper products.

That isn’t a reality. The fact is paper products are still valuable tools for businesses. The tactile nature of paper makes it easier to read and comprehend.

One example of the value of paper can be seen in a recent study that found in the US, 85% of students report multitasking while reading online, while only 26% report it while reading in print. 

Print material is better for readers’ comprehension, but perhaps, more importantly, paper ads and flyers are still required for many businesses. The dichotomy of paper vs. paperless is a false reality.

For example, if you are a realtor, leaving your sign and flyers out in front of your showings is still a necessity. The reality is most businesses, even digital ones, require paper for printed contracts, advertisements and more. There are hundreds of businesses for whom the new, forced dichotomy of paper vs. paperless just doesn’t work.

Printing and Paper Companies Are Old News

So you’ve been watching The Office a lot lately. You’re sure printing and paper companies are dying. Of course, you haven’t read The University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Richard Smith’s report on the environmental stability of paper, so you are unaware paper product sales have actually increased substantially since the beginning of the paperless push back in 2011. 

The reality is paper and printing business continue to thrive even in 2019 and paper remains one of the most common business purchases. 

Of course, the business of paper has changed in the past decade. Now, print fulfillment companies dominate the market. They enable businesses of almost any size to outsource their printing departments, saving time and money.

These print fulfillment companies rely on businesses’ knowledge that print ads are the most trusted form of advertisement. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Marketing Sherpa 85% of respondents voted for paper as their most trusted ad source.

No, print in the digital age isn’t dying. In fact, printing companies continue to do extremely well, bolstered by growing demand for their products. 

There are many myths about print in the digital age. Often times they are spread with the best of intentions, but facts don’t care about your feelings. Print is alive and well in 2019 and will be for decades to come. 

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