In this digital age, the majority value paper as a premium product
Digital age
Phil Riebel
October 6, 2016

In this digital age, the majority value paper as a premium product

As I return home from my travels, I can’t help to notice (again!) that most people I cross are staring at their smartphone screens. It has become an obsession for many. I am not sure what to make of it, but something inside me says “This isn’t right”.

It’s not hard to understand why paper use has been decreasing year over year as a result of digitization. You would think people don’t care about paper anymore, but that’s not true. Our work at Two Sides over the past 4 years tells us that the majority value paper very much.

Let me share with you some key findings from our most recent June 2016 survey conducted by Toluna in 11 countries. Here are some results from the U.S.:

1. Many people NEED a paper option and don’t want to be forced into a “digital only” situation

  • 79% of respondents want the option to continue receiving printed information as it provides a more permanent record (75% of 18 to 24 year olds).
  • 49% of all respondents don’t have a reliable Internet connection and want paper records (44% of 18 to 24 year olds).

Companies that are eliminating paper-based communications and making digital the default are taking away consumer choice.

We believe that paper needs to be the default – not digital.

2. Paper is easier to read and provides a permanent record, as well as a reminder (you can’t delete it!!)

  • 79% agreed that reading from paper is nicer than reading off a screen (79% of 18 to 24 year olds).
  • 76% agreed that print on paper is more pleasant to handle and touch when compared to other media (73% of 18 to 24 year olds).
  • 56% agree that paper records are more environmentally sustainable than electronic storage of information (45% of 18 to 24 year olds).

Without paper, some of us would forget to pay our bills, keep records of our transactions or bank accounts, etc. A perfect example of this was a recent visit to our office by a Canada Revenue Agency agent to review our books (fun!). Having to dig around electronic files would have taken longer and been much more complicated.

The results above, as well as previous work we did on Reading in Print vs From Screens, clearly tells us that paper is highly valued for what it delivers:

  • It’s often a more effective tool than screens for learning and literacy – our schools should be noting this!
  • It’s more relaxing to read on paper and there are no health effects due to looking at a screen
  • It has permanence and can be kept for hundreds of years (where will all our digital files be 100 years from now?)

Neuroscientific studies have shown that we have a much more emotional and meaningful connection when we read on paper vs screens.

More and more studies are coming out in favour of handwriting and journaling as a key way to develop learning and memory… and even benefit your health.

So… put down that phone or tablet, get up from your desk, grab a book or start writing in your journal… it’s much better for you!


About Phil Riebel

Phil is President of Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the sustainability of print and paper. Two Sides operates globally in 5 continents and several countries with over 1,000 members spanning the entire graphic communications value chain.

Phil has over 30 years of International experience acquired in senior management positions in industry and consulting and has participated in numerous environmental projects related to the forest products industry. Prior to starting up Two Sides in North America in 2011, Phil was Vice-President, Corporate Environmental Affairs for UPM-Kymmene. Phil has published extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master’s of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He also owns and manages 200 acres of forestland for economic and recreational benefits.