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Why print remains the preferred medium of record

March 3, 2024  By PrintAction Staff

The fundamental role print plays in the fabric of life was the subject of a debate recently held at the U.K. parliament’s Portcullis House.

Hosted by the Independent Print Industries Association (IPIA) and media and marketing forum the Debating Group, discussions were held on the motion that “Printed paper is the preferred medium of record, whilst also a sustainable marketing communications format”.

Of course, most of us are already aware of the many reasons why print is consistently chosen and for the majority it will be no surprise that the room unequivocally found in favour of the motion.


The debate covered the most widely acknowledged reasons why print is trusted and valued. They included:

  • Engagement – Richard Pepper, founder of greetings card service Funky Pigeon, said human beings simply engage with the medium better than they do with the digital word. Deep learning comes from reading books.
  • Sustainability – Digital media is often considered to be consequence free by consumers who are often encouraged to go paperless for environmental purposes. Jonathan Tame, managing director of Two Sides, pointed out paper’s high European recycling rates and that pulp is grown in expanding European forests. This compares to electronic devices that are rarely recycled and rely on extractive mining of non-renewable materials as well as the ICT industry which accounts for five to nine per cent of energy use globally. The latter could rise to 14 per cent of global emissions by 2050. Emma Newman, chief revenue officer, EMEA of digital advertising firm PubMatic, responded that while nearly 90 per cent of PubMatic’s energy usage is from its data centres, U.K. data centres and all global collocation data centres are powered exclusively by renewable energy. She added the transparency of data-driven marketing operations, where every process can be logged, allows for proactive action to drive carbon reduction.
  • Highly targeted marketing – This was acknowledged by John Booth, data centre expert and founder of sustainable IT consultancy Carbon3IT. Highly customised communications see the greatest return on investment.
  • Tangible impact – Booth also recognized how print’s success can be measured. There are numerous studies that show how effective print is in driving action and achieving return on investment.
  • Near-universal deliverability – Booth accepted print’s ability to reach a wide and varied audience. Combined with the ability to deliver consistently interesting and engaging content enables the creation of desirable, and as a result, successful communications.
  • Medium of record – Booth agreed that historically, printed paper is the preferred medium of record in some sectors, such as legal and banking.

The last four points, Booth said, were also possible with digital media with many business environments digitalizing content, from internet banking and libraries to legal papers. He said this allowed for real time updates, helped keep users informed of latest news events and developments and ensured information is up-to-date and relevant.

IPIA general manager Brendan Perring defended the printed word too. He said print, being static, is a strength for a medium of record, while digital’s weakness is that it can be changed and edited. He concluded that in a world where moral integrity and the meaning of truth is under threat, digital needs an ally.

Print and digital can be combined to deliver powerful, memorable, and hyper personal messages that can be delivered in highly sustainable way.

Erwin Busselot is director, business innovation and solutions, Ricoh Graphic Communications, Ricoh Europe

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