Screen-savvy teens actually prefer paper

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Nov 10, 2011

As the chill of winter started to bite this week, it was delightful to receive news to warm the cockles of anyone in the print industry. According to consumer research carried out on behalf of print advocacy groups Print Power and Two Sides, print is preferred as a medium for reading from by the majority of those surveyed.

Drill down and the picture is more cheering still. The survey of 4,500 European consumers found that the strongest preference for printed paper was from the 18-24 year old age group. It goes against the grain of everything that we have assumed up to now about the “Digital Native” generation. You’d think that anyone welded to their smartphone, checking Facebook, and chatting to their friends on BlackBerry Messenger would dismiss print and paper as old hat. So to find that a preference for print was even stronger amongst this demographic is a surprise. Whether print is seen as so old school now that it has become desirable for its vintage or retro attributes by this generation, or that it is actually preferred as a way of reading for other reasons it is something to shout about. If nothing else, it’s such a startling statistic as to help start the debate about print’s place in the media mix with anyone who had already written it off as dead.

Another part of the research uncovered that despite this preference for print there is still a considerable disconnect between the reality of the sustainability of paper-based communications and public perception. So while print maybe liked for what it is, there is a danger that society sees it as less sustainable than it is, and less sustainable than electronic media. It would be a crying shame if consumers played down a preference for print on a misconception that their favoured format was less desirable for the planet than alternatives.

Two Sides will be using the full results of the survey to plan the next steps in its campaign to promote the environmental credentials of paper and to tackle the misconceptions surrounding the subject.

Click on these links for more information on Two Sides and Print Power

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