Paper Wins This "Screen Test"...What This Means For Marketing

When It Comes to Reading, People Prefer Paper to Screens 

More than likely, you’re reading this on a screen. But according to a recent study conducted by an international research company, chances are you’d rather be reading it on paper and this information has implications for marketing departments.

The preference for paper shouldn’t really surprise anyone. After all, manufacturers of e-book readers, netbooks, tablets and laptops seem to be making a real effort to make the experience of reading on a screen as close as possible to the experience of reading something in a book, magazine or newspaper.

The most popular e-book reader uses the word “paper” in the name of its most popular model, and has come up with a special font clearly named for its book-like characteristics. It almost makes me laugh. If you prefer the experience of a book or magazine printed on paper, here’s a crazy idea: buy one!

It even reminded me of a legendary television commercial for Xerox copiers, where sales reps for all the other brands were claiming theirs performed as well as the market leader, until one salesman played the ultimate trump card.

Survey Shows Paper IS The Tiger

But let’s get back to the study I mentioned. It was conducted by Toluna, an international research company, commissioned by Two Sides North America. The study surveyed more than 1000 consumers in the U.S. in all age groups. Complete results are available at the Two Sides website, but I’d like to share the findings that jumped out at me.

  • 81% of respondents prefer to read print on paper (and age mattered very little – the lowest percentage for any age group was 77%).
  • 88% believe that they understand and retain information better when they read something on paper, as compared to on a screen.
  • 66% said they were “easily distracted” when reading things on their mobile or smartphones, compared to only 23% when reading things printed on paper.
  • Many people admit to printing out documents they receive or access electronically; 74% of them do so because they find them easier to read in that form.
  • Respondents pay more attention to advertisements in print than those online; nearly half do so for leaflets received in the mail or at the door, and more than 60% for advertising in magazines and newspapers read in print form  vs. their online counterparts.

All these findings are interesting, but that last one may have some pretty big implications for marketers. Before planning your next email newsletter, consider that, as my post last week indicated, a good old traditional “hold it in your hands” direct mail piece might be worth adding to your marketing mix.

It’s certainly a different world. There are reports now that indicate teens spend large amounts of time watching screens on which other people are playing video games!  And isn’t it just a bit discouraging that we apparently need television commercials to encourage children to get up, go out and play?

Don’t Ignore What Your Customers Prefer

So I for one was glad to see that people still, at heart, want the experience of reading the way they learned to do it – on crisp paper, held in their hands. Clearly, digital communication isn’t going anywhere, and there are many situations and uses for which it has wonderful benefits. (I saw them online recently, but they escape me right now – I should have printed them out!)

But the printed word on paper is still the most valued communication channel for most consumers. It brings a richness, clarity and comfort zone that no “screen” can duplicate. Why not give me a call and together we can come up with some ways to add the depth and reassurance of print on paper to your marketing and your organization.

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