Is Paper Dead? The Future Of Paper Media Analyzed

Trends Published by: Arnaud BuffetTue, Sep 20, 2016

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As an Art Director with nearly 15 years in the business, you could say that I really have lived the transition from paper to digital. True, that approach is somewhat of a caricature, yet it will be one of the main themes of my article.

Between the time I started my first job, using QuarkXPress and Mac OS 9, where I did layout work for up to nine “papers” a month, until now, working under Adobe Creative Cloud and Mac OS 10.11.6 where everything I create and produce has an 80% chance of ending up on a screen…a (r)evolution took place.

I can hear you now: “He’s nostalgic” or “He can’t keep up with the times”… No. That’s not it at all. Digital and its many applications have numerous benefits. On the other hand, the arrival of digital had the effect of somewhat (actually absolutely) relinquishing paper to the background, even making it into a dinosaur. The upshot was all of the disruptions seen the printing world. Bankruptcies, mergers, buyouts…all proof that the segment had been seriously shaken up.

Papier vs Digital

I want to use this “post” to give paper back its former sparkle. There’s no need to talk about the past for that. I’ll stay in the present because paper, good old paper that can be touched, smelled, weighed, handed from person to person (anyway, you get the picture) is absolutely contemporary. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at recent studies that prove that printed material sometimes gets better marketing results than digital.

The study done by TrueImpact stresses the fact that the cognitive effort required to look at (paper) direct mail is less than what is required to decipher a digital message (21% less effort with paper). At the same time, our capacity to remember the message is greater with paper (70% greater than with digital media). Of course, everything depends on the message you want to get across, on the target, etc.… Every medium has its advantages and drawbacks.


Heidelberg T

You already get the picture. In my opinion, paper still has a reason for being. There’s nothing like it to get an emotion across, create a bond or transport you into a different universe. In order to keep up with the challenges from the competition and digital technologies, modern printing works have equipped themselves with an army of machines that are ever-more effective, faster, bigger and more expensive. They push back the limits of what is possible. Yet, I’m not interested in the technology push for profitability here. What I want to share with you is the trade the way it was hundreds of years ago. Men and women “lived” their machines. Mastering a Heidelberg T (platen) was a craft, perhaps an art form.


Everything in the trade took time. What a luxury! Both for the technician managing the machine and for the graphic designer creating a project. You sat down and invited your colleagues to reflect…You took out paper samples, considered various finishes and effects. The possibilities were endless. In other words, everyone took their time.

Then you talked with the printer. His advice was worth its weight in gold. He guided and inspired and sometimes corrected you. Passion was at the heart of the discussion. Seeing a printed “item” for the first time is like being a kid unwrapping a PlayStation 4 after saving up for 10 months. You build a relationship with the item, whether you’re a printer, the graphic artist or the person for whom the message is intended.


Room for everyone

So, paper or digital? Let’s agree that we’re living in incredible times. At Absolute Agency, we’re convinced that when combined intelligently, the two media can meet the most demanding objectives. Long live paper!

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