Print Kicks Digital into Touch


A new whitepaper by the International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) and paper producer UPM examines how much value print adds to the media industry, and concludes that print as a medium is thriving.

In a largely digital world print remains buoyant because you simply can’t replicate the impact on feeling a piece of paper in your hand on a screen. A physical print engages all the senses, promoting a deeper recall and investing the reader more in its message. In 2015, American neuroscientist and author Dr David Eagleman did a groundbreaking experiment asking participants  to read three versions of a company brochure. The first version was printed on high quality coated paper, the second on lower grade uncoated paper while the third was online. The study found that those who read on high quality paper understood and remembered the content better than those who read on lower grade paper or online, and were most likely to recommend the company to friends. Additionally, a week later, people still preferred the company they read about on the high quality paper, with name recall highest by a factor of 3:1.

Since the 1990s, over 100 studies published by neuroscientists, psychologists and other researchers have explored how people interact with paper. What they found was that people read best on paper for three reasons: it makes content easier to navigate, it facilitates better mental ‘mapping’ of information and it drains fewer cognitive resources, improving the retention of information. This is all because paper is a physical, tangible medium that engages our sense of touch.

Touch is the first sense we acquire and is a powerful influencer used in a vast range of silent social communications. Studies show that people who are lightly touched by a waiter in a restaurant leave bigger tips, while sports teams who interact physically during matches consistently win more games. When students checked out a book from a library, students who had the library card returned to them in such a way that they had physical contact with the librarian for about half a second, reported liking the library more and were more likely to go back.  In addition to heavier, textured paper stocks advanced printing techniques can leverage the tactile experience of paper with effects such as embossing and debossing to complex material simulations such as the feel of luxury leather, wood or even car tyre tracks.