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Consumer Reading Preferences: Study Shows 81% Choose Paper Over Screens

Kurt Ruppel

In today’s multi-channel marketing environment, advertisers face an array of media options to use when communicating with consumers. Has the convenience and immediacy of digital communications changed consumers’ reading habits, and what impact might that have on the best means for distributing marketing messages? A recent study shows that while on-screen reading occupies an increasing amount of consumer time, people’s preferences are still for print on paper, making direct mail an important channel to include in your marketing mix.

Two Sides North America, Inc. commissioned a study earlier this year to examine how consumers feel about reading on paper or screens. The study, conducted by Toluna in May 2015, surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers on their increasing amount of time spent reading from digital devices and screens (computers, tablets, smartphones) compared to paper-based media.

When given the choice of reading print on paper, on a computer screen, on an e-reader, or on a smartphone, 81% of respondents chose paper. In addition, 88% of the respondents agreed that they could retain or use information better when reading on paper. A similar majority chose paper as the best medium for reading complicated materials. (The How Life Unfolds campaign, which Karen Weil profiled last Friday, has an entire section dedicated to informative articles on how printed communication improves learning and productivity.)

The study also found a strong correlation between the length of documents and the preference to read on paper. While more than 70% of those surveyed preferred reading short documents on screen, less than half want to read full page documents on screen, and that number drops to less than one third for a document of three or more pages.

When presented with digital media, many people will print out documents. The main reasons are:

  • 74% believe printed documents are easier to read;
  • 55% believe printed documents are more secure;
  • 56% believe printed documents are better for storage and archiving;
  • 47% believe printed documents are less likely to be lost.

Another study finding was that although those under age 45 were more comfortable reading on digital devices than their older peers, all age groups showed a strong preference for print on paper, especially when reading longer, more complex material.

As marketers, we all understand the need to reach our audience through their preferred channels. For many that’s on paper and through the mail. Be sure to factor in these findings during your next strategy session.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2015/10/27/consumer-reading-preferences-study/
Kurt Ruppel


Kurt Ruppel

Director Postal Policy and Marketing Communications and graduate of Utah State University. Bringing the “all of us know more than any of us” business philosophy to IWCO Direct for more than 30 years (oy!). Three-time IWCO Direct President’s Award winner, Chairman of the EMA Board of Directors, bicycling enthusiast, and Ohio State Buckeye Football fan.

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