Print is Dead, Long Live the Digital Age
At least that’s what everyone thinks, and why wouldn’t they? Some of the country’s most venerable magazines have done away with printed editions in favor of online postings. Almost nobody pays to place a classified ad in a newspaper anymore. These days, that type of small-time advertising is all online. Even printed wedding invitations, once considered to be the epitome of etiquette, are being replaced by electronic invitations. Many businesses are becoming environmentally conscience and following strict printing guidelines, purchasing refurbished ink and even recycling ink cartridges.
Yes, printing is becoming a thing of the past for many people and businesses, but the rumors of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. It’s not dead, not even close. There are still a lot of businesses out there that still can’t go paperless.
Colleges and Universities
If you want to learn about the important role printing still plays in the lives of Americans, all you have to do is stop by the admissions office of college or university. There you’ll see expensive, four-color recruitment materials, financial aid applications and a plethora of other documents ready to enlighten prospective students and their parents about the school’s educational offerings.
And that’s only the beginning. Make your way to a professor’s office and you’ll see stacks and stacks of academic journals, research papers and student work waiting to be graded on the desk.
Academia is among the print-friendly industries in the country—and it’s big business.
All those professors doing all those government-funded research projects? Everything they do is reported in print, and the best of it makes it to the academic journals, all of which are printed.
While it’s true that today’s college students get most of their information electronically, the students’ parents still appreciate a well-put-together printed piece—especially when they’re shelling out big dollars for tuition. For parents, knowing that a college or university is willing to put its promises in print makes the investment seem smarter, which is what higher education is all about.
Businesses that cater to older Americans know their audiences—grew up with books and newspapers, may or may not have internet access, distrusting of the internet.
That’s why retirement communities still print.
They print in normal type. They print in large type. And sometimes, they even print in extra-large type. Older people want a lot of information. And if you’re trying to sell them something, they believe that you should over-communicate. So retirement communities print brochures, payment plans, activity schedules and newsletters—everything today’s older adults expect.
Pick any ailment and you’ll be able to find printed materials available from your local hospital or clinic that will tell you about the symptoms, the treatments and the best way to make an appointment.
Think about it. There must be more than 1,000 things that could be wrong with you at any given moment. Your back could ache, your eyes could blur, your head could hurt. And there’s a brochure or fact sheet for nearly every one of them.
Sure, people go online, do some searching and then self-diagnose. But nobody truly trusts a website when it comes to their health—if people did, everyone would be sick with just about everything.
Patients believe in the power of the printed word. So after they go online, they call their doctor’s office, get a checkup and then go home with fact sheets and prescriptions to peruse and pore over.
Having an official print document to hold onto makes them feel better.
Ah the government. Say what you will about your elected officials’ policies, there’s one thing they’re all good at: communicating.
Even before a candidate for public office announces an intention to run for office, the printing has begun. Yard signs, brochures, fact sheets and flyers are written, designed and printed.
Then, when a candidate becomes an elected official, they make policy, and those policies need to be explained to the voters—many of whom don’t have access to the internet or don’t trust what they read online or both. And because America is the Great Melting Pot, everything the government prints needs to be done in several languages.
Urban school districts and community service providers, too, face this challenge. It’s not enough to send a letter home in English anymore because many of the kids’ parents and grandparents don’t speak English.
The beautiful thing about government printing is that the same process—run for office, get elected, change policies, explain policies—repeats itself every year.
Would you sign a virtual contract to buy a house, divorce your spouse, buy sell a car or invest a large sum of money? Most people wouldn’t, which is why lawyers love printed documents. They’re tangible. They’re real. They require a client’s intentional actions to make them official. And most importantly, printed documents are admissible in court.
So even if they wanted to, lawyers probably couldn’t go entirely paperless—legally speaking, of course.