No-Print Day: Worth Getting Knickers in a Twist?

By | June 15, 2012

Earlier this week, I posted about the ridiculousness of Toshiba’s “No Print Day” planned for October 23. The post generated a lot of lively comments, and apparently there was such an explosion about the initiative on industry blogs, LinkedIn boards, and other places that The Dead Tree Edition did a follow-up with many of the ripest choices all in one place.

In the comments to my Digital Nirvana post, however, Noel Ward chided us all for “getting our knickers in a twist” over what is essentially a non-issue.

If our industry is so insecure that it feels that the “message” a No Print Day sends out is a bad thing we all ought to start looking for new ways to make a living.

I agree and disagree with Noel on this, and I’ll tell you why.

In an ideal world, all that Noel wrote in his comment is true and I agree with it 100%. However, this isn’t an ideal world, and while it’s true that the print jobs not produced on October 23 will be done on October 22 or October 24, there is really a larger issue here.

There is a tidal wave of misinformation that has been flowing from certain segments of the environmental camps and picked up and mass-perpetuated by the e-media proponents.  From media ruckus over protecting spotted owls to the “go green — switch to online bill pay” on the backs of envelopes, consumers are bombarded with message “print hurts trees.”

When that’s all you hear, that’s what you believe. If everyone says it, it must be true, right? I would pretty much be willing to bet that the average marketer believes it’s true.

While we, in the print industry, know that’s not true, the volume coming out of that side of the issue has been so significant and so unrelenting for such a long time that is having an impact on the psyche of consumers and marketers. Seriously, what percentage of the population has heard of sustainable forestry?

I think Toshiba’s PR campaign is brilliant . . . for Toshiba. But I do think it’s short-sighted because it plays into this misperception for a short-term PR gain.

Is the “print is bad for the environment” misperception going to stop marketers from using print? I don’t think so. But if they are thinking about using e-media over print anyway, that “oh, and e-media is greener because it saves trees” mantra serves as that little extra “feel good” about doing it. It’s subtle, but it’s pervasive.

So my point wasn’t really to comment on the greenness or non-greenness of Toshiba’s ploy. Rather, it was to draw attention to printers’ responsibility to be educating their customers about the facts associated with the sustainability of paper. Printers have to be ready and able to respond to (or even pre-empt) this kind of material.

In fact, why wait for customers to bring it up? Why not use No Print Day as a conversation starter? “Hey, did you hear about . . .?” Then follow it up with some interesting facts about sustainable forestry and the environmental impact of paper versus electronic-based communications. If they haven’t heard of sustainable forestry, there could be a real opportunity there. For people who want to save forests, the idea that paper actually helps to do that is a completely new idea. These are things printers should be ready to talk about.

So let Toshiba do its thing. Use it as a platform to do yours.

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7 thoughts on “No-Print Day: Worth Getting Knickers in a Twist?

  1. Noel Ward

    While these are all good points, I still think everyone is over-reacting. Print is not going to die because of Toshiba’s No Print Day or because mass media says print is bad for the environment. I suspect the message is lost on 99.9% of those hearing it.

    I agree that it’s important to clarify the message about the environmental side of print and forestry, although–having seen first hand the massive clear cuts done by paper companies in the woods of Maine and New Hampshire– I think the forestry industry has their own set of smoke and mirrors operating on this issue.

    Print is a very enduring media. Still, there will be less printed in the future, yet what will be printed is the stuff that’s necessary, needed and has value. The parts that will go away will do so because they no longer serve a need. Like mail addressed to “Resident.”

    Something I find interesting in this “No Print Day” discussion is that most people I know in the print industry have iPads and e-readers. They now use these devices to read magazines, newspapers, and books, no longer buying the printed versions. Now multiply that by all the iPads and e-readers out there. What does that do to print volumes?
    For the record, I don’t own a tablet, read about 50 books a year, and receive 4 magazines each month. Even though I can go days without printing a single page.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Once again, agreed. My concern is that historically, the print industry as a whole has been passive, allowing things to happen to them and reacting only after the threat or change has been overt for some time. This subtle messaging has been going on a long time, and my hope is that printers will become more proactive in responding rather than waiting for someone else to do it for them.

  3. Joe Manos

    Hello Heidi and Noel,

    Great posts on both ends of the spectrum.

    I like the final point that Heidi made about printers being more pro-active. This has historically been a weak area for most and two new studies coming out of Drupa point to how their customers view printers.

    50% don’t feel their printer bring new ideas to them and 60% don’t view printers as a source for new innovation to help meet their needs.

    To Noel’s point about …print that’s necessary, needed and has value – that’s where today’s printer has to improve!

    While the No Print Day is an interesting message – the fact of the matter is that the printer’s customers are focused on using print to meet specific business objectives and in most cases those objectives take precedence over environmental considerations.

    To Heidi’s point – it’s all about the “education” of your customers – and my point would be …show your customers how you can help them meet their business objectives through effective print and “new media” use cases with the added value of a more environmentally friendly solution of the two.

  4. Dieter Schilling

    Heidi,
    An important distinction of the Toshiba No Print Day is one of our own perpetuating the misleading commentary. When environmentalists or e-driven entities expose their bias with print is wasteful or print is killing the planet, we almost expect and then discount the message because of the source. Now, a corporation that exists in part because of our industry and just exhibited at Drupa comes forth with this greenwashing propoganda, it represents a shift that I agree with you, cannot and should not be ignored.
    Dieter Schilling

  5. Alison Waddell

    There is a lot of waste on either side. The biggest threat isn’t paper or e-media, it’s consumption. People in offices print unnecessarily and people buy electronics unnecessarily.

    I like Noel’s comment:
    “Print is a very enduring media. Still, there will be less printed in the future, yet what will be printed is the stuff that’s necessary, needed and has value. The parts that will go away will do so because they no longer serve a need.” Hear hear.
    We need some equivalent perspective on the electronics market where rampant consumption of new gadgets is the business model.

    Thanks for the great posts Heidi!

  6. Jim Albany

    If I hear the comment about “killing trees” one more time I think I’ll explode. I have gone over the facts with many of these mislead greenies and they are so invested in their point, they will not listen to logic and documented facts.

    We have a uphill battle on our hands. The Toshiba issue maybe have awoken the sleeping giants amoung us!

    Jim Albany

  7. Joe Manos

    The PIA announced today that through their conversations on the strong objection of the campaign message being misunderstood by customers of all types – Toshiba has agreed to cancel the campaign .

    Still the discussion started by Heidi was valuable on several fronts.

    Great work everyone!

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