Good news for print and paper as European consumer preference for printed materials has recovered significantly post-pandemic

Carried out every two years, the Two Sides Trend Tracker survey is one of the print and paper industry’s largest examining consumer preferences and perceptions of print, paper and paper-based packaging. This huge piece of research questions more than 10,000 consumers in 16 countries across the world, from South America and the United States to South Africa and Europe, and provides an assessment of consumers’ attitudes towards print and paper.

“The Trend Tracker 2023 survey seeks to understand consumer perceptions across a wide range of topics relating to print, paper, paper packaging and tissue products,” says Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Side Europe. “Having carried out the same research in 2017 and 2021, we are able to assess how these perceptions have changed over time, and have uncovered some interesting trends, including the effect that the pandemic has had on consumers’ reading habits.”

At the height of the pandemic in 2021, many consumers had shifted from print on paper to the internet and read more on digital devices, across all categories of communications, including; newspapers, magazines, books, catalogues, bills and statements, tax statements and personal health information. That trend has reversed, however, with consumer preference for print rising significantly over the past two years. This is according to a new consumer survey commissioned by Two Sides Europe and conducted by international research company Toluna. The Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey is conducted biennially to assess consumer preferences and perceptions related to print, paper, paper packaging and tissue products.

“Despite the surge in online media and widespread withdrawal of printed communications during the pandemic, it’s clear that many consumers still value print on paper,” says Jonathan Tame, Managing Director of Two Side Europe. “Many people are moving back towards print, especially when reading books and magazines.”

The survey shows that the percentage of European consumers who prefer to read printed books has risen to 65%, up from 53% in 2021. The preference for printed magazines is now 51%, up from 35%. The trend for newspapers and catalogues is similar, with the preference for print up to 31% from 26%, and to 33% from 21%, respectively. The preference for paper bills and statements is also on the rise, up to 38% from 19%, as is the preference for printed personal health information, up to 39% from 29%.

Learning And Understanding

The survey also sought opinion on the advantages of reading material in print. This revealed that more than half (52%) agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I think children and students learn more when reading printed rather than digital books and course materials,” compared to just 16% who disagreed or strongly disagreed. 45% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I get a better understanding of the story when reading news in print rather than online, compared to 28% who disagreed or strongly disagreed.

These results reinforce academic studies that have demonstrated the important role print has in education and in helping people understand complex information, whether that information is in the form of textbooks or news stories.

“This survey reveals a number of fascinating facts about print and the many advantages it has for consumers,” says Tame. “As we complete our analysis of all topics covered by the study, including packaging and the environment, we’ll be sharing even more insights for the print and paper-based packaging industry.”

An executive summary of the Trend Tracker Survey 2023 will be published in June and available to industry stakeholders on request. Contact us at [email protected]  to register your interest in receiving this summary.

The complete survey data broken down by country, age and gender is available to Two Sides members only or available to purchase.