"Print and digital are often compared in a bid to decide which is best. However, the debate shouldn’t centre around 'print vs. digital', as both channels are important and complement each other."

The Trend Tracker Report is based on a global study of 10,250 consumers by the independent research company Toluna, commissioned by the organization Two Sides. As the study is carried out bi-annually, development trends come into sight.

In 2023, the study shows that close to every other person say they spend too much time on electronic devices. And as many as one third of the consumers state that they suffer from digital overload. These figures grow subsequently year by year.

Report on consumer attitudes

The Trend Tracker survey investigates consumer attitudes toward print, paper, and paper-based packaging. The study was last conducted in January 2023, aiming to explore and understand changing consumer preferences, perceptions and attitudes. 

There are some facts about the usage of print and paper that are yet to be more widely known by consumers. For example, Europe is the world’s paper recycling champion at 71%, having the highest rate globally. It is followed by North America (68%) and Asia (55%), according to CEPI (2021). But according to the summary of the European findings, just 18% of European consumers know that the paper recycling rate in Europe exceeds 60%. The rest thought it was lower.

This type of finding is something the not-for-profit organisation Two Sides works with consistently, as part of their mission is to explain and communicate the sustainability and effectiveness of print, paper and paper packaging. Knowledge about the recycling rate of paper has risen by 2% during the last two years, so consumers are becoming more aware.

When it comes to comparing paper to plastics, 55% of the consumers state that they prefer paper packaging, because of it being better for the environment. And consequentially, as many as 59% want their products ordered online to be delivered in paper packaging, a number that has gone up from 57% in 2021.

Attitudes towards digital 

Even though the question isn't whether to use print or digital, as both channels are important and complement each other, it has become clear by the latest Trend Tracker findings that society's growing dependence on digital brings its own challenges. Almost half, 48%, of the consumers (an increase from 46% in 2021), are now concerned about how digital devices may be damaging their health. 

  • 49% believe they spend too much time on electronic devices
  • 56% are increasingly concerned about personal information held electronically
  • 51% do their best to block or avoid online adverts
  • 32% state that they suffer from digital overload
  • and 58% say they don’t pay attention to online adverts (up from 55% in 2021)

In the meantime, 55% believe companies’ environmental arguments to switch to digital are misleading and that their actual reason concerns reducing cost. This number has increased steeply from 49% in 2021. 

Better understanding by using print

When asked, 45% of consumers say they get a better understanding of news stories in print rather than online. 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, according to the 2023 Trend Tracker European Summary.

What is digital fatigue and how can you fight it?

The online site and magazine Psychology today explains digital fatigue as the feeling of being tired and burned out from all the screen time in our lives. This state can be characterized by endless and sometimes habitual scrolling and texting back and forth, which limits our attention. It can just plain wear us out, and many experience how their own productivity declines while they're at the same time struggling to disconnect. 

Digital fatigue has numerous implications for our work and relationships, according to article writer Charles R. Chaffin, who is also the author behind the book Numb, How the Information Age Dulls Our Senses and How We Can Get them Back. Recognizing that all this screen time is draining is an important first step, he says in the article. Some other warning signs is to notice whether it has become more difficult to sleep, and if small talk seems to have become boring. His recommendation is to be more strategic about when to use digital devices and when not to. Just leaving the phone out of sight for 15 minutes may make you feel more present and recharged.