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Source: Jim Hamilton, Consultant Emeritus at Keypoint Intelligence
Jim Hamilton, Publisher at Green Harbor Publications and former Director at Keypoint Intelligence, has developed an easy-to-remember acronym that highlights the benefits of print. This acronym, PLATE, stands for Physical, Lasting, Accessible, Tactile, and Eco-Friendly. The PLATE acronym starts at a place that is familiar to most in our industry—the printing plate. It reminds us of five key and interrelated factors that make the use of print and paper appealing and effective.
Let’s explore how each of these words aligns with the benefits of print.
Print is physical, and it touches our five senses in a visceral way. Although its biggest impact is through sight and touch, it is not entirely devoid of impact to smell, sound, and even taste:
The impact on our five senses is an essential part of the experience of interacting with print. This is one of the ways that print stirs the reader’s imagination. You might keep a printed piece, use it for kindling, toss it in the recycle bin, or throw it out in the garbage, but it is there.
A printed piece of paper will outlive any digital file format that human beings can devise. Printed bills, statements, postcards, and direct mail sit on the counter as a reminder of something you might (or might not) wish to pursue. Print is not ephemeral; it sits there and bugs you. It will not disappear when you turn off the power. A photo or document in print does not require your hard drive or a password or cloud storage to look at it.
In addition to being readable without an electronic device, print on paper (or any other substrate) is accessible for other reasons, too. With physical print, you are not competing with the temptation to access another browser window or play an electronic game, and you won’t be distracted by beeps, alarms, or other alerts. Without these distractions, it is easier to focus. Reading a book by turning its pages also provides additional mental landmarks that our brains can use to sort through information, whether we are reading a textbook or the latest murder mystery. Studies have shown that readers are more likely to re-read paper copy than materials on screen.
There is certainly some overlap between the concepts of physical, lasting, accessible, and tactile in the PLATE acronym. Where the concept of “tactile” truly differentiates itself is by taking print into three dimensions and expanding on how the sense of touch plays a role in print. The weight, texture, or finish of paper can delight the reader. A matte or gloss finish catches the eye and makes the intended message stand out. Special colors, spot varnishes, dye cuts, embossing, folds, and a multitude of binding methods allow for everything from a straightforward page binding to intricate packaging to a captivating children’s pop-up book.
In some ways, the first four PLATE factors are tightly related and stand in stark contrast to electronic methods of information distribution. The last factor (eco-friendly) goes in a different direction. You don’t need to be told how important sustainability and eco-friendliness are to business leaders today. Large companies have chief sustainability officers (CSOs) to create, track, and promote their environmental plans. Smaller companies may not have CSOs, but they often develop environmental strategies that suit their size, such as installing rooftop solar panels, participating in community projects like highway litter reduction programs, and offering financial support for environmental causes.
We must counteract intentional badmouthing of print, or what many call “greenwashing.” A common example of greenwashing is to say, “Save a tree, get your statement sent to you electronically rather than in print.” The implication is that using paper results in the loss of trees and forests. Greenwashing purveyors miss the point that trees are a renewable resource that can be managed effectively like other farm crops. Greenwashing claims are particularly insidious because the companies that ask you to go paperless to save a tree are generally trying to save production and mailing costs rather than being truly environmentally conscious. Many customers still wish to receive bills, statements, and reminders in print because they rely on it, and they trust it.
Keypoint Intelligence Opinion
The PLATE acronym highlights five essential benefits of print and paper. Print service providers are working against a tide of electronic information delivery. You can’t ignore this reality if you hope to succeed, but you also can’t submit to outdated prejudices and nonsensical greenwashing. This is why PLATE serves as a reminder of what print and paper can and should achieve.
Jim Hamilton of Green Harbor Publications is an industry analyst, market researcher, writer, and public speaker. For many years, he was Director of Keypoint Intelligence’s Production Digital Printing & Publishing Group.
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