We live in a digital world where we communicate, consume and even store our data online, writes Hanno Lochner, branch manager: Port Elizabeth at Rectron.

But with the information overload that exists when every facet of our lives happens in cyberspace, how do you ensure your message has an impact? How do you add a bit of prestige to your communication, ensure information reaches even those who don’t or can’t live digital lives, and make doubly sure your important information and precious memories are safe? The answer is to print them. Yes, in a digital world, there is still real value in printing.

Printed content reaches more people

While digital will continue to grow at a rapid rate, the printed medium will always play an important role. It is a pervasive, meaningful and detailed medium. Certainly in the South African context, where a large proportion of the population doesn’t have access to digital content, printed information and media is the way to go to get information out to the public.

The business role of printing

Access constraints aside, there is real business value in printing. Most people still prefer making edits to a printed document, and it holds more weight to have a physically signed contract, even if there are programs to allow for digital signatures. Printing is also useful to make an impact with your collateral or safeguard your information.

Printed collateral is a valuable marketing and communication tool, especially in the growing digital world. From the exchange of a slickly printed business card, to the hand delivery of an important document on your company’s letterhead or an eye-catching invitation or leave-behind, the tangibility of this printed content tends to stick in people’s minds and cannot be ignored. It’s also easier to differentiate your content in hard copy as opposed to following the standard format and sameness of many blogs and websites.

Safeguard important documents and access them easily

Another reason to print from a business perspective is the peace of mind it offers when it comes to preserving important documents. The cloud has become a valuable space to store data, but a dual storage strategy makes the most sense. This is especially true considering that Google Vice President, Vint Cerf, has said: “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”

The context of this is that Cerf believes digital material could be lost forever because programs to view them will become defunct. All you need to do to see the validity of this line of thinking, is consider how much we used to save on floppy discs, and the lack of floppy disc readers on most, if not all, of today’s computers. The long-term solution, of course, is to create programs that can read this material, but printing is the smart choice to avoid unnecessary stress.

Printing still important in education

Apart from the business space, printing also continues to play an important role in education. There is a trend towards introducing tablets in the classroom, but while there is no denying the merits of this, it can be challenging in emerging markets like South Africa. This type of technology is expensive, and bandwidth can be an issue, both in terms of access and price. In South Africa, where the potential for future loadshedding is also an ongoing issue, relying on technology that needs to be charged also presents a challenge. Printed worksheets are a simple, affordable tool that all students have access to, require little technological input, and which can be much more easily replaced than a broken or stolen tablet.

Printing continues to advance

That’s not to say, however, that technology isn’t playing a role in the printing industry.  On the contrary, many printing companies are looking at ways to add more value by being more eco-friendly. This encompasses saving electricity and saving ink to keep printing cost-effective and relevant in our evolving world. A great example of this is printing brand, Ricoh, which has developed gel ink printing that works out much cheaper than laser printing. Ricoh is also an example of a tier one brand moving into the consumer space to offer its technology and service to a wider range of users as printing continues to be an important part of life for the business and educations sectors as well as for individual consumers.

The case for printing in a digital world

Some argue that in a digital world where we are constantly tethered to our devices and where cloud technology is a reality, printing is becoming an unnecessary cost and inconvenience. However, it’s clear that as printing technology continues to evolve and as it becomes increasingly important to stand out among the digital clutter and reach those not yet part of the digital world, printing is in fact a necessity.