29 . 01 . 24

Print to stand out more strongly with digitalisation and AI

Words by: Print Power
With obviously less paper being used for publishing, the perspective of the paper industry should be part of our Predictions 2024 series. Without paper consumers will be lacking important channels of information, entertainment, gossip, sports news, educational or (non) fiction books, details or specifications on products and much more. Ulbe Jelluma asked Ruud van den Berg, Senior Vice President Global Sales UPM Communication Papers about his thoughts on the 2024 outlook for the industry.

Ulbe Jelluma: We live in uncertain times with political, economic, technological and climate changes. What will be the challenges and opportunities in your industry?

Ruud van den Berg: We live in uncertain times where we need to be prepared for the unknown, which means we need flexibility as well as an open mindset towards change and innovation.

As digitalisation continues to accelerate, with an increasing amount of data and information, and AI coming into the picture, we see opportunity for print to stand out more strongly as something real; something that is offline, that can be felt, touched and that persists. The uniqueness, resilience and strengths of print become even more prominent as the digital alternatives continue to grow. This is an opportunity that needs to be cherished by the print and paper industries.

UJ: The most important themes are without doubt AI and sustainability. How does that impact your industry and what kind of opportunities does that offer?

RvdB: AI as such can bring lots of opportunities to the business, and in the printing scene, we see a trend in digital printing, which is one area where print can easily leverage opportunities such as personalised content. Print continues to be a unique content format, also in the world of AI.

When it comes to sustainability, there is a need to raise more awareness about the sustainability of paper, but also grow the understanding of digital media and its environmental impacts. Paper is a natural, fully recyclable material made from renewable resources.

UJ: Sustainability is increasingly becoming an important factor in the choice for printed material. Will this affect publishers more in 2024

RvdB: We see the demand for sustainability growing every year, and it will surely continue to do so in 2024. We also see regulations and demands on companies tightening in the upcoming years and welcome an open discussion and dialog to jointly work for and promote paper as a sustainable medium.

UJ: Publishers have various options to publish their content. Are you considering new channels in 2024?

Just as we see in the media industry, we believe that we as a company also need a mix of different channels, depending on the purpose of the content and the target audience.


Ruud van den Berg - Senior VP Global Sales UPM Communications Papers

UJ: Technological change is going much faster than consumer acceptance and usage. In France for example, almost a third of the population (16 m people), including the group of 18-24 years, express their lack of sufficiently mastering online skills. Do you expect such a proportion of the population to stick to printed communication such as books and newspapers/magazines?

RvdB: We don’t see the lack of digital knowledge as a long-term driver for choosing print, even if this is clearly one of the drivers today and especially in countries where online access cannot be taken for granted. But there are other clear benefits with print, such as anonymity, data security and the benefits that come with the haptics and the offline, relaxing and inspiring experience. We also know from recent research that reading printed books is better for reading comprehension than digital. These are differences which are unlikely to change anytime soon.

UJ: Some voices in the industry say that the future of print media, such as newspapers, magazines, brochures and books, is in the high quality segment featuring special papers, more enrichment techniques and quality content. Do you expect publishers to follow this trend in 2024?

RvdB: We believe that publishers who manage the strengths of each medium in their media mix have the best opportunities to succeed. There is no one formula that fits as a solution, but it is really up to each publisher and their readers, to specify what role print can play alongside other channels.

UJ: What role do you see for print media in the next 5 years?

RvdB: We see paper as a unique and sustainable medium of trust, impact, learning and inspiration. Print media has an opportunity to leverage these strengths, in addition to the sustainable attributes of paper. If this is done successfully, we see print media continuing to have a prominent role in the global media landscape for years to come.