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Electronic Or Paper?

In my office, I noticed a giant stack of newspapers and magazines piling up on my assistant’s desk. Turns out, we receive more than 10 paper copies of each industry newspaper, plus at least two or three copies of each magazine.

So I grabbed a stack of the 10 duplicate newspapers and walked around the office asking, “Do you want a copy of this newspaper?” The vast majority of everyone said “no thanks”, as they get a daily electronic version via email.  Since my co-workers are on their computers all day long, plus many of them work remotely from their home offices, they have gotten used to reading the headlines on their computer and only clicking through on the super interesting stories for more info. I did find a few people who were interested in the physical paper, but honestly, they were the other baby boomers in my office (we have a great mix of team members in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s).

So here I was with eight copies of the industry paper and thinking, “what a waste of natural resources.” What was even weirder about this situation was that I remember cancelling all our subscriptions to these physical copies when I realized times had changed and many people found it easier just to read on online. It seems as if the publisher of these industry papers continued to send them out, probably as a way to keep their circulation numbers high.

So, this mini-experiment made me think—how many other opportunities are there to make the choice: Paper or electronic?

Airplane tickets/Boarding passes — I love getting my boarding passes on my smartphone, via the airline app. No need to print the boarding pass ahead of time or stand in line when I get to the airport to print a ticket.

Reading books on a Kindle — Many people swear by the Kindle—only one small screen to carry instead of those large, heavy, paper books.

Music — Most of us use a device for our music—but back in the day, we had to purchase cassette tapes or CDs in order to listen to our favorite music. Now, thanks to our smartphones plus wireless speakers, we can get our music anytime, any place.

Coupons — Remember clipping coupons? Now, almost all coupons can be downloaded digitally and you have them handy on your smartphone and your smart wallet.

To-do lists —  I admit, I still like to make paper lists for food shopping or my things to do, but many people use the “notes” app on their phone to make those lists, or they use the list function on Amazon or Out of Milk.

Movies — Don’t get me started on the revolution in this business. First you could only see movies by going to a physical movie theater. Then, do you remember purchasing movie DVDs? After that you could rent them at Blockbuster; then Netflix started mailing them to your home. Now, we have Apple TV, Hulu, Amazon+, etc. You can get any movie, any place. And with your smartphone or tablet, you can even watch them while on an airplane.

Magazines — Okay, I’m a little old fashioned here. We get subscriptions to at least 10 monthly magazines at our home. And, yes they do pile up sometimes … but they do get read. It’s kind of fun thumbing through the magazines, ripping out pages of stories I want to share or save.  I am aware that every one of these magazines also has my email address and drops a teaser headliner email too frequently into my inbox. But I can hit that delete button pretty easily.

Thank-you notes — I still hand write thank you notes—to the tune of 290 handwritten notes so far this year. Yes, that’s more than one a day! Sure, I could send a text or an email … but in the last two weeks I’ve gotten three separate emails from recipients of my handwritten thank-you notes with essentially the same comment: “I know this seems ridiculous to send you a thank-you note for the thank-you note. But thank you! You really made me feel special. And I rarely, if ever, get a paper note anymore.”

I could go on and on with examples of how my world has shifted from being paper-based to electronic. Most of these changes are for the better, but some are a definite adjustment.

Since the pendulum has swung very far to the “electronic everything,” this means you can really stand out if you do something on paper. I predict printed company brochures, magazines, and personalized stationery are making a comeback.

So, stand out!


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