Digital Decluttering: The Paper Revival

CLUTTER COMES in many forms. It can be physical, sentimental, emotional… or it can very simply be trash. Regardless of what form your clutter takes, it’s important to declutter every once in a while, even if all you’re doing is making room for some more.

Moving into a new year naturally inspires the urge to seek out new trends, new tech, and new philosophies, especially in the creative industry. The digital realm is expanding exponentially, inviting all manner of new and exciting opportunities as it goes.

… but this can pose a bit of an issue, especially for those creating and distributing the content in the first instance: what do you use and how do you use it?

This problem extends to the end user, too: what do they use and how do they use it?


The answer for both of these should never be “all” and “everything”. Sure, you can try to be everywhere at once, but what you’ll end up doing is amassing a scattered audience across multiple channels, each aligned with something slightly different to the other.


Naturally, some channels will get more attention than others, while a few will be sorrowfully neglected. Not ideal, should a prospective client or customer happen to stumble across that channel first. That’s how you get de-positioned.

With every venom, there’s an antivenom. And more often than not it’s made of the very same stuff which is causing the problem.


According to the Content Marketing Institute, print is making a comeback for content marketers, and for comms. I’m talking about both customer and team magazines.

Technically it’s direct mail, but the purpose (as with all content marketing) is engagement as the main focus.

Fewer sales, fewer offers; more information, more entertainment.

Give and you shall receive – a free magazine full of relevant and useful content is a powerful tool for keeping customers and staff engaged and on-message.


It’s not uncommon for the old-school formats to enjoy a resurgence when their futuristic counterparts become a little too heavy. Take, for instance, the Vinyl Revival.

Since 2008, the sales of vinyl records have been soaring. This is a surprise, considering they were widely regarded as a niche item reserved for audiophiles once the CD began its supreme reign. It’s believed that this is due to the equally steep rise of music streaming services and digital downloads. As digital channels increase their prevalence, the old-school formats enjoy a kickback. In music, it’s vinyl. In content, it’s paper. And because it’s old school, it’s instantly fashionable. Even cool.

Here’s the thing, whether it’s a customer magazine or a team newsletter of sorts, the basic principles are the same:

  • it has to be content-rich (information and entertainment come before sales)
  • it has to be congruent with the company and its values (internal and external)
  • it has to be relevant (the kind of stuff the people reading it actually want to read)

Look at Airbnb, for example. In November 2017, the homestay network cottoned onto this and launched AirBnbMag, a magazine created for the coffee tables of the hosts and the backpacks of the travellers. It’s filled with content from the hosts and the travellers who use their services. All travel-relevant, the kind of stuff those who own the lodgings and those who lodge within them would find fascinating.

But that’s only a recent addition to the paper revival. The Boots Health & Beauty Magazine is hugely popular for its hair, makeup, diet, and fitness content, and Unite (by Unite the Union) has become a trusted source for political commentary, etc. Of course, internal comms won’t receive the same kind of circulation, but that doesn’t exclude them from becoming trusted sources in their own right.


There’s more to paper than it simply being zeitgeist, however. It really is a cure (well, temporary pain relief) for digital clutter in the sense that it holds focus. There’s no temptation to jump around from format-to-format and place-to-place as there would be on a device. And when focus is held, information is more easily absorbed and value (and values!) are more easily imparted.

… and, providing it’s of a good quality and well-designed, it will be kept hold of. Throwing away a beautiful magazine feels akin to throwing away a book. It just doesn’t feel right. And so, it’ll remain a physical presence (clutter or not) for some time to come.

Let’s face it: people like stuff. They like a pretty thing to look at, to have on their desk or coffee table… or in a magazine rack in the downstairs loo. And as the digital world gets ever more cluttered, having a physical “thing” to hold in your hand will become ever more scarce… and ever more desirable.

… even if it does create a little physical clutter in the process.

Raven Brookes

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