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The Internet harms global demand for paper products

The Internet together with other information and communication technologies, such as personal computers and cellular phones, have provided an electronic alternative to newspapers and printed materials in recent decades. Researchers from the United States examined this year how Internet adoption has affected worldwide demand for newsprint and printing and writing papers. What have they found?
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New products on the market can affect the demand for existing ones in two ways: either they can reduce the quantity demanded by consumers as they substitute away the existing products or on the contrary, they can increase demand if use of new products is complementary with the existing ones.

Authors, i.e. G. Latta, M. Sloggy (both Oregon State University) and A. Plantinga (University of California), have found that the Internet has reduced demand for newsprint almost all over the world. The effect of Internet was the strongest in the U.S., where scientists predicted that newsprint consumption in 2011 would have been 4 times higher in the absence of Internet.

Concerning the printing and writing paper, researchers found different results for different analyzed regions. For instance, the Internet was found to have reduced consumption in the United States and OECD countries, while had a negligible effect in Asia and the former Soviet Union regions. On the other hand, the Internet was found to have increased consumption in Africa and Latin America.

Maija Hujala from Finland performed similar study, where she found that Internet adoption was negatively related to newsprint consumption. She found also that mobile phones and personal computers are positively related to magazine paper and office paper consumption, respectively.

These results are very interesting to me.

Honestly, I was thinking before that introduction of computers to our everyday life should reduce paper consumption. And probably this was the case. However, the development of personal printers have increased paper use dramatically. Currently, we need only one click to print hundreds of copies what we wish. In the last century, unfortunately the typewriters did not have such function. It seems that Internet is a significant substitute for newsprint, what makes a lot of sense.
Honestly, I do not even remember when I bought my last newspaper.

Personally, I remember times when people were reading newspapers in buses, trains, undergrounds etc. Now, I have noticed in the public transportation that the most common newspapers, which people read now, are the ones distributed for free next to public transportation entrances. One example is Metro (British newspaper), which earns money on commercials. Thanks to the technology development, tablets, phones, e-book readers etc. are much more visible, and probably their use will increase even more in coming years.

I would even predict that expansion of free internet in public places can make huge troubles for pulp and paper industry in the near future. We will see.

Both articles you can find here:

Latta G., A.J. Plantiga, M.R. Sloggy. The effects of Internet use on global demand for paper products.  Journal of Forestry, Volume 114, Number 4, July 2016, pp. 433-440(8)

Hujala, M.  The role of information and communication technologies in paper consumption. International Journal of Business Information Systems (IJBIS), Vol. 7, No. 2, 2011

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