Once there was an association of thousands of members. They wanted to update the association website to better serve the members. They had an old paper newsletter that they wanted to transfer into digital format. It turned out that the worst thing they could have done was to end the paper newsletter mailed into everyone's home. The paper newsletter was read, the digital alternatives were not. Probably all associations in the world are thinking about "going online". Who will tell them to think twice?
Once there was a large fan club with few hundred volunteer workers. The volunteers wanted to organize their work and create a feeling of community. They wanted to do the work on web and get the end result on print. They could not. There are no web tools available for collaborative publishing of print products. Who will build such open and free tools?
Once there was a research project that wanted to create and study user-generated paper products. The goal was to let regular people be as creative with paper media as people already were with digital media. The project talked to media companies who own web services with hundreds of thousands of users. The common answer was "Print products are not on our immediate roadmap." Who will promote innovative paper products and print services for media companies?
Once there was a paper industry that wanted to re-invent paper. They looked at the media industry where consumers were suddenly active producers rather than passive consumers. Web media services like MySpace and YouTube were changing the whole industry: innovation was made by the end users themselves. Nobody saw any role for paper in this turmoil. The problem was that paper was undervalued as old technology, there were no web tools for people to re-invent paper themselves, and there was no one shouting out loud that paper is still a superior media format in numerous situations.
These four stories are true. The last one can still be changed. But it will not change by itself.
The message of this pamphlet comes from over two years of research collaboration between social media researchers from two separate worlds: Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT and the pulp and paper industry research institute KCL.
Here is the message:
The pulp and paper business wants to come up with new innovative products and services. A lesson learned from the ICT sector is to be open and facilitate innovation among the end users. To achieve this the pulp and paper industry must take an active role in enabling regular people to be creative with paper, especially using digital tools and online collaboration. The industry must show both consumers and businesses that paper is often far superior to digital alternatives. Finally, the industry must accept new design and business perspectives such as human-centric design and user-generated content.