Finnish study finds printed newspapers more ecological news media than online service due to production costs, says cost of device produced to read online content more than paper production, printing
January 23, 2012
– The printed newspaper is, on average, a more ecological news media than an online service. This conclusion is based on a comparison of the environmental impacts of one hour of consumption of each media channel. However, taking into account actual usage volume and consumption hours at the current level, the annual environmental impacts of print media generally outweigh those of a corresponding online service. These are the results of a study carried out by Alma Media in partnership with leading research institutes to determine the life cycle environmental impacts of three of its newspapers and their respective online services.
Comparing the environmental impacts of print media and online services is difficult as the most significant environmental impacts of print and online media mainly concern different environmental issues. Moreover, the results of the comparative study are influenced by the definition of what is included and excluded from the analysis, but also the fact that print and online media tend to be used in a complementary fashion rather than being seen as substitutes for each other. The amount of time spent reading does not factor into the environmental impact of the printed newspaper, whereas the impacts of online media are largely dependent on reading time, the number of loaded pages and the technical specifications of the device used to access the service. As a result, conclusions on which type of media is more ecological depend on which functional unit is applied.
The unique study was the first evaluation of the environmental impacts of print and online media, also including in detail the environmental impacts of editorial work. The media surveyed in the study included Alma Media's Aamulehti and the Aamulehti.fi online service, Iltalehti and Iltalehti.fi and Kauppalehti and Kauppalehti.fi. The study was carried out by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Centre for Sustainable Communications at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. The study is part of the Green Growth programme of Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
Consumer choices play a key role in the environmental impacts of online services
The study indicates that the environmental impacts of print media are primarily created in the early part of the product life cycle, i.e. paper production and printing. Conversely, the environmental impacts of online services are primarily created towards the end of the product life cycle and related to factors involved with their consumption, such as the production of the device used to read the content.
The publisher can influence the environmental impacts of a printed newspaper by making appropriate purchasing decisions and by improving the energy and materials efficiency of buildings and production operations. The publisher can mitigate the environmental impacts of online services through cooperation with supply chain partners and by communicating with customers on the subject of the ecological consumption of online services. The environmental impacts of content production can be kept in check through the effective management of work-related travel and the methods of transportation used.
"The results of the study indicate that our new printing press in Tampere, which will begin operations in 2013, and the new office building in Töölönlahti that will be completed in late 2012, are positive steps that reduce Alma Media's environmental impact. The two new facilities will result in a marked improvement in Alma Media's energy and materials efficiency. We will also apply for LEED environmental certification for both buildings. The survey has also inspired us to carefully analyse the environmental impacts of the ICT supply chain", says Kai Telanne, President and CEO of Alma Media.
Communication and communications technology represent only a marginal share of greenhouse gas emissions
As the field of communications becomes increasingly digital, understanding the environmental impacts of ICT will become more and more important for Alma Media as well as the industry at large. The need for further research highlighted in the study mainly concerns issues related to the digitalisation of media.
"The results of the study reflect the way different types of media complement each other. Comparing print and online media side by side is not necessarily what we should focus on. Instead, we should examine them as complementary media channels, which is how consumers use them. Knowing the environmental impacts of these operations is the first step in developing effective measures to mitigate them. We should also keep in mind that the media and media technology industries represent approximately 2-4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while media plays a crucial role in building a sustainable society through the content it publishes", explains Minna Nors, VTT's Research Scientist in charge of the project.
The survey was carried out to help Alma Media develop more ecological ways of operating and respond to its stakeholders' growing need for information on the environmental impacts of the media industry. Previous studies have not focused much on the impacts of online media. Many previous studies on the subject tend to focus largely on climate effects. Therefore, the newly completed study contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the environmental impacts of media.
Alma Media will organise a seminar, "Towards sustainable media", at Finlandia Hall at 9:00-11:30 on 25 January to discuss the results of the study. Today, 23 January, is the last day open for registration for the event. To register, send an email to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alma Media in brief
Alma Media is a dynamic media company whose best-known products are Aamulehti, Iltalehti, Kauppalehti and Etuovi.com. Alma Media employs approximately 2,800 professionals. The company's net sales in 2010 totalled MEUR 311.4 with an operating margin of 13.9 per cent. Alma Media's share (ALN1V) is listed in the NASDAQ OMX Helsinki Exchange. Read more at www.almamedia.fi