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Friday, September 28, 2012

How the Planner Industry Feels About Digital

Here is a reply from my planners friend to follow-up on yesterday's post about the future of the planner industry and how people "inside" the paper planners companies feel about digital planners.

How do the planner / organizer paper product companies feel about digital.

I know this has been like the DMZ battle group for paper lovers and digital lovers but the truth of it is that the traditional companies are caught in the middle.  I remember reading an article where they asked Lett’s CEO how he feels about digital and why Letts has no digital offering.  The basic answer was Letts is a paper company and people will always use paper so there is no plan right now for digital products…(sorry if I remember it wrongly but this was what I remember from the article).  I feel this is the wrong approach.  There is no just paper or digital argument…it doesn't make sense.  When I read how people debate about paper is better than digital or looking down at people who use paper or digital I just think it is so sad….to a point of WTF.  Look just let people use what they want to use.  If we can make products that can cover most of the users that is good business for me.  From a personal stand point I really don’t care.  All I care about is how you use our product in any format.  So please don’t badger people who use one or the other…just get along with each other.

For a paper company you need to offer as many different products as you can, to give more of what people want to buy.  Let it be paper or digital.  We have done many hybrid paper digital products.  And yes we even had a full branded product that merged paper with PDA….well….you know what went extinct or transformed into.  Doing a pure digital product is so damn hard that if you don’t understand it don’t even try because you're just dumping money in to a big black hole.  If from the start you know what you're doing and what you want to do then all will be good.  Case in point is that you would think a paper planner company can come out with a cool digital app.  Look at mead and Fc the apps they came out with are crap….I mean so bad I don’t even know why I just paid money for it.  Those guys have no idea what they want to do so they just convert all their paper product ideas in to an app….which is bad…because they fail to understand that the digital industry works at lighting speed…and product reviews can make or break your app.  When you have only 1 star or less on your app…then your app will never be used….people won't touch it with a 10 foot pole.  They forgot the fact that people who use digital planners have a totally different mind set from paper based users.  If you don’t understand how people use digital planning don’t make a planning app or convert a paper planner into a digital one just for the heck of it.  We learned a hard lesson when trying to do our digital app and to a point I said…I have to can this project or else it will do more harm than good.  I have to do more research and learn how people plan and use the product all over again.  There is no way I can beat Apple’s own calendar…haha.

The really good planning apps are not even from established companies.  They are from people that have really good planning solutions that the digital format allows them to do it.  I would say their design and formats have turned a bright light on the industry.  It has given us another way of thinking about doing formats on paper.  I see these apps and the way they organize and color code and design I think to my self….wow…why I have never thought of that ever before.  Even our designers now are borrowing ideas from these apps for our future planners and formats.  There are so many good formats digitally that can really revolutionize how paper planners can work and do.  Even to a point where I was thinking…why even put a dated planner…just make more creative undated planners and let people customize what they want to put in.  Why not put more color coding or even more good visual points and offer more content?  All these things can really make my product look much better than what others have on the market.  

Anyway my 2 cents on how I feel about paper and digital…I use both and I love it.  For me nothing beats a blank note book yet.

Thanks again to my friend for contributing this very interesting insight into the industry!



  1. Wow, this subject is close to your heart...I agree a planning system paper or electronic that you use successfully great, both have there downsides, like pen, paper...the other wifi, electricity, etc... It's sometimes I feel people prefer to blame the system instead of the system user..sometimes people look for a magic pill..as in i will get organised when i get an IPhone 5 or that special little binder..or if only I could find the right layout.. There is no magic pill...choose a system stop wasting money and use the damn thing...stop blaming the system..So here it if you don't like carrying a ton of stuff, don't like your handwriting and type real quick..by all means go gadget..if you like the concept of writing and like carrying an in your face reminder go paper...and yeah if you wat to use both probaly a sliding scale of 80/20 in either direction hey I ain't stopping you, all systems have human and technical error it's called life...

  2. I think if I could get an app for my iPad that looked like a nice week on 2 page diary but which I could have 'sections' in (much like filofax but without it being physically there, obviously) I would be tempted to make the switch. A really good app would allow you to use fun stickers (maybe you'd pay 20p for access to shiny stars, and 50p for 'design' stickers, for unlimited use in the pages.

  3. I have been using an old Palm Pilot for a month now - it doesn't depend on wifi, just a simple battery charge, and the battery lasts a loooong time. It's only purpose is organization. Digital can't be beat for recurring reminders, alarms and lists. But there are some things digital cannot do for me, particularly big picture planning. I just can't set goals and intentions on a weekly or monthly basis using a digital item. I look upon my Palm as having liberated my paper planner from the mundane and ordinary details of life, and freed it to be a place to write my intentions.

  4. We might be seeing the advent of digital/paper collaboration in an unexpected way, but not from well-known companies. DIYPlanner, Etsy, ListPlanIt and others offer .pdf pages that allow ultimate customization. No need to purchase everything from one vendor either.

    Pick your paper (100% cotton or the cheapest stuff around), your format (horizontal, vertical, page a day, month view, etc.), your start date. If you're busy certain times of the year, go for page a day, when things are less hectic, how about a page per week.

    Customization can prevent the dreaded Planner Fail.

    One caveat: Find a competent copy shop. You might want paper sliced in half (neatly - not like I do it!), holes for binders or have your planner ring bound.

    There are so many amazingly creative people designing planner pages, it's worth devoting time to discovering what's out of the main stream.

  5. I agree that it is possible to use both paper and digital. In fact, I know several people who do that. My daughter is an example. She uses her iPhone calendar to record appointments but she uses a FC classic weekly view to plan. She also keeps notes and other important information in the paper planner. But she doesn't always want to carry it with her but she always has her phone.

    I've actually toyed with the idea of doing something similar. That would allow me to use a classic size planner but still have my calendar if I'm out without it. However, I haven't done it. I really just prefer paper all the way.

    I don't mind if a company wants to offer both digital and paper products. As long as they don't skimp on what I want! :)

    1. I agree with your last sentiment -- a company that offers both is great! You would think they'd reach more customers that way. I just don't like that so many companies are downsizing their paper offerings in favor of digital (or nothing at all) simply because that's the way "the world works." I understand that if people are buying less, the company is making less, and therefore offering less. But I would think there's still enough of us paper people out there to keep them from going under altogether.

      Yes, I agree with do both, but offer enough of both.

  6. I'm an old curmudgeon who decades ago was an earlier adopter of so-called hi-tech handheld devices; and for my friends in the UK, that includes the earliest Psions. Actually, I thought Psion was the best of the bunch back then. Early Palm Pilots were also quite good with early handwritten technology, and the HPs of the time were also quite good. Alas, I was not as fond of the Apple Newton (but I still applaud that effort), or the Casios and Sharps. I even had the earliest hand held computers (pre-laptop/notebook pc). For you other old curmudgeons, I will date myself by saying I was one the beta testers for VisiCalc. Anyway, over the many years up to and including the current, I then and continue to marry both electronic and paper to create the best solution for me. The strengths of these two alternatives are not mutually exclusive. Rather, together, I feel give me the best solution. All that said, if I were forced into just one, it would be old reliable, paper and pencil/pen.

  7. Hello, a newbie wishes to share a few thoughts - I found this site while composing my planner for 2013 (my 2012 calendar/notebook outer shell 'exploded' 2 weeks ago).

    I am really surprised by this schism between paper worshipers and pilgrims of digital worlds because I've been using both in sync for years – my main input of appointments is through Outlook, from where I send ‘invitations’ to my Google calendar. After a two-step sync, these reminders get neatly displayed and alarms triggered by Jorte app (with free and payable tacky icons!) on my Samsung Galaxy phone. I print my paper planner from Outlook (usually for 6 weeks, format Week on two pages with Notes column, as a booklet, 2-side print, flip on short edge), so I have my digital entries (and birthdays, and holidays of 3 nations etc) plus plenty of empty space to add handwritten notes. This booklet gets attached to a simple A5 notebook with thin long elastic (hair)band, and nowadays instead of using some fragile homemade map-folder 'thingy' I use my latest amazing discovery: Le+zippe 210x148 notebook cover/zip-lock pocket map/storage.

    The whole 'package' is flexible, practical, durable, funky looking and lightweight. Important pages from my used notebooks and planner get punched and stored in A5 map with two-holes binding mechanism and several dividers for main topics. Once a week, I transfer some notes which I consider valuable and worth keeping within a few clicks reach into my Google mail account – either by typing into topic-specific emails (forever in Drafts) or by sending myself scans. This way I have access to important entries also when I'm carrying just my phone in a tiny purse, and accidental loss or damage of 'paper edition' isn't going to cause me much stress. Cheers!

    1. This is brilliant Teuta, thanks for sharing your system with us! I've seen notebook covers like the Le zippe before with the zip plastic pocket, but never thought of using it to store printed pages too!


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