Good News Mama: Paper maps gaining on the dudes from Google and the likes

Manel Tinoco de Faria
4 min readOct 1, 2018


It’s another step towards good ‘ole human interaction, social media induced dopamine shots (much like drugs or alcohol) and real social skills development. Paper maps are on the rise again. Move along Waze ads and GoogleMaps. You better kiss our traveling asses sayonara…

According to thetelegraph, Britain’s Ordnance Survey (OS) paper maps are selling like cups of tea as “digital detoxes” are a positive trend of 2018.

This British mapping agency reveals that physical maps — among their top selling items for walkers — have been on a “three to four years of increase in volume of sales” precisely due to… possibly just another digital-induced trend: “hiking is cool, hiking is oh-so healthy”.

The company states 1.73 million paper maps have been sold during the 2017/2018 financial year, a 7% increase on the same period last year. OS has been mapping pretty much everything from peaks, troughs, churches, phone boxes (and maybe Waldo) since 1791. Waze who now? That’s right. Ordnance Survey. They’re the “you are here, where do you wanna go next?” duderinos.

The British company can thank this recent success to their marketing efforts. They champion a strong CTA to “get people outside”. In the words of their Leisure Director (now that’s a vintage role!) Nick Something-Someone, “as mental health becomes less of a stigma topic we can talk about the benefits of a walk in the country. We spend too much of our time living life through a screen”. You’re spot on Nick. One should not think this as surprising though: despite being a bunch of fat blokes and lasses England happens to be one of the most garden-loving countries in the world.

I can assure the UX of this thing is AMAZING!

The Staycationers

The boost in domestic tourism has also fostered these kind numbers for OS. The ‘travel abroad’ thang does not have the same appeal as before and the company’s CTA to “move your fat ass” just clicks with their clients: “We have such a fantastic and varied landscape across the country; it’s often the areas that are on your doorstep that you don’t see, but that’s changing” Nick adds. Nick Giles btw.

Mr. Giles also adds that “paper maps will never run out of battery, you can drop them in a puddle, have it in your backpack and they can save your life”. Also, as the company is constantly updating its database (30k changes a day), the safety issue is highly controlled and works out as a selling point: “we encourage people going off the beaten track or on some ridge walk to take a paper map with you”.

A smooth and savvy transition into the digital age has been instrumental in OS’s road to its nice numbers: the subscriptions to the OS Maps app rose above 90%: “In many industries you see traditional printed products in decline while digital is on the rise”, Nick says, without knowing about this probably, “but in terms of OS map sales we are delighted to see both formats working hand in hand”.

Now for the digital blah-blah: their digital maps can find, plan and record routes offline, while its AR feature allows users to overlay geo features on screen across 200,000 locations in the UK. Their strategy, logically, is to keep walking this old n’ new media road: “our cartographers are looking into tech that can print in any map, in any size, on any surface”.

A Quick History Lesson on OS

Ordnance Survey has been around since the mid eighteenth century, when it was first established to carry out a military survey of… Scotland, during the wake of a Jacobite rebellion back in 1745.

It provided leisure mapping at the kick off of the 20th century. Its heyday was to be witnessed during the late 1980s, when OS was selling almost 3.5 million a year.

If you grew up like me with a world map lamp maybe it’s time to tribute it the proper way. New worlds were found using paper maps. Ancient worlds were digged using maps. We wouldn’t know a thing of our surroundings without these paper-y little helpers. They ground us and at the same time make us wonder.

It’s about time they got some spotlight.

Not everything that happens on the screen ‘takes it all’ ye know?!

“Honey, Quarteira is not too far away…”