There has been a lot going on in the news in the past few days that might lead you to believe that print is dead, dying or – at the very least – on its deathbed.
Print is not dead.
Hot off the press is the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper is stopping their physical presses and transforming itself into a web-only newspaper. Clay Shirky (author of the amazing book, Here Comes Everybody) also had an insightful and refreshingly new perspective on the newspaper industry on his Blog titled, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.
Yes, people are reading a lot more online these days, but there are many healthy print publications (books, newspapers, tabloids, magazines, comics, etc…) that are doing just fine. They have strong readership, strong subscriptions, strong advertising, strong business models and strong overall fiscal results. The ones that are suffering are mostly those that are riddled with debt and struggling to find relevancy in a world where their content is not all that unique and the readers know it (which makes advertisers know it too).
Fine, but how do we really know that print is not dead?
Most of the fodder that drives the content in new media stems from some kind of traditional media channel. It’s not uncommon to see a Blog post sparked by something that was in the printed media. It’s also not uncommon to see some of the most prolific and powerful online media personas gloating and praising one another (be it in a Blog, on Twitter or Facebook) when one of them gets some kind of mention in a traditional print media outlet.
To many of us, being talked about in print media is high praise and personal validation.
Personal anecdote: not a day goes by that someone does not ask about when my book, Six Pixels of Separation, will be published. I also get constant feedback about my newspaper articles in both the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun. People seem to be looking forward to both the book and the newspaper columns. There was also a steady stream of congratulatory comments when I changed my LinkedIn profile to include that I was now writing a column for En Route Magazine. No one has ever asked me about when my next Blog posting was going to be published or what I am Blogging about. Being in print (either as a published author or journalist) still gets much more attention from a much more diverse and mass audience.
People still get excited to see their name in print. People still get excited to read print.
Maybe it is pure nostalgia (as Shirky says). Maybe we still can’t let go of the tactile experience that a printed magazine, book or newspaper gives us. Maybe we are in the midst of creative destruction in the publishing world, and the idea of holding the printed word will be as relevant as buying a CD in the next few years. It wasn’t that long ago that I could not imagine parting with my CD collection (they are all in boxes and the bulk of the music is on the iPod). I still can’t imagine getting rid of my book collection and replacing it with an Amazon Kindle.
Maybe we’re all just kidding ourselves into thinking that something in print is that much different from CDs, vinyl or cassettes?