Is it print that’s dead?

Is print dead? In this much linked-to analysis of the state of newspapers, a quote from Sports Illustrated’s John Squires appears:

“Print is dead,” (Squires told) a room full of newspaper and magazine circulation executives at a conference in Toronto in November. His advice? “Get over it,” meaning publishers should stop trying to save their ink-on-paper product and focus on electronic delivery of their journalism.

While I agree with most of the conclusions of the article, I don’t agree with the statement, “print is dead,” nor do I even necessarily agree with thevstatement that Squires meant publishers should stop trying to save their on-paper product and focus on electronic delivery (although, he can explain what he meant, himself, so I’ll skip that.)

Print is not dead, nor doth it sleep.*

Certainly, there are specific print properties and entire print-based media categories near extinction; they are going the way of the afternoon newspaper. Certain types of magazines, Squire’s for example, that depend on mass advertising and mass audiences and mass infrastructures to feed the beast, may be dead soon. But niche and custom magazines — where there are few barriers between publisher and reader — are thriving. (Disclosure: my day job.)

Again, certain types of print-based media are under grave threat, the daily newspaper being one. Traditional business-to-business magazines that offer print-only products, being another. But there is a wide array of magazines that provide experiences that can’t be replicated online (for example, those with great photography or compelling design), or that provide someone with an expression of identity — why certain people display a copy of New Yorker on their coffee table, for example.

Print is not dead. However, newspapers are headed that way. And certain magazines are. And certain books are. But that has always been the case.

But then, certain websites are also headed for death. And certain weblogs. And networks of weblogs. All things irrelevant die.

That reminds me, I think I’ll stop.

*My apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Update: Let me clarify something. I do agree with the argument that “news media” and “journalism” as practiced by those who have controlled it for the past century is already dead. That belief, however, does not correspond with the statement, “Print is dead.” Print is a blank sheet of paper on which anything can be created…Paper, itself, has the potential to be perpetually new.

  • Hudge
  • rex

    I agree with him. In fact, I think that’s what I said in my post. The statement that “print is dead” however is not the same as what he says. He says, in effect, the way “news” and “journalism” has been practiced by those who’ve controlled it for the past century or so, is dead (or ailing). With that, I agree.

  • Hudge
  • James

    it is a tough call. without a great electronic delivery of news it is only a matter of time. look at ad revenue. how can papers compete with craigslist and ebay for classifieds. the niche is really the key, that and staying ahead of the market.