Early this morning, there seemed to be a theme emerging in my RSS newsreader. Here are a few items that showed up:
Frank Anton of Hanley Wood, says:
“If the magazines published two or three years from now aren’t different, weâ€™re in trouble. The current magazine model wonâ€™t take us into the next five years, let alone the next 100 years.”
Colin Crawford of IDG says:
“…being unburdened by print allowed the team at Infoworld the opportunity to focus on the changing needs of their customers and to develop online, event and mobile products.”
Jeff Jarvis responding to Colin’s post, says:
“Yes, print is a burden. Itâ€™s expensive to produce for it. Itâ€™s expensive to manufacture. Itâ€™s expensive to deliver. It limits your space. It limits your timing. Itâ€™s stale when itâ€™s fresh. It is one-size-fits-all and canâ€™t be adapted to the needs of each user. It comes with no ability to click for more. It has no search. It canâ€™t be forwarded. It has no archive. It kills trees. It uses energy. It usually brings unions. And you really should recycle it. Wow, when you think about it, print sucks.
So what was the theme? Print is a burden. Unfortunately, saying “print is a burden” implies that there are other options out there that are not burdens. Frankly, the web is a burden. Traveling to events IDG puts on is a burden. Trying to synch my phone and computer is a burden. As Scott Karp displayed in a post yesterday, trying to discover which among 2,000 different news stories on the same topic is a burden.
Despite my love (and I use the word love very deliberately) of the magazine medium, I have never been burdened by thinking print is a hammer and every communications or marketing challenge is a nail.
Granted, my company has published magazines since the day it opened 16 years ago. But even back then, we also created lots of “interactive multimedia” (published on CD-ROM). And in those pre-web days, we also managed “forums” on CompuServe. As a custom media creator, I’ve never felt “burdened” by any medium that helps build strong relationships between our clients (associations and companies) and their members or customers. If smoke signals would help forge and sustain those relationships, we’d be all over it.
Those who know me — even through this blog — know I personally agree with Jeff Jarvis on his somewhat satirical indictment of print. I’m about as paper-free as someone can get in their personal and business practices, but I’m no print vegan (did I just create a new buzzterm?). As Jeff is writing a book and writes for newspapers and magazines, it’s not like he’s a print vegan either. But my print aversion is neither “environmental” (as I always say , if paper is the cause of global warming, someone needs to share that inconvenient truth with this guy) nor based on any belief that print is inherently bad. What I find a burden is poorly designed, written and produced print. What I find a burden is the clutter and confusion print and paper often add to my already cluttered life.
Bottomline: Print is not the burden. My time is the burden. If you publish a beautiful magazine with articles that really matter to me — that instruct, inform or celebrate something I feel strongly about, it is no burden on me. If you help me get to the information and insight I need to live a fuller life or conduct business in a more flexible and productive way, your blogging and tweeting and bookmarking does not burden me. Useless, redundant, meaningless, re-shuffled drivel is the burden. It can be delivered via print or on a weblog or a mobile device. Crap is a burden no matter what the medium used to deliver it.