The other day I was in cafe reading the latest issue of my favourite print magazine when a hipster pushed past three tables and brandished his 4th-generation, colour 60G iPod in my face as he imparted a nugget of wisdom that presumably had been causing too much pain to keep to himself: “Print is dead.”
“I beg your pardon,” I replied, thinking I may have misheard “Prince” and the man was informing me, belatedly, of the pop star’s demise.
“Print is dead; it’s all digital now,” he repeated, with smug certainty.
He looked pointedly down at my magazine, and then, perhaps with a hint of disappointment that it didn’t blink out of existence upon his proclamation, stomped off as gracelessly as he had come.
A woman sitting near me looked up from her morning paper and her iPhone-tethered laptop and shook her head sympathetically, saying, “Don’t mind Dino, he’s still living in 2005.”
Print is dead – it’s a phrase I still hear from time to time. If you’ve said this yourself recently, then I’m sorry to say, you sound like you’re living about 10 years in the past, no doubt still using Google only as a noun and marveling at the arrival of YouTube.
Is the book dead, did radio kill it?
Is radio dead, did TV kill it?
In the post-1st generation iPhone world, if you‘re the type of person who thinks forms of media automatically go extinct when a new technology comes along, then maybe you’re a digital dinosaur.
Sure, all these changes have disrupted the way we think about and use technology. Sure, print is no longer the best way to get up-to-the-minute news.
But it’s not dead. It has simply found a new role, and settled into its niche.
Google, famous for it’s online activities and staff benefits, produces a print magazine called Think Quarterly. Even Airbnb is launching one, which will feature stories from hosts and travellers worldwide. .
In fact, millennials actually read print magazines more than the previous generation, so the idea that print is somehow struggling because of online competition is ignoring the facts.
Ultimately, it comes down to the right channel at the right time. Just as 70 years after TVs became commercially available, radio is still going strong. Print will do the same. Already we are seeing print find its place, with the success of niche magazines. like lifestyle journals Lucky Peach and Kinfolk, or travel magazine, Cereal.
Samir Husni, a.k.a. ‘Mr. Magazine’, has noted that what attracts consumers to print is the sense of quality it brings. “To me, the role of print today has to be a combination of creation and curation, plus credibility and an authority that says ‘if it’s in print, it’s authentic, it’s there to stay, it’s documented’. It cannot have the feel of or even a sniff of being a disposable item.”
Print magazines fill the information gap left in the wake of a news cycle with ADHD, granting the calm assurance of accuracy, credibility and authority. Rather than fighting for clicks from a general audience, print offers a measured, in-depth look that caters to the reader with specific interests.
So next time you’re thinking that print is dead, ask yourself if you really know more about the internet and about marketing than Google. If you’re still certain, like our friend Dino, then perhaps you really are just a digital dinosaur.
And while print is going strong, dinosaurs are definitely extinct.