Has Print given its Last Heart­beat?


Time and again we’re told to mourn it and move on to the dig­i­tal me­dia age, which they say is ‘here to stay’. But, has Print re­ally given its last heart­beat?

If you trust in Google’s de­pic­tion of re­al­ity, then the whop­ping 332,000 re­sults for “Print is dead” on the undis­puted king of search en­gines, make the an­swer a re­sound­ing ‘Yes’. And when you know that Pew Re­search Cen­ter claims that 2015 was the worst year for the news­pa­per sec­tor in the United States since the re­ces­sion, you’d prob­a­bly say ‘It most def­i­nitely is’.

But a closer look be­neath the cloak of alarm­ing fig­ures and sta­tis­tics tells a dif­fer­ent story: Print isn’t dead. It is sim­ply go­ing through meta­mor­pho­sis.

To be­gin, the murky pic­ture of­ten por­trayed as Print’s new re­al­ity, isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a univer­sal one. While Ama­zon re­cently said that e-books sell 14% more copies than phys­i­cal ones on its site, and ‘Pew’ tells us that US news­pa­pers week­day cir­cu­la­tion fell by 7% in 2015, their great­est de­cline in five years. North­west­ern Uni­ver­sity in Qatar’s (NU-Q) lat­est re­search es­ti­mates a 1.4% growth in the Mid­dle East’s news­pa­per cir­cu­la­tion dur­ing the same pe­riod and shows that mag­a­zines’ cir­cu­la­tion in the re­gion has fared bet­ter than in ma­ture mar­kets.

Septem­ber 2016

As a mat­ter of fact, NU-Q says that Qatar wit­nessed an in­crease in news­pa­per rev­enue be­tween 2010 and 2015, which is un­likely the case in any other coun­try.

Print is alive and well. What is ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in the me­dia land­scape is a shift in roles.

Print has lost to Dig­i­tal, in the fight for news dom­i­na­tion, mainly due to the real-time, cheap-dis­tri­bu­tion qual­i­ties of the In­ter­net. But Print re­mains a strong con­tender in the books, mag­a­zines and brand­ing are­nas.

De­spite the trans­for­ma­tional power of the In­ter­net, the ‘21st-cen­tury won­der’ failed to de-throne Print as the "supremo" for time­less, in-depth con­tent and the lin­ear pre­sen­ta­tion of in­for­ma­tion.

Ink-on-paper is thank­fully still head and shoul­ders above its dig­i­tal coun­ter­part in a do­main or two. Books and mag­a­zines are not only a tan­gi­ble – and of­ten aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing – ‘thing’ that can live on shelves and ta­ble tops for a life­time, they also of­fer an im­mer­sive, sen­sory-en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that to­day’s popup-in­fested, click away-prone web can­not quite match.

Fur­ther­more, the higher bar­ri­erto-en­try and qual­ity-screen­ing process in Print pub­lish­ing of­ten trans­late into higher cal­i­bre, more au­thor­i­ta­tive con­densed-form con­tent, in stark con­trast to the In­ter­net’s hard-tover­ify end­less bar­rage of ‘toss away’ in­for­ma­tion.

No won­der Huff­in­g­ton Post blog­ger Naomi S. Baron’s re­cent sur­vey of stu­dents’ read­ing habits re­vealed that a stag­ger­ing 92% of them still pre­fer Print.

Add to that the lux­ury of more pre­cisely ar­chi­tect­ing read­ers’ se­quen­tial ex­po­sure to con­tent as well as brand­ing and aes­thetic de­sign el­e­ments in Print, and you’ve got in your hands – lit­er­ally – a ver­sa­tile, cap­ti­vat­ing medium with longevity and a high per­ceived value to boast.

In­deed in­dus­try ex­perts are right; Dig­i­tal is here to stay. But so is Print.

The real ques­tion publishers, ad­ver­tis­ers, and mar­keters should be ask­ing them­selves isn’t which is alive and which is dead. It’s rather ‘How each of the two me­dia can be em­ployed, to de­liver the mes­sage, and bring goals to fruition’.

Print isn’t dead. It is sim­ply go­ing through meta­mor­pho­sis.

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