Shrödinger’s print in­dus­try


In the last is­sue of I wrote about how I be­lieve there is still a place for print in our dig­i­tal age. (Ac­tu­ally, I wrote: “there is still a pl for print”, thanks to an awk­ward edit­ing gl­itch, but while that might carry a cer­tain irony it’s be­side the point.)

Claire Beale, global ed­i­tor in chief, says the same ( us­ing more com­plete words) on the pre­vi­ous page.

And at our re­cent Mar­ket­ing to Mil­len­ni­als Break­fast Brief­ing ( see page 8), one of our panel of 20-some­things ex­plained that even for a dig­i­tal gen­er­a­tion, tra­di­tional me­dia still plays a role. “Any old dude can run Face­book ads; offline ad­ver­tis­ing lends le­git­i­macy to a brand,” he said.

But look at our lead news story. Gulf News’s weekly tabloid has closed its print edi­tion, and the pub­lisher has had to lay off 18 ed­i­to­rial staff. That paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. I came to Dubai back in 2005 to work on the launch of

so I mourn its pass­ing on a per­sonal as well as a pro­fes­sional level. I re­mem­ber go­ing out to see which night clubs would let me – a white guy – in while re­ject­ing my In­dian col­leagues, for a fea­ture on racism at bars. And the pa­per pub­lished many more in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ex­posés in the years since. It’s a great sad­ness that such work will no longer be dis­sem­i­nated on pa­per.

And at the same Break­fast Brief­ing where that mil­len­nial said offline ads lend brands le­git­i­macy, another pan­el­list said she only reads mag­a­zines when she is wait­ing at a doc­tor’s surgery and has run out of mo­bile data.

So the sta­tus of print in an in­creas­ingly dig­i­tal age is far from sim­ple to un­der­stand. While I and other com­men­ta­tors like to sum things up in sweep­ing state­ments – Print is Dead; There Will Al­ways Be a Place for Print; Dig­i­tal is the Fu­ture... – in on-the­ground re­al­ity all of the above is true, and none of the above. Like Schrödinger’s cat, print is alive and dead at the same time. There are no easy an­swers and we will all have to watch and see and re­act nim­bly to the waves of change as they crash over us.

I got an un­am­bigu­ously good piece of print news re­cently, though. A cou­ple of is­sues ago we put a pic­ture in The Spin of a CV in the form of a pa­per for­tune teller. We put it in be­cause we thought it was in­ter­est­ing and clever and cre­ative, and a nice, out­side-the- box show­case of the skills of the art di­rec­tor who had made it.

And a ma­jor Dubai agency agreed with us. I got a call from the man be­hind the CV to tell me he had been called in for an in­ter­view af­ter a chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of a ma­jor net­work agency had seen it on th­ese pages, and now he has a job.

So a well- crafted piece of print, based on a good idea and a sound grasp of the medium did its job. Good.

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