Print is dead – long live print

The idea print is dead continues, this time in magazine industry. The news that Entertainment Weekly and five other titles were shuttering their print editions, while not surprising, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

Print is dead

Dotdash Meredith is shifting EW, InStyle, EatingWell, Health, Parents and People en Español to online only in April.

Print is dead

At this point, the shuttering of print publications should surprise nobody. Its nothing new and it is definitely not unique to the digital age, though the recent period has been particularly hard on print.

I remember when the Press-Scimitar closed in 1983, well before the Internet era. It was a daily, afternoon paper in Memphis. At the time of its closing (my mother has several copies of its last issue), it was “only” selling 80,000 copies per day. Only.

History is filled with defunct magazines and newspapers.

That doesn’t make it any less painful. It also doesn’t make it any less shocking to see some of these great titles shift entirely to digital or cease their work entirely.

Self-inflicted wounds

In an earlier life, I served as executive editor and general manager of the Gannett-owned DNJ media group, which included a daily newspaper, a magazine, a couple of weekly papers, and several non-daily publications. This group served Murfreesboro and the other communities that made up Rutherford County.

Murfreesboro is about 35-miles south of Nashville. This part gets important.

As we entered the 20-teens, something interesting happened. Down here in our neck of the universe, we began to slowly turn the subscription tide. We began to see an uptick in daily newspaper print subscriptions. We successfully launched a digital subscription package. Heck, we sold a couple thousand subscriptions to a digital replica of our paper.

Then another interesting thing happened. Gannett Publishing Services, the arm of Gannett that handled subscription fulfillment, in other words deliveries, kept missing people. Lots of people. They told me they missed an average of two deliveries per day, but we received an average of 35 at our office. Most of those were people who gave up on customer service, which refused redelivery and told people to just read the website.

They took up our coin racks and at every turn it seemed they did not want people to use the print edition. Heck, I was the executive editor, and my home delivery, which I paid for, would be missed 2 to 3 days per week.

Today, I live in Murfreesboro. I cancelled my subscription to a paper I worked so hard on. Why? Sunday editions that had not one single Murfreesboro story but was loaded with Nashville stories – Nashville, 35 miles away – was not what I wanted.

Today I get my Murfreesboro news from a weekly newspaper and a couple of websites.

But print does endure

I am a nerdy stamp collector, a serious one. As such, I belong to a few stamp collecting organizations and societies. These include the American Philatelic Society, Scouts on Stamps Society International, Haiti Philatelic Society, and sometimes a host of others. I also subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News, a weekly news magazine for the philatelic world.

A big appeal for me, quite frankly, are the journals. Each of these societies, and many others, publish journals focused on their specific and specialized stamp collecting areas. And most of these are print, though many are available digitally as replicas.

In fact, the only digital version I read is the weekly Linn’s, though they publish a monthly magazine I receive in print.

Of course, I also read and discuss in multiple online forums and discussion boards. Participate in online auctions, and such. I mean, we’re not luddites, just analog nerds.

I love the tactile. I love making notes and annotations. I love having a physical library of the journals.

While print may eventually become heavily the realm of specialty publishing, it still endures.

Print is dead? Maybe, but print endures.