Q: Is there a future for print media?
A: There is, but it’s not what most people in the print media business think it is.
The biggest obstacle for print media is that by the time news is printed with ink on dead trees, it’s no longer news.
People are getting their news and information from near-instant sources: online or through broadcast media. For example, the first story I saw about the Boston Marathon bombing was a link on Facebook.
The main purpose for print media will become collecting and summarizing information. A great example of this is the newsmagazine The Week. My husband used to kid me about reading this magazine, because by the time I saw a news story there, he had already seen it online, sometimes several days before.
The difference is that I spend 30 minutes a week reading The Week, and he spends an hour a day reading news online. Both of these options are equally valid. Media companies need to reach both of us.
Successful media outlets get breaking news on their website and Twitter feed right away, then once there’s been time for analysis and investigation, compile the most important stories into the print edition.
So print versus digital media is not either/or, it’s both/and.
Still, I should note that I read The Week on my iPad, mainly because I can make the font bigger. As digital devices become more common, the need for print editions will shrink. I think the trend we’re seeing is that more frequent periodicals eliminate their print editions earlier than less frequent periodicals. That is, most of the first outlets to go all-digital were daily newspapers. Now we’re starting to see the weekly newsmagazines, like Newsweek, go that route.
I think we’re a long way from seeing monthly magazines go all-digital, mainly because the content isn’t as time-sensitive. Also, tablets are not ubiquitous, although sometimes it may seem that they are. It’s one thing to read a brief news story on your phone, but for a magazine spread with great photography—the main appeal of magazines—a bigger screen is needed. So I think magazines will hang on for a while longer.
The good news for writers is that the stories still need to be written. We just have to keep in mind that they need to be written in different ways. A quick, just-the-facts overview is right for the Web. A more in-depth examination can be offered later in print. As with other kinds of writing, it’s all about the audience.