Print Isn’t Dead Just Because Bloggers Say So

    March 26, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Upon news that 30-year-old magazine InfoWorld was shutting down its print operations and moving online, and that the San Francisco Chronicle is also in trouble, a debate is raging in the blogosphere. The general consensus near Silicon Valley: print is dead.

Print Isn't Dead Just Because Bloggers Say So
Print Isn’t Dead Just Because Bloggers Say So

Away from that high-tech, paperless scene, however, newspaper industry insiders say it’s not so. Newspapers are still alive and thriving.

Earlier this month came rumors of the SF Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein calling an "emergency" meeting to warn of more layoffs and cost-cutting.

This morning, InfoWorld confirmed rumors that the publication will go digital only as of April, calling the print-and-mail distribution format "nearly obsolete."

Federated Media’s John Battelle, who formerly ran InfoWorld sister publication, the Standard, says moving the magazine online would reduce operating costs by 70-80 percent.

Immediately, celebrity bloggers picked up on the news, and declared the death of printed media:

"I can’t imagine anyone will be printing news on paper twenty years from now in the industrialized world, so the only question is when it will go away, not if," TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington.

"It’s clear that the news business as we knew it is in trouble," said Tim O’Reilly.

"The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other national rags (USA Today?) will likely make it, although their economics may change," said Stowe Boyd. "But the average local newspaper is dead."

"The industry has NOT invested in its future," said Robert Scoble. "It is reaping the rewards of that."

These declarations, however, conflict with industry statistics. And as one blogger points out, it may be a question of perspective.

"Part of Scoble’s problem is he’s really not representative of the general public," writes Mark Evans, "and he’s basing his thesis on what’s happening in his own backyard."

That may be the most accurate assessment in the debate so far. What’s happening in San Francisco isn’t necessarily happening elsewhere. David Greer, Member Services Director for the Kentucky Press Association, tells WebProNews that times are good for print in the Bluegrass State.

"To say that print is dead is quite the exaggeration and very, very, premature," he said. Greer alludes to the fact that in small Kentucky communities circulation is actually growing.

The Louisville Courier Journal, too, seems to be doing well. The newspaper just finished building a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art printing plant. Greer says no matter the medium, it’s still all about content.

"Content is still king. If you have the content then the platform you have to distribute that content is still secondary."

Greer’s assessment of the industry seems to match other reports. Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study in February revealing that most of those polled still preferred newspapers for a number of reasons. Among these are that readers can set the pace of reading, and still enjoy the tactile experience of paper.

Also, according to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), global newspaper circulation has grown by almost 10 percent over the past five years, right during the heart of the digital media explosion. Worldwide, there are over 1.4 billion paid-newspaper readers buying 450 million copies daily.

"What we are seeing completely contradicts the conventional wisdom that newspapers are in terminal decline," said Timothy Balding, WAN’s CEO.

"Newspapers are doing far better than commonly believed. In fact, the figures confirm that the industry is healthy and vigorous and is successfully dealing with increasing competition from other media. The fashion of predicting the death of newspapers should be exposed for what it is — nothing more than a fashion, based on common assumptions that are belied by the facts."