Talking New Media

Don’t be so sure in your opinions regarding print… or digital

Formats and platforms rarely disappear completely, like vinyl records they might evolve into an enthusiast niche, like radio they might evolve and continue on and prosper

The world of media M&A has been busy in 2017, and the year will like end with additional announcements regarding Rodale, Time Inc. and a few big newspaper companies. On the vendor side, we’ve seen consolidation of printers, as well as some vendor sell-offs.

It is likely that we will see more of this, including more on the digital publishing platform side of things. This will occur because opinions are beginning to be set in stone regarding print and digital — though I find it funny that people are now firmly set on contradictory positions. Print is dead. No, digital editions are dead. No, everything is going to the web. No, print books are coming back.

The reality is that no platform goes away completely, but even if it declines it remains alive because there are true believers in it.

Take eBooks. We’ve heard from the major trade association that eBook sales are falling (though their last report actually showed a gain). This has led reporters too lazy to dig too deeply to write silly stories about the end of eBooks. Meanwhile, Amazon goes on its merry way, and today, people have gathered in Nashville for the iBooks Author Conference.

The real question, I feel, is not if print, or eBooks, or digital edition apps, will go away, but what will it look like a decade from now. Will it look like radio, which looked to be killed off by television but has reformatted and is very much a vibrant industry today? Or will be like the horse business, just a hobby taken up by a select few.

Anyone who thinks in totally black and white terms to should think about… well, black & white. You still see its use, right?

And then there is vinyl records. Yes, vinyl is making a comeback. But whereas the price of a record back in the day might be $5.99 to $9.99, today a record is priced at $18.99, being definitely marketed to enthusiasts.

(I’ve just started a huge project to reorganize my rather vast record collection in order to sell off most of it. It’s not that I don’t love these records, its just that I have thousands of CDs, as well, and there is room to keep the numerous boxes of vinyl in book shape. Better to get these treasures into the hands of someone who will appreciate them.)

It’s frustrating to hear the propaganda that comes out of most industry events, and the media reactions to stories of magazines being shuttered. One says print is doing great, the other than it is doomed.

Instead, what really needs to be debated, is whether a particular publishing format or platform will move to being a niche product, or a mass product. Because few formats ever really disappear.

Photo: Old Vinyl by Photographer, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic