Monday, 10 May 2010

The decline of the print media, can it be saved?

This is something slightly different to what I normally write about, but is something that I am also passionate about, inspired by The Daily Show interview with John Meacham.

iphonephotos045.jpg picture by emskilou

I love magazines. I love newspapers. My love for print media is not reflected in sales which have been in decline for some time in this age of instant news making some publications seem irrelevant in this digital era. After seeing Newsweek editor John Meacham on The Daily Show last week on the day that it was announced that the 71 year old magazine was for sale it is clear that this is an issue that will not go away. He spoke of how the magazine needed to refocus the style of its content, to use the Newsweek website as the main focus for the output of stories with the magazine being an accumulation of those weeks stories so for anyone who would still like the magazine it is available but so is the web content. There was an overhaul of the style of Newsweek a year ago to combat the problems that digital media presents. He also spoke of the problem that people no longer want to pay for their news which will be reflected in the quality of this news; the decline of the print media will in theory show a decline in the quality of the content.
In this era of Twitter, Facebook and blogs where everybody can have an opinion that can instantly be accessed by millions it is easy to see why print media is having such problems.  Reporters are still needed to report the news for people to have something to comment on, which is important, though with these social networking sites, unpaid people rather than reporters can report the news first and have photos and video instantly uploaded on to the web to show what is going on. I have a blog, a Twitter and a Facebook account, though I would not call myself a journalist. I have a Masters degree and I am still trying to find my footing in this environment that I would like to work in and because of blogs and Twitter my voice can be heard by a larger audience. However, if this means that this will lead to the decline of the print media it is not a good evolution for the dispatch of information. It is somewhat of a catch 22, the advances of online writing are leading to the decline of the print media but is there a way that the two can be happy bedfellows?
The introduction of the iPad is being touted as the saviour of the magazine industry by some as magazine content will be available for a price to be read on the iPad (there are iPhone apps available for several magazines at the moment as well). However not all commentators believe this to be the case; detractors such as Paul Michelman for the Harvard Business Review claim that this is far from a reality as they don’t seem to be thinking of the reader but looking only to serve a business model which will look like circulation numbers are improving. By ignoring the reader the numbers will surely only improve to a certain amount and then will no doubt see a downturn again.
I’m not sure what can save the print media, I don’t know if I am archaic for wanting the physical item; magazines, newspapers, books, DVDs, CDs I want the actual thing, not a copy on my computer. I want to hold it, have the case, look at the art work, flick through the pages. It is because of this that I still buy and subscribe to magazines such as Entertainment Weekly (thought the nightmare that I have had with the delivery of this subscription is severely testing my patience- another story to be told one day), Vanity Fair, Vogue, Marie Claire and many others. I like looking at the adverts and reading from cover to cover so I would not be satisfied with a digital copy, but am I that common in this respect, would most just like the digital version?
I think what needs to be done and is definitely being explored by those currently working in this industry is a marriage between the two, so each kind of reader can get what they want, so the quality writers behind publications such as Newsweek can still produce excellent work and so the regular people on Twitter can also have their say. I sincerely hope that Newsweek gets a buyer soon and as Meacham said on The Daily Show, they are still open for business, the magazines doors are still open and I hope that this remains the case for this magazine and many others that are also struggling.

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