For the love of print in the age of social media.

The other day, I had a discussion with Nicole (my partner in crime) regarding her “Twitter as a news source” post. As our chat wore on, we eventually made our way to a comment she made about her exec friend’s desire to get PR within the printed pages of Canada’s most reputable national paper, The Globe and Mail.

Ultimately, our real life discussion was a real world reenactment of the benefits of social media and the way it can provide an open forum for people to share ideas and, as a natural by-product, disagree in real-time. Providing companies with the ability to hone and develop better products or ways of getting the public to believe in and promote their products (should said companies choose to listen and act appropriately).

Our conversation was fast and furious: Nicole roaring out of her “Give me Social Media or Give me Death” corner; me throwing punches to “Protect the Right to Print”.

Nicole raised the point that PC magazine is dropping their print format. My response: it’s relatively safe to assume that the majority of PC readers are likely to be computer literate. So why not go the extra step, cut out the middleman (aka print publication) and let your already web happy readership get their news straight from the source?

After a flurry of ducks and jabs—not to mention more than a little fancy footwork—we exploded into the centre of the ring. Face to face, “wo-mano a wo-mano”, fists began to fly over the final topic: why her friend seemed insistent on print PR in The Globe, instead of hitting the Internet.

Nicole’s right-to-the-point uppercut: free publicity. Twitter PR galore. Global audience!

My 1-2 punch: Sure. I don’t disagree with any of these points. I think they’re all part of a legitimate, potentially successful approach. However, despite the fact that many social media-aholics believe that print is quickly going the way of the dinosaur, the reality is that social media only works if your key demographic uses it. And in the case of The Globe, yes: they’ve clearly been working hard to attract new blood in the form of “intellectually curious” women and men ages 25-54 with the launch of their LifeStyle section two years ago and their increasing development of social tools and web-friendly content on globandmail.com. But the fact is that a good part of their demographic still lies with the elder statesmen of their fan base—the 50+ crowd. This is a predominantly male group who are already successful in their areas of expertise and (to some extent) probably don’t feel it necessary to get involved in social media such as “Twitter” or “Facebook”. Men who are of an era that still regards computers with deep suspicion—considering them a barely necessary evil only to be used when absolutely necessary. Men who just don’t have the time, or simply refuse to see the benefit in making new friends and/or contacts online (they’ve already developed a large cadre of their own well-heeled cronies over their illustrious careers, thank you very much). Or, more simply, they may just be lovers of the printed word who happen to enjoy sitting back and reading the paper in the morning…going through and sorting out their favourite sections as they make “enlightenment” a part of their daily routine.

Finally, after a long, brutal match, I met Nicole’s bleary gaze and delivered a devastating KO punch: certainly, The Globe is doing a wise thing in nurturing a new breed of readers to supplement (and replace) the old. But they can’t completely disrespect or disregard those avid black ink on paper supporters who have helped them—and continue to help them—grow and maintain their prestigious title as Canada’s most read National newspaper. Therefore, print media (in this instance) is still alive and well and is still a legitimate way for your friend to get the PR they crave.

And “Give me Death or Give Social Media“ is down for the count. The crowd roars as I successfully “Protect the Right to Print” while still agreeing with Nicole’s defense of all that Tweets!

So you see, the reality is that print may fade away. Papers may die; magazines may disappear. But somehow, I doubt that. I think that somewhere, there will always be those who desire to have the word in print. People who are fans of having something tangible that they can hold, feel and experience with all their senses. And I plan to be counted among those few, those happy few, this band of brothers and sisters…who happen to love the smell of newsprint in the morning.

Torn between two lovers,

Margaret.

To read more about whether print is dead, check out this article from Mediabistro.com.

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2 Responses to For the love of print in the age of social media.

  1. RMA says:

    I agree. I doubt that print will entirely go away. We’re not talking about Vinyl here. I may be younger than the typical Print reader, but even as a young soul under the age of 30. I still appreciate the written word.

  2. simon says:

    The question is perhaps more about the future of journalism as opposed to the media that will carry it. There no doubt there are plenty of “massive passives” like me for instance who still like to “read the paper”. But I also spend a lot of time on the BBC, NYT, the Guardian, and during the recent crisis in Mumbai, the Times of India where the video coverage was awesome and instantaneous. Journalists have to get their heads around the fact that web 2.0 actually helps them do their job better. Twitter is definitely a growing part of it especially in terms of crowd sourced news; mobile journalism is also becoming huge, Nokia has a phone which can live feed video interviews and viewers can ask questions via Twitter to the journalist (Robert Scoble did this in Davos with an interview with Bono) That’s a level of immediacy that has never before been possible.

    So in effect all journalism is becoming multi=media (and print will be a part of that – articles on the web are after all essentially print. More difficult and the current crisis for all news organizations, is how you make money at it.

    BTW the Christian Science Monitor (respected for its journalism if not its masthead) is the first major daily to cease printing and shift entirely online).

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