Is print media dead or just slowly killing itself?

For print media to survive it must adapt to new technologies to create compelling content across multiple platforms and channels. Photo: Screenshot/Luceo Imaging

CHICAGO, October 21, 2012— Are the days of inked stained wenches over? Will reporters now be referred to as carpal tunnel wenches? Will the smell of ink on a pre-dawn newspaper be a sensory pleasure of the past? What about the tactile sensation of holding a newspaper or glossy magazine, or the sensual odors from those perfume cards? 

Are the days of the “Front Page,” “Stop the presses” and “Get me rewrite” over? 

How long will it be before kicking back on a lazy Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and the Sunday paper scattered around you becomes a mere memory? 

News content is being consumed more and more online. Commuters have traded their morning papers and weekly magazines for tablets, readers, and smartphones. 

Online news also allow for multi-media, with video, streaming live video and audio. There are photo galleries for lead stories. Space is not an issue, unlike print journalism. 

Many newspapers are moving towards a paywall system for online subscriptions. The most recent is the venerable Chicago Tribune. It will start a paywall on November 1 of this year. There are various levels of fees depending if you are a paper subscriber or how much content you want. 

After 80 years, Newsweek magazine announced it is ending the print editions. As of the first of the year Newsweek will be all digital. 

Many are predicting that print media will eventually become totally digital within the decade. The 24/7 minute by minute news cycle made traditional deadlines a thing of the past. Stories can be filed any time from anyplace about anything.

Consumers want their media on demand. 

What will people line birdcages or wrap fish with? What will they used to train puppies on? Will newsstands and magazine racks become a thing of the past? Book stores are already feeling the heat. 

What about the billions of dollars invested in printing technology, buildings, and transportation to get print media into the hands of consumers? What will kids do at 4 a.m. when there are no papers to deliver? 

As the use of technology increases exponentially we are living in a bygone era. Bygone is no longer decades or years old. It may be only weeks or days ago that you did something routine the old fashioned way. 

What is known as digital hyper-local news is coming into its own. Patch.com, a product of AOL and the Huffington Post was one of the first to offer nationwide hyper-local news, news at the area as well as the neighborhood level. DNAinfo.com is doing the same in New York City on a better platform, with firmer financing, and will be coming to Chicago soon. 

Strictly online entities are also becoming popular, such as the Communities @WashingtonTimes.com which you are reading here, with a plethora of news, features, and opinions on various topics. The focus at Communities is on analysis and opinion, and offers a fresh interactive format for readers.

Google News and Google News Alerts are becoming the norm. People have found other ways to get the news they want, customized for them, online. They can tailor their preferences of entities, topics, events, features, or just breaking news.

They can read, watch, listen, or do all three, simultaneously if they want. 

“We must not, whatever we do, take our foot off the gas when it comes to our newspapers,” Murdoch said last month during a gathering of journalists in Australia. “Print will be with us for many, many years.” (Chicago Tribune

Rupert Murdoch is a true believer in print journalism, even though American print advertising revenues are off by well over 50%. Some say his belief is an irrational love of print journalism. It is alleged Murdoch is in talks to buy the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times when their parent corporation, the Tribune Company, moves out of bankruptcy. If Murdoch knows how to do one thing, it is to operate profitable media entities. (After initial reports in the Tribune and Times Murdoch issued a denial. Both papers are standing by their stories).

There is another development in media. Multi-media is moving into what is known as trans-media. Trans-media is a form of telling a story or narrative over a multitude of platforms and channels. Though it is currently being used in movies and documentaries, there is a move afoot to include trans-media in traditional journalism, especially features, lifestyle, entertainment journalism, and other venues. 

An example of trans-media in journalism is the use of photo archives. Photos from decades ago can be republished online in serial fashion, sold as an ebook, sold as a coffee table book, and exhibited in galleries and art museums, where fine art style prints can be sold. A video, online and/or sold separately as a DVD can document the search through the archives, how the prints were selected, stories about the significance of the prints, and the processes used to convert them, especially old glass plate prints. 

National Geographic has embraced trans-media. Its stories cross several platforms and media channels, including branded products. Trans-media turns ordinary media into a media wonderland.

There are opportunities for media entities and consumers. It is a virtual win-win situation. 

Luceo Imaging is creating documentaries in trans-media form. One example is “Few and Far Between,” documenting rural America. There are still photographs, a film, artifacts they discovered during the project, and a travel log. 

Games can also be designed around stories to either make them more compelling or to promote them. 

If print media is to survive it will have to adapt to the new paradigm faster than they have before. There is no longer time for them to be dragged kicking and screaming into emerging technologies, storytelling and narrative methodologies, or providing exciting eye popping and mind bending content.

They must fold new methods and technology into their operations giving consumers more choices and their stakeholders more ways to make sustainable profits. 

At the end of the day it is all about keeping consumers and making profits. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Online News Association, Chicago Headline Club, and the Society for Professional Journalists. 

pvbella@gmail.com 

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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