“Print is dead!” — Debunking the myth
By Riggs Zyrille, Photo Editor
We currently live in an age of information overload. Every day, our faces are plastered to our screens, constantly taking in a variety of information. Tristan Harris, Google’s former design ethicist, points out that our smartphones are designed to be addictive in a way that it will always keep us engaged —through social media, gaming apps or even just reading the news.
We’re nine months into 2019, but various media companies all over Canada have reportedly laid-off numerous people due to company reorganizations that focus on increasing resources for digital content. CTV already laid off 11 people in Vancouver and is expected to layoff 50 to 200 more. Alberta’s local print publication, the Red Deer Advocate, owned by Black Press Group, had laid off 26 newsroom staffers and has announced that it will shut down its paper’s weekly edition. Canadian Living, Style at Home and Elle Canada magazines owned by Groupe TVA also cut around 28 jobs this year.
In an era where older, print companies are struggling to switch to digital, and new companies are thriving on digital only platforms is it time to ask the age-old question, “Is print dying?”
When reading digital, it’s a given fact that we can access multiple news source sites with just a few swipes and clicks. However, the way current digital content is created and designed might not have the best effect on the readers’ depth of understanding. Most digital media sites today fight for the ever-decreasing attention span that we have. Generating news has become a game of who can incorporate the most topics that piggyback off of trending issues, all with the goal of creating traffic and viewership. Former reputable newspapers now have to rely on the giant social-media sites just to gain notice on their own content. This results to trends like clickbait headlines and severe sensationalizing of content.
Franklin Foer, the former editor-in-chief of The New Republic, calls it, “a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook,” and, “a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms.” Due to this fast-paced and revenue-driven type of digital content, we have become passive to in-depth print content.
However, print is still a living and breathing industry. It might be the permanence of ink and paper in our hands or the nostalgic beauty of magazines and newspapers, but whatever it is, print is on a slow surge of coming back, surprisingly, through the younger people. Zines, usually self-published small-scale magazines, have been a popular trend in Canada. Those who publish zines are usually people who have unique, non-mainstream voices which have created communities of their own through gatherings, fairs, and festivals. The Toronto Asian Zine Fair, Femme Wave Zine Fair, and We Are Not An Island Queer Zine Fair are just a few of the successful jam-packed events that have been organized to celebrate print.
For some magazines, niche marketing acted as their lifeline. With digital content shoving loads of content to our faces every day, the uniqueness and personality of print has become a safe escape from all the clutter. Additionally, magazines have subscription model, enabling them to not solely focus on easy-selling topics and ad revenue, but instead on what’s appealing and relevant to their subscribers. This results in quality content that will inevitably be read with much intent. Gerald Richards, CEO of literacy project 826 National, emphasized this point by saying, “[Print and digital] need to do different things. To survive, the newspaper, and the physical book, needs to set itself apart from the web. Physical forms of the written word need to offer a clear and different experience. And if they do, we believe, they will survive.”
For a long time, we have been hearing about the imminent death of print. But so far, it hasn’t arrived, and that is simply because print is growing and evolving.
It might not be the number one industry today, but the print industry has opened wide to make way for unheard voices, niche interests, and an integration to the digital. The impact of its permanence shows how it can outlive the fast, short-lived content of the online world. It might look different in another year or another decade, but as long as there are those who value deliberate and meaningful information it will live, and it will stay.