Print Services Need to Change, Not Fight, to Survive

“Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water.” – Bruce Lee

A while ago, I started a little segment on the blog here called “Don't Stop the Presses.” It's all about finding interesting stories from around the internets about cool stuff happening in the print industry.

As you've probably noticed, I'm not the only one taking this tack lately. In response to various sources crying the 'death of print,' many bloggers have begun to write positively about the future of the industry. Which is great. No problem there. The thing that's freaking me out, however, is the sudden wash of writing that attempts to insist that nothing is wrong.

First, I came across an article in the “Print Buying” section of which insists that print is still better at selling health and beauty than the web. Sigh. I'm not suggesting that the referenced study is wrong, just that this sounds depressingly like the defensive last gasp of a dying breed.

Next, I read an article over at Nieman Journalism Lab, which slapped together some stats with some conjecture in order to 'prove' that most people still read the paper and that “only 3 percent of newspaper reading happens online.” Again, an argument that so blatantly insists that what is happening is not, in fact, happening, doesn't come out sounding positive; it sounds like blind denial.

And finally, today I read an interview with AP Chairman Dean Singleton who is, far from being delusion, engaged in all-out warfare with online news content. The Associated Press is going after online users of its copyrighted content in a wild bid to slow the evolution of news media. As Singleton says, “Print is still the meat. Online's the salt and pepper.”

And okay, sure, it's still print news that's investing all the money in reseached, well-sourced content, but instead of being so angry, couldn't the AP try investing in the change that is so clearly unstoppable?

To clarify, I'm not saying that the above articles are wrong because print is dead and we should all just get over it. To the contrary, I don't think print is going anywhere. But the world, and hence, our industry, is changing, and it's completely unproductive and depressing to tackle the problem of change as though it's something that can be stopped, or something that isn't happening.

Let's not try to convince print buyers that web advertising is ineffective and print is the only way. Let's not waste resources fighting online new sources over readers and content rights. These approaches just make print look like it really is on the way out, and going through the denial and anger stages of the grieving process.

Instead of working our way towards our own funeral, why not ride the wave of change, and put our energy, resources, and ingenuity towards adapting print for the future so that it remains a vital, relevant part of media for decades to come?

If we keep fighting to return to a bygone era, we seal our fate. If we go with the flow and change with the times, we'll come out stronger than ever. Print is beautiful, and amazing, and powerful, and it doesn't need these defensive tactics to survive, it just needs to figure out how to become the next, better version of itself.

Let's do it!

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