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Is Print Dead, Or Is It Just Really Sick?

Gutenberg proofs the printed piece

The convergence of seemingly random events (the , this , by Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff, and by Lynne d Johnson) has put the “Print is Dead” mantra in front of me several times in the last week. Oddly coincidental or representative of a growing sentiment, you decide. Obviously, print is still very much alive, but how we use print has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Dramatically. The reality is that for some, print is in fact very dead. For others it is dying, and for a shrinking portion of the population… print is all there is. Print isn’t dead, but it is pretty ill and the prognosis is not good. You would be hard pressed to argue otherwise, that print is alive and well, as there is so much happening that clearly supports the hard reality that the ways in which we interact with information has quickly tilted to the digital.

Our mobile technology increasingly breaks down the usability barriers between where we are and the content we want. This is not just about convenience, either, it is very much about connectivity and the ease with which we can leverage diffuse networks to find what we want. How can the printed page compete with that? Print publishers are struggling with this reality, and working hard to figure out how to transition their content assets in a meaningful way to the array of digital channels before them. Some have pioneered great strategies for this, and benefit from not just increased audiences, but from the concept of content adoption. That’s what we do on the web, we adopt content and send it around. We point people to it. We fold it into how we navigate information, and personalize its place in our information networks. This is incredibly useful, and is the reason why I no longer subscribe to a physical newspaper and only a few printed magazines (that I subscribe to because I like them and there is not yet an online channel for that content). I don’t even hit most newspaper and periodical websites anymore as the content I want finds me through a myriad of personal technologies that do all of the work of searching for me. Popular and free technologies like RSS and Twitter. I have always been a reader, but I have never read as much as I have the last few years and I would say that close to 90% of what I read is online. wrote a somewhat related post about this a few weeks back, and in that post he passed on a line that is unforgettable to me from an article in the :

“If the news is important, it will find me.”

Print is the opposite of that.

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