Fast Company dialogue: Is print dead?

You’ll see a frightening image on the back page of Fast Company this month: Me arguing. I was half of a dialogue. The other half: John Griffin, president of the National Geographic Society’s magazine group. The question, Is print dead? The first volley, mine:

Print is not dead. Print is where words go to die.

Too many of the ideas trapped on pages end up, at best, in unused archives or, at worst, in recyclers’ pulp, when they should be online: searchable, discoverable, linkable, part of the conversation.

In this new world, the medium is meaningless. Media define themselves by the pipes that feed them but the public does not; we want what we want when, where, and how we want it. The wise media company will be there with us; the stubborn ones will die.

Look at the hoo-ha it took to create this page: lots of photographic, editorial, and production tsuris, and for what? Is our conversation better for being on this slick paper? No, it’s not, because only two of us are in it when we know that the collective wisdom of the people holding this page is greater than our own. We should be having this conversation together.

But that’s the problem with print: It is far too one-way for this two-way world.

I’ll confess that I recycle my lines like a bum homeless person street entrepreneur recycles cans. The rest of what I have to say would be familiar even to a casual Buzzmachinist.

The funny thing is that the end of the page has a link saying this dialogue will be online here. Only it’s not, two weeks after the magazine hit the newsstands. Ding-dong, the words are dead.

  • Gerard

    Print dead? Let’s hope not! Few people realize the ability to wipe out ALL electronics (data and chips/hardware) exists right now. It’s the great unspoken. Congressman Bartlett of Maryland says that we MUST discuss it, and to not discuss it, for fear of causing a panic, could be our demise. No conspiracy stuff here. This is the real deal that few know a thing about. We could be sent back to pen and paper in an instant. Don’t believe me? Just Google – electromagnetic pulse terrorism – . Pay special attention to the link to remarks from Representative Bartlett in June on the floor of Congress. Yes, it’s long, but it will shake you up and realize that pen, pencils and paper better be here for a long, long time — as a matter of national security.

  • Gerard

    Just in case you Google the above topic and see links to sites that you may not trust, please realize that there have been hearings in Congress about this threat. Deeper into Google you’ll find the meatier links. Like this one from the Washington Post:
    Yes, keep that pen and paper handy.

  • “…like a bum homeless person street entrepreneur recycles cans…”

    I prefer “Urban Outdoorsman,” thank you.

  • John R.

    You try humor with the crossed out “bum homeless person” phrase? What a sad way to attempt to grab a laugh. The only humor in it is your use of the politically correct “person.”

  • Hi Jeff – Well how can we get the rest of the dead tree debate on print? I would like to see it. I am presently writing and then producing a non dead CD/Podcast entitled Dead tree marketing is dead … You see it is the age of performance marketing. If you want to know my definition of marketing please ask. but for now how can we get the rest of the debate the FC link did not work!

    all the best

    Stan Hustad

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  • Maria

    I am one of those ardent booklovers who refuse to give up reading and buying bound, printed volumes. I will never buy something like Amazon’s Kindle, for example. While I’m all for progress, I don’t believe that a cold computer screen can possibly compete with the beauty and craftsmanship of a printed book.

    I certainly hope that these amazing, wonderful objects will NEVER go the way of the dinosaur! Just becaue the tekkies out there (and, by the way, I am a hard-core Trekkie) will purchase these machines, those of us who truly appreciate the book as we have so far known it will continue to shell out our hard-earned cash in order to own the ones we covet.

    I simply cannot imagine a world in which I would not be able to walk either into a bookstore or library, and see shelf upon shelf of those glorious objects!

    By the way, the very fact that I am commenting on a laptop means that I am not totally averse to technology. I just don’t want that technology to take away the immense pleasure I get from a real, honest-to-goodness book!

  • Print is dead is hyperbole. People will continue to read real books and magazines. For more, if you’re interested, here’s my blog entry on why print is not dead:

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