Monday, March 2, 2009

Is Print Media Dead?

It sure feels that way, especially with the snarling hounds of the New Media nipping at it's heels. But for those declaring, Internet Leaves Print Media Industry in the Dust; it should be pointed out this is not the first time. Movies, television, video games, and other modes of home entertainment media have all been held up as threats to "traditional" media formats. Newspapers have endured for centuries whereas Youtube and Hulu and iPods have been around for, what, barely a decade?

While it's partially true that, "The Internet has left print newspapers far behind as the source for national and global news." The flip side of that is the AP remains the source for most of the information being regurgitated by the "wire services" as they used to be called. Yet, if you examine those news articles that appear in, say, a Google News search you'll see many underlying similarities borne from cribbing from the same primary source. Yes, more and more people are turning to web based media news sources, but it's still the traditional media that's providing much of that information.

While such articles note, "Media experts bemoan the decline in newspaper readership. But they usually refer to the large, national print media organizations." They are only seeing a snapshot. The print media, books and magazines especially, has been on a steady decline for the past decade. Why? Simply put people aren't reading like they used to. And with so many more forms of high quality streaming media available on the 'net today than a decade ago it's likely even fewer people are relying on traditional print media to get their news. But it's not just news anymore. You can watch TV shows and movies just as easily.

I enjoy reading. Not everyone does. What's more there are some people who actually disdain books. You can go, right this second, to IMDB dot com and find any number of posts in various forums wherein movie watchers are lambasting readers of the book on which movies are based for critiquing the movie adaptation for not being faithful to the book. Books, and the stories they contain, according to these post-modern Neanderthals are meaningless. So what if the filmmakers changed this character, dropped that plot point, or totally ignored a important sub-plot arcing through the entire book, right?

Depends on whether you've read the book or not. If not you've nothing against which to contrast and compare the movie with, thus it will stand, or fail, on it's own merits. I saw DUNE (1984) before I read the book. In fact it inspired me to dig through my parents bookshelf, find the book, and read it. I'll admit to a bit of disappointment at the departures yet if was far more faithful in comparison to the mini-series version the Sci-Fi channel aired in 2000. I mention this because, regardless of the book, if you'd seen the original movie you couldn't help but compare the mini-series to it. It's human nature to compare and contrast. Some people like Pepsi, some prefer Coke, yet others couldn't care less and will drink anything with the name "cola" attached to it. Others don't care one way or the other and will drink anything that's carbonated. Yet while there's store brand cola, regional brands, generic brands sold to budget chains, and super pow energy drinks with twice the caffeine Pepsi and Coke have remained and aren't likely to disappear any time soon. Why?

Because fads come and go and, after all is said and done, we humans like what is familiar. Life is change yet we've grown accustomed to doing things in a certain way. Even our technology, though it's light years beyond anything our grandparents had, is still basically humans doing the same sort of things in different ways. Reel-to-reel tapes gave way 8-track, 8-track gave way to cassette, and so it goes. Records were round discs, so were Laserdiscs, Compact Discs, DVDs, Blu-Ray, and so is the platter of the HDD in your computer. As the old adage goes: The more things change the more they stay the same. So, yeah, print media seems to be on the skids. Then again so is the economy.

It costs money to print a paper or magazine, and those writers don't work for free, and oh, yeah, that building everyone is in probably has a lease on it and utilities and who knows what all else. Blogs are technically free. Anyone that's literate can write a blog, if they feel so inclined. And, let's face it, with news headlines like: Distressed investors to leave media, others in cold and Casinos, media join autos on way to bankruptcy I wouldn't put too much stock in those reports of Media: "Dead or Dying"?. While I agree with the latter article's summation that, "What it always will come down to is traffic, and with the interaction and social networking element of blogs and other social media available, traditional media face a tough future."

It seems to me we're also on the cusp of a transitional metamorphosis in our culture. Computers aren't as expensive as they used to be yet, once you add up all the fees for services and software, one wonders just how the new media will adapt in the face of current economic downtrends. After all a printed book can be bought for relatively cheap, doesn't require software or hardware upgrades, and always has some resale value. It doesn't even need to be plugged in or recharged! But I digress.

The future is what you make it. Make it a good one.

End of Line.

© Copyright C. Demetrius Morgan

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