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Why Print Media Matters (and why this blog does not)

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You don’t need to be reading this blog, you know. I mean it’s not like there’s any credible information in it. I’m not a professional nor an expert in any of the fields that I speak about whilst standing on my soapbox. All I’m saying is that while yes, I do stand by my words and care about what I publish (and perhaps I have some experience or education in my subject matter), it’s not like I’m truly invested in my opinions to any great extent. I mean, this blog is pretty much free. My domain name costs me about $12 a year, but that’s it. I could change my mind about anything I say pretty much as soon as I type it – or not – and it doesn’t really matter. God forbid I change anyone’s opinion or behavior on the topics I speak about. That’s a precursor to anarchism.

And so, herein lies the value of the printed medium.

The common story right now is about how print media is dying a slow, inescapable death; being overwhelmed by the low-cost and wide-spread alternative that is web: bloggers, open source, social network, digital journalism. Dailies are shuttering, advertising is evaporating and media generally are scrambling to figure out how to monetize their existence on the internet. Fundamentally, yes: the print media business model is intrinsically flawed – for the amount of work and money that goes into a newspaper which sells for $1.95 is lunacy. But what is having to happen is a reanalysis of the model – instead of selling the product (that being the hard-copy newspaper) these companies need to evaluate their options for selling their content.

Where the value of print lies, and where it cannot be matched by any online enterprise, is in the investment in content: the fact that not only are magazines and newspapers paying people for content (and thus choosing only the best, most qualified opinions they can afford*), but they’re committing to the expense of editing it, laying it out, printing it a million times and distributing it as often as every twenty four hours.

* important note: many print media are affording less qualifications – kids writing for novelty’s sake are now becoming commonplace and several dailies in B and C markets are resigning to syndicated columnists as they lose their ability to pay for original worthwhile content. In this post, I am referring almost exclusively to the market leaders in print media.

The act of taking written words and turning them into print is an act that is symbolic of passing a point of no return; where once passed, they are etched in stone. So the writer, the editor and the publisher had better ensure they’re correct – not just because they can’t retract them, rather because they’re tying a great deal of expense to them. Writers know they need to deliver in order to continue being paid to write; editors know they need to meet deadlines and space limitations and provide concise columns that reflect the publication; and publishers know they’re playing with other peoples’ money – that of their owners and their advertisers, who expect solid representation and return. There’s a lot at stake. The fact remains that, unequivocally, most blogs carry very little credibility, while a newspaper’s or a magazine’s existence is entirely substantiated by its credibility. Thus newspapers and magazines (or at least those at the top of their class) continue to set the standard for qualified opinion on their particular areas of expertise.

Therefore, amidst all the online clutter, we should know that we can trust in our foremost print publications (and their online entities) for objective and founded opinions that have received careful thought and explanation, and are derived from talent and expertise. They are wholesome and authoritative, and therefore, unequaled.

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