Work / Opinion

Opinion: Let’s all agree to never speak of the print debate again. Ever.

This week James Cartwright pleads with everyone to shut up about the death of print for good, and urges print and digital to just bury the hatchet and get along. As ever if you think he’s wrong (or right) you can dissect his argument below below…

Last week I went to QVED 2014, a conference in Munich that focussed specifically on editorial design, with speakers coming from a wide spectrum of fields, including huge corporate-led global titles right down to tiny independents run by lone individuals. I saw David Moretti from Wired Italia, Danielle Pender from Riposte, Stefan Kiefer from Der Spiegel and Patrick Waterhouse from Colors all talking about their respective publications with passion, enthusiasm and a genuine understanding of what keeps editorial design and content fresh and exciting.

At no point did anyone discuss the idea of print being dead. In fact, in his round-up speech on Sunday afternoon, magCulture’s Jeremy Leslie said that the debate had almost lost any real meaning (how can print be dead with such an abundance of independent titles flourishing day-to day?) and I’m very much inclined to agree.

So with that in mind I’d like to call an end to this ludicrous debate that’s been a hot topic for so many years. When the iPads and iPhones and Kindles arrived on the scene we were all too hasty to renounce their papery counterparts for their lack of Bluetooth connectivity and sleek, glossy finish. We rushed to abandon our ancient friend the book for devices that you can’t even read in direct sunlight, and distanced ourselves from real printed pages in favour of digital simulations. But what were we thinking? Who wants something fake when you can have the real deal.

And that, in essence, is the problem with digital; too few people have sought to innovate in their presentation of digital editorial, instead mimicking paper publications as if their medium offered no potential for new methods of storytelling. Very few titles really seem to be pushing the envelope. But even when they finally do I don’t believe that’ll be the end for our friend the magazine either – we’re physical beings after all.

As it currently stands, usage of iPad editions of magazines are on the wane, while new printed titles crop up on an almost daily basis. That’s not to say that iPad editions are in trouble, just that we’re entering a phase where all that initial excitement has started to plateau and some are realising that they still like to own actual real-world objects. So perhaps it’s time to realise that you don’t have to be a digital or a physical person, you can enjoy both. Maybe you like your news on your phone but only want to read about your niche, craft beer interest in a printed magazine. Perhaps you think fashion stories are best online where they can be supported by video content, but still want to pick up the Sunday paper to read with your coffee. Either way, there’s room for both. So let’s never speak of this ill-considered debate ever again.