On Print

(This article originally appeared in The Big Issue Australia #366)

As long as I can remember, I’ve worked in a world where the conventional wisdom has been that print is dying. If you listen to a lot of pundits (mostly online pundits, naturally) you’ll hear that print is already dead; it just doesn’t know it yet.

The big stories in media for the past decade have been the collapse and decay of the formerly glorious print empires and the rise of a succession of online juggernauts. Everyone who works in the print media watched the final series of The Wire and recognised the glib refrain ‘we must do more with less’. We’ve heard it for over a decade.

But the strange thing is that while the traditional methods of producing newspapers and magazines might be going the way of the fax machine, print is very much alive. At the recent South By South West Interactive conference in Austin, Texas I was pleasantly surprised to see that in the very heart of the online world, people are finding ways to keep print alive and thriving. New web-to-print technologies are making print cheaper to create and distribute. Crowdsourcing and online collaboration are combining to give editors access to a pool of talent that the media barons of the past could have only dreamed of.

As if to prove this very point, in May a group of people got together and created 48 Hour Magazine in, you guessed it, 48 hours. The time between when they released the theme of the magazine to their thousands of hopeful contributors until the moment they finished designing and put it up on the online distribution system MagCloud was two days. Talk about doing more with less.

There are projects like this taking place all over the world, and there are businesses popping up to support these projects and to evangelise print. Newspaper Club is a website in the United Kingdom that provides you with all the tools you need to produce 500 copies of a 12-page newspaper. Why do they do it? Because they love ink on paper.

And you know what? I think we all do. I think that in some sense, we miss the touch of paper, the smudge of ink, and most of all we miss the days when information was something we could touch. I’m confident that we’ll be able to get ink on our fingertips for a long time to come.

Ross Floate’s latest project is as co-publisher of a newspaper of content originally created for the web entitled And Now It’s In Print.

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