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Back to the future (of print journalism)

Back to the future (of print journalism)

"Print is the new vinyl".

You are probably aware of the commotion on twitter created by John Bracken's simple assertion at the Asian American Journalists Association conference on 11th August.

If you missed it, here's a catch up.

Behind the reams of vaguely entertaining hipster analogies lies a serious question: IS print the new vinyl?

Bracken elaborated on exactly what he meant by this metaphor on The Knight Foundation Blog. In his explanation, he emphasised the value of the tactile object in a world where digitisation makes the acquisition of both music and information a rather intangible experience.

As Bracken cites, vinyl was the fastest growing music medium in 2010. Why? Essentially, because purchasing and consequently possessing a physical object is an entirely different consumer experience. This is why, after a long period of disinterest, consumers are increasingly investing in vinyl alongside other mediums, mainly digital.

So, can print really follow in the footsteps of vinyl? Is it realistic to expect print publications to be able to soldier on through declining sales in the hope of gaining popularity in the future?

Perhaps it is not a question of enduring a prolonged sales slump, as vinyl did, but rather that print journalism must quickly realise the full potential for print to compliment digital formats.

The Columbia Journalism Review responded to Braken's comment by showing exactly how there can be a vinyl-digital style symbiosis between print and digital. The CJR points out that publications like The Forum, Jersey City Independent and The Iowa Republican, all have successful print editions that work to increase readership and revenue for news start-ups that began on line.

Can the news industry learn anything from print and digital partnerships in other branches of publishing?

Take, for instance, the British independent magazine Oh Comely, which also runs a popular blog in parallel to print edition. Like most independent magazines, its readership is small but the print edition is supported by a significant online readership, a proportion of which then subscribe to the magazine.

Oh Comely is typical of many independent publications, which focus not only on content, but also prioritise the physical, aesthetic quality of the publication, creating an experience which is entirely different and - arguably - better than reading articles and viewing the images online.

So, Oh Comely is perhaps a great example of a print publication that has `the vinyl factor'. (Although it doesn't really do much to disprove that print is for hipsters...) It has great design not only online but also in print, which makes for a better consumer experience.

So, maybe print can be the new vinyl, but it will take some careful design and probably some clever marketing to make print the rich consumer experience it has the potential to be for everyone- not just double-denim sporting roll-up smokers with A-symmetric haircuts.

Sources: Columbia Journalism Review , The Knight Foundation, Oh Comely, Storify (Julie Moos),



Katherine Travers


2011-08-18 14:01

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