I shall say it loud and clear: print will never die

McIlheney: ‘it has never been about print versus digital, it has always been about print plus digital’
McIlheney: ‘it has never been about print versus digital, it has always been about print plus digital’

No smart brand should ignore the rich reader engagement print offers and opt for a pop-up ad.

Not only is print not dying but, in so many different ways, it has never ever been more alive and kicking. 

Let’s start right here, right now. I do hope that you are reading this in print and on paper. Why? Because that is the best way to read it. There, I said it. Shoot me now officer, I’ll go quietly.

One of the many oddities of this so-called digital age is the fear that so many folk still seem to have of speaking this bald truth to Silicon Valley power.

What are we all so frightened of? That they might defriend us on Facebook? Block our tweets? Steal all our beautiful content and all the lovely advertising that likes to follow it? Hmmmm.

So I shall say it here, loud and clear. 

A book is always best read in print unless you are packing for your holidays and don’t want to fall foul of Ryanair, in which case a Kindle is clearly the smart way to go. Personally, I do both.

A magazine is always best read in print unless you are on a business trip in a place where they don’t sell your favourite magazine, in which case the tablet is clearly the smart way to go. Personally, I do both. 

A newspaper is always… you get the picture, I’m sure.

I always assume that the content in any magazine produced by one of the PPA’s members will be of the highest standard.

If we want progress, we must encourage new formats, but the sad truth for all big fight fans out there is that most big platforms never die

The platform on which I choose to read this world-class content is then all about the context. Most of the time, I choose to read long-form content in print because I think that this is the way God meant for it to be. Anything under, say, 400 words I find that it matters less.

Much of the time, I am alerted to this brilliant content by links on digital and social networks. So here’s the shocking news: it has never been about print versus digital, it has always been about print plus digital. Plus social plus live events plus carrier pigeon plus whatever else might have been invented by the time I finish this piece.

If we want progress, we must encourage new formats, but the sad truth for all big fight fans out there is that most big platforms never die.

Look at radio. Dead as a dodo surely when that radical new thing called TV came along. No, not really. Look at TV. Kaput surely when that interweb thing came along. No, not really. And look at printed magazines. Six foot under surely when those new tablet editions would sweep the world. Er, no, not really.

Is print dying? No. Will print ever die? No.

The final reason why print will never die is that an awful lot of readers are still prepared to pay an awful lot of money for all that lovely magazine content – week in, week out, month in, month out.

Excuse me if I turn up the volume here for a second, but which agency with half-a-brain and a beady eye on his client’s money is ever going to ignore that incredibly deep level of rich engagement and opt instead for popping up next to a ten-second clip of a monkey soiling itself on a skateboard? Any agency that makes that mistake should personally be forced to pay back the money they have just wasted to their client.

Is print dying? No. Will print ever die? No. And is now the best time ever to use that print base to build a greater all-platform audience than before? God, yes. So let’s get cracking.


Barry McIlheney is the chief executive of the PPA. This article is extracted from Last Words? How can Journalism Survive the Decline of Print?, edited by John Mair, Tor Clark, Neil Fowler, Raymond Snoddy and Richard Tait. It is published by Abramis Academic Publishing

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