Stop the presses!

For those steeped in journalism tradition, the above command has an unfortunate meaning these days. It has a ring of permanence.

Blogging salesmeister Geoffrey James adds to the chorus that has declared print media dead. His perspective is more from the marketing and ad sales side of things, as opposed to the ink-stained wretches from newsrooms of yore.

“If you’re in the business of selling ads for printed periodicals, you need to find another job.  Ditto if you’re a marketing person whose career is built on creating ads and buying ads for such publications.” For those in the news biz, this is not news.

He goes on to tick off the advantages online publication has over print:

* It takes time and money to move paper around.
* Internet content can include links to other content.
* Internet content is more participatory.
* Internet content remains available.
* Internet content is less polluting.
* Internet advertising is trackable.

Those things are all true.

Print media have one advantage, and one advantage only: Cost of scaling printed materials. In other words, it’s a lot cheaper to buy a newspaper (25 cents to 75 cents daily, a buck or so on Sunday) than to print out the equivalent on your inkjet printer ($8-15 for a ream of paper, $30-plus for ink cartridge).

But the point of printing at home, critics point out, is you only print out what you deem worthy of saving.

Also true.

The trick here is figuring out what people want to print out and save. To this point, newspapers and to a more narrow degree magazines have taken a fairly broad approach to what they think appeals to readers. This scope varies from the New York Times’ “All the news that’s fit to print” to niche magazines with much more specific focus.

Until somebody figures out a more convenient and cost-effective way to produce and distribute pre-printed or mass-printed (unlikely) information, newspapers and magazines will continue to shrivel and die. “Web configuration” will cease to mean how huge rolls of newsprint are threaded through massive Goss Metroliner presses. At the risk of sounding like hyperbole, we’re experiencing a revolution.

In the meantime, ad sales reps and ad builders (and pressmen, to use an archaic term), join the writers, editors and photogs in the brave new world of Careerus Interruptus. And if you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with such concepts as SEM, SEO, pingbacks, meta tags, hits vs. visits, analytics and other fun stuff.

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