Here’s an age-old question: what’s the role of print in the age of digital media? Throw a pebble at a group of technology pundits; I guarantee that you’ll hit someone who’s already pondered the question before. So, what makes this asked-and-answered question still relevant today? We’re living in an age commandeered by Moore’s law, which basically states that processing power doubles every year. Although the law has already been predicted to die within the foreseeable future, technology still grows at an astonishing speed. With every passing year, it’s important to check the status of an old technology that just won’t die—the printed word.
Last October, the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines held “The Power of X,” the country’s biggest congress for digital convergence. With every word in that last sentence, you might expect that “The Power of X” is a convention about the power of digital media. Yes and no. Hundreds of speakers preached about how to harness digital media for greater purposes, but a few have waxed poetic about the important role that print media still has over the world.
In a talk titled “Pixel Power: Has Print Lost Its Punch in Today’s Pokémon World?,” Lisa Watson, Customer Success and Business Development lead of HP Inc., shared how and why print media continues strong amidst all the developments in digital technology today.
Admittedly, the trend shift from print to digital is far from an illusion. Consumers, their friends, and their families are spending more and more time in front of their screens every day. Hence, brands are slowly shifting their focus to digital marketing spending. It’s a growing cycle that perpetuates the idea that print is dying. But is it really dying?
Numbers don’t lie. People really are shifting towards a more digital approach to communication. Watson argues that this isn’t because of the technology itself, but rather how people perceive the technology as a personalized platform for their own personality. Technology allows them to be their own person. The top online “brands” of today rely on zero content. Facebook creates zero posts. Instagram has taken zero photos. Twitter has made zero tweets. Yet, they’re the biggest names on social media today because of how they allow their users to express themselves with other people.
Technology isn’t killing print. And print isn’t dying either. It’s changing. If print was dying, Coca-Cola wouldn’t have had its successful marketing run of printing personalized cans a few years ago. We should have said goodbye to personalized credit cards, playing cards, and even collectible figurines. Heck, we wouldn’t even have the sticker-driven coffee shop planners everyone seems to love. These items are a product of personality. Each of them says “this is my credit card/planner/figurine.”
If engagement isn’t enough of a reason for you, try information overload for size. We get bombarded by hundreds (and often, similar) content every single day. Remember back in school when mustering the focus to get through just one chapter was a chore? We now do this for dozens of different thoughts every day. We never complain because that’s just how life is now with technology allowing us access to real-time world events with the snap of a finger.
Print has evolved (or devolved, depending on your perspective) from weighty textbooks to bite-sized nuggets of information we can consume even while taking a break in the john. In his keynote speech at the beginning of IMAPP’s DigiCon, Dr. Mario Garcia whips out his perfect example of minimalized content in the redesigned Philippine Daily Inquirer. Prior to leading the local newspaper’s redesign, he also led the design teams of the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Noticeably, the Inquirer sheds its former looks as a no-frills newspaper and adapts a getup that’s very similar to how a website is designed.
Dr. Garcia’s explanation is as simple as the redesigned front page. Since everyone is used to reading the bite-sized content of a website or an app, it’s only fitting that print media adopts the same reading patterns of its nontangible brethren. As you can see in the latest issues of the Inquirer, headlines are “boxed” into these windows similar to how we see shared posts on Facebook. Readers get these bite-sized bits of information they can then follow up on in the subsequent pages. The Inquirer’s layout still remains in its fundamental state but how information is presented differs.
As with all newspapers today, the Inquirer isn’t dead. It adopted to change. What died was our old, ineffective, and narrow-minded way of consuming information back when it was a luxury for the privileged. With the rapid influx and democratization of information every second, it becomes important to express ourselves and escape the muck of social media. We, as humans, need to rise above information overload and shine as individuals rather than statistics. The old print couldn’t do that, but the new print can. What print needs to do is to be engaging and allow engagement. Whatever print ultimately decides to do is irrelevant to the one truth that digital will not be able to destroy: that one of history’s oldest forms of technology isn’t dying in the foreseeable future.