Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Day Print Didn't Stand Still

Last week I saw the remake of the 1950s movie, "The Day the Earth Stood Still." It's like The Matrix meets The Terminator, but with worse special effects, less action, more aliens and more philosophy. It's certainly not the best movie of all time, but it does makes you think, as it's about humanity standing at the brink of destruction with one last chance to change its ways.

Of all things, that made me think about the newspaper industry.

If that sounds alarmist, it's really not. This year many U.S. newspapers face such a dilemma, with one large paper in a two-newspaper town up for sale, a major chain filing for bankruptcy protection, and two newspapers in a major city reducing their print editions to three days a week. As this comes on the heels of what we're told is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, it's safe to assume that we'll be seeing more of this kind of thing in 2009.

My PBS MediaShift IdeaLab post this week is about "Newspaper Armageddon" -- a term I use to describe the collective bad news coming out of the newspaper industry in the last two months -- and how Printcasting and other customized print solutions represent a much-needed opportunity for newspapers to evolve. I also discuss how the value of print media and physical "stuff" in general increases as you focus on smaller geographic communities and niche interests. Read the full post here.

I'm not naive enough to suggest that Printcasting, or any one initiative or movement, is the silver bullet that will single-handedly save newspapers. That's never the case for anything. But I do feel that customized print, and "printable" and portable media, are a big part of the future of news. And the great thing is that with a little thought and effort, all of this can be done now. Rather than dwell on same old boring doom-and-gloom, I choose to look at the larger trends and what they mean for the future of publishing. For those news and information companies that enthusiastically embrace change, this is not Armageddon at all. It's a true second chance to evolve.

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