Back in the day, say 1998, I worked in New York with tons of newspaper and magazine companies that found it hard to believe a fuzzy blue (or green) screen would ever replace paper. Imagining that regular people would forsake glossy coated stock and long sheets of newsprint for electronic devices of any sort seemed unimaginable. Young people, like me, who were avid about the Net, needed to be heard, because the youth market, after all, was our future; but truly thinking that the majority of people would abandon traditional media–formats and systems that had worked–with great ad margins–for more than 100 years–was absurd.
Flash forward ten years and legacy newspapers and magazines are locked in the death spiral. New properties on the web are claiming their audiences and their ad dollars. Paper costs are soaring, and newsstand sales are dropping. Only people over 45 want to hold newspapers any more. The behaviors that published ten years ago defined as unlikely are now the basic stuff of our day and print seems, for many people, like an irrelevant service with an irrational cost.
There’s something so sad about living through these last days, because, in my opinion, they reflect not the death of print media, which I am convinced will rise from the ashes and succeed again, but the death of the old legacy brands, the big, profitable consumer machines that, for 50 years or more, so successfully turned out newspaper and magazine must-haves, properties that, in their heyday, were as powerful, popular, and talked about as MySpace, FaceBook, Google, Digg, and BlogHer.
Simply put, for the LA Times, Hearst Magazine Group, Parade, The Star-Ledger–whatever–the margins–and the audience–are just no longer there.
So the media layoffs keep coming, and big media continues to die (or fragment) and while I feel badly for the people affected, this evidence of the law of continual revolution is proof that nothing is forever, and thank goodness, everything evolves.