The digital revolution has forced many longtime print publications either into an exclusively online format or, in some cases, out of business. Publications were told that the needs of their audiences had changed, and that electronic consumption was highly valued. The eco-friendly movement also cast a shadow on the print industry, marking its constituents as wasteful and old-fashioned. Newspapers and magazines scrambled to keep up with modern practices that were supposed to save their businesses.
However, despite the initial surge of panic that percolated throughout the print industry, print publications appear to be stabilizing. New information has emerged that indicates that while hard news is most widely consumed in a digital form due to the ability to alter stories as they develop, people generally prefer reading long-form journalism, books and scholastic texts in traditional hard copy. This sentiment, coupled with the revelation that electronic providers are not necessarily any more green than printers, has led to a reversal of the digitalization trend.
Several magazines are going from digital-only to multimedia
Perhaps the most notable example of print's longevity is that some exclusively digital publishers are starting to produce hard copies of their content, Digiday contributor Ricardo Bilton asserted. He noted that established digital-only sources such as Politico, Pitchfork and Pando are backward-engineering their formats, taking the online content to print. The central idea that binds these individual initiatives together is that while shorter, less intensive stories are still better suited for the short attention spans and click bait of the Internet, premium stories that entail deep reporting and full-page photos are far more purposeful in physical form. Long-form journalism is wasted on a website, as its consumption is largely a visceral and aesthetically-pleasing experience for readers.
While these companies will still primarily operate online, as they have throughout their existences, these premium print distributions acknowledge the lasting power of the hard copy text that e-counterparts cannot achieve. Magazines will continue to fail, largely due to their inexpensive and, frankly, replaceable nature. Most of the information found in standard publications can also be found more easily online, rendering the print form irrelevant.
But this is not the kind of product that these digital publishers hope to create. Digiday found that the companies are looking to expand their brand through the dispersal of high quality and engaging content, rather than simply rehashing what their electronic pieces say. Defining your publication by a single platform upon which you distribute your content is a good way to achieve irrelevance, and so employing a multimedia strategy has been deemed the most effective way to access untapped market potential.
Going paperless is not equivalent to going green
Another misconception regarding the print industry is that it is not conducive to sustainability efforts. Companies have been sold on, and in many cases, have bought into, the notion that the mere use of paper is harming the earth. But this sentiment largely ignores both the eco-friendly nature of paper use and the not-so-green aspects of digitizing everything.
The Guardian's Alison Moodie suggested that paper is the most recyclable resource in the United States. She also pointed out that forestry in the northern part of the country has increased 28 percent over the course of the past century, indicating that, even with massive increases of paper usage due to industry and other necessary functions, the earth has not exactly been devastated by the effects. On the contrary, trees used for paper production have been supplanted by far more trees, and recent paper recycling campaigns have helped reduce waste.
In contrast, the carbon footprint left behind by the manufacturing and maintenance of electronics is massive, the source said. The common denominator among every new technology is that it requires power in order to be used. This includes mobile devices, like smartphone and tablets, that don't need to be constantly plugged in, but still use energy when their batteries are being charged.
In addition, many companies have transitioned to the use of cloud software to store and transfer data, necessitating the creation of huge data centers that – you guessed it – consume crazy amounts of energy and exude pollutants. The major difference here is that trees are an entirely renewable resource – proven by the fact that there are actually more forests in the U.S. than there were in the past – while the electricity used to power technology is generally not.
It's undeniable that digital alternatives to traditional forms of media have become culturally prominent in contemporary times. However, this doesn't mean that they are necessarily preferable or eco-savvy. Print continues to be a distinctly more effective method of consuming content, and its environmental impact is actually more positive than the narrative shaped by tech gurus would have you believe. Companies that were founded in the wake of the digital revolution understand the lasting power of print, and this is likely to be indicative of a larger trend.