With the resurrected print version of the news weekly Newsweek (they didn’t stay up all night agonising over titles back in 1933) soon arriving off presses in the US, the debate about traditional versus online media is becoming ever more blurred. Harder to read, you might say. Print, it seems, isn’t dead and didn’t even leave town – maybe it just got some new friends.
The past year has seen a small but steady trend of once online-only titles embracing print. Pitchfork, the equal-parts loved-and-loathed online bible for fickle indie-music fans that began as a website in the mid-1990s, has started producing the The Pitchfork Review, a handsome quarterly tome of in-depth features and interviews – only available on the printed page.
Newsweek’s journey back to the newsstand is a slightly more convoluted affair. After its “last print issue” rolled off the presses in 2012, the brand was already part of a game of publishers’ hot potato that’s seen the name tumbling around various websites and owners. Back in 2010 it was even said to have been sold off for $1 by the Washington Post Company. Its current owner, the small digital publisher IBT Media, has seen demand from readers grow again for a physical edition – and this week 70,000 copies will be reaching US shelves.
This love for traditional media is not new: Monocle readers will know there is another very handsome magazine on newsstands each month that’s going from strength to strength that we recommend you track down. People like “things”: something to hold, engage with and enjoy. The unstoppable resurgence of vinyl-record sales over the past decade is perhaps the strongest proof that no matter how far technology progresses, people still feel a benefit from owning a well-made object.
But beyond the physical/digital debate, there’s a growing need for consumers to simply have access to a quality, unwavering product. Quality isn’t restricted to any medium. But in a world where the medium is constantly being reset every other year by technology, many producers – be they musicians, publishers, artists or authors – are beginning to opt for the delivery system with the most reliable track record (and in the musicians’ case, handily, that actually is a record).
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Parisian creative duo M/M Paris and the minds behind Björk’s none-more-technologically pioneering app-based album Biophilia were happy that their project had asked more questions than it answered. “How are we going to use an app in 10 years?” said the duo’s Mathias Augustyniak. “Who says it will still be usable?”
Whether you enjoy the pleasure of the printed word, need news at the touch of a button, take your tunes on a slab of wax or tease them down from the cloud, it’s becoming clear that there’s room today for a few different ways to enjoy the future. Whether the future will still work in five years is anyone’s guess.
Tom Hall is a writer and sub-editor for Monocle.