Why Graydon Carter thinks print is dying

March 30, 2010

Just read an interesting opinion piece by Graydon Carter titled “Print is dying… really?” What makes it interesting most of all isn’t so much Carter’s analysis – it’s more or less the same “TV didn’t kill radio” analogy paired with “just create great magazines” that we’ve heard many times before – but that he seems to be proving the wrong point.

The piece begins by separating “reading” from “search-and-find” – not a bad thing to do – and goes on to defend people’s continuing desire to read in-depth, well-researched, well-editing stories. But where it fails is in defining what it is, exactly, that makes print magazines the best format to deliver those stories. In fact, Carter even goes so far as to point out (contrary to common wisdom) that long-form journalism is popular on vanityfair.com. And his conclusion?

If print journalism’s business model is changing, our only move as editors is to double down on delivering what our readers have always wanted from us: compelling stories and iconic photographs. And it won’t matter if they’re read on a laptop, a cell phone, or on paper.

So, print isn’t dying… except that lots of people will read magazines on formats other than paper.

Don’t get me wrong – if print magazines are dying at all, I expect them to die a very slow death, and as we in the industry know, it’s more likely to be precipitated by declining advertising revenue than by drops in readership (on average, at least). But if we want print to survive, we need better arguments than this.

So let’s discuss. What really makes magazines unique?

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