From Gutenberg to Google: how print media is surviving in an increasingly digital world

Print media. An ever-changing and ever-relevant issue across the world. For years we have been hearing about the demise of print, and how soon it will be non-existent, but what are the actual facts?

Print has survived the steamrollering of popular culture by both radio and television, so its potential for endurance under the tyranny of the internet is perhaps greater than we once thought.

Just as science fiction writers of the 60’s imagined us all commuting to Mars with jet packs by 2010, there have always been those that predicted the demise of print in a grimy Gibsonesque digital takeover.

BUT. Although the popularity of digital media has skyrocketed in the last decade, it now appears to be co-existing with print rather than subsuming it. 2015 saw the first decline in ebook sales since the beginning of the digital boom, and The Bookseller reported another rise in the sale of print books in 2016, with the two weeks in the run up to Christmas ranking the highest sales value since 2007, for the second year running. A survey published by The Bookseller last year also concluded that children much prefer print books to digital, both for learning and for pleasure.

Despite the fact that general statistics showed a drop in the sales of print magazines between 2011 and 2015, the NRS still reported an average readership of almost 80,000 across print magazine titles in the UK, and that doesn’t include the slew of free and self-published magazines and zines that are continuing to inhabit their own important place in the media landscape.

It seems then, that it all comes down to personal preference. Here at Wildfire we produce both print and online titles, and all of our print magazines remain strong. This is testament to the place of print in the publishing world, and as we have found, many readers much prefer a physical product.

So what does the future of print look like? Inevitably digital culture is definitely here to stay; nobody can deny the attraction of such quick communication, the variety of voices that can have a say, and the immediacy of breaking news. But similarly, some of us will forever hold a special place in our hearts for the ‘real’ thing, and you can pry our magazines and paperbacks out of our cold, dead hands.

What do you think of the print vs. digital debate? Tweet us @WildfireComms to let us know.

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