The Future of Print Media in the Digital Age
After thirty years of being a staple to my neighborhood and one of the most iconic small bookstores in Delhi, a shop called Fact & Fiction shut down in 2015. It was a small store, stacked with books from ground to ceiling, crammed to the very brim of its capacity.
Even today, my father laughs when he talks of the store and its owner, whom he found to be one of the most intriguing people he’d come across. In fact, many remember this place fondly as a haven.
As time went by, however, the regulars weren’t quite so regular anymore. Books began to gather dust on shelves, and eventually, it shut down.
This wasn’t an isolated incident. As digital media and the internet have exploded in popularity, print media - newspapers, books, magazines - have lost their charm and value, and are instead seen as a waste of space or paper. When you can access thousands of books on your phone, read every article on the internet, and subscribe to magazines online, who needs the physical thing?
And so, the decline of print media began.
The first question to ask - what all comes under print media, and how does it compare to digital content?
Print media is any content distributed in a printed manner, as its name suggests. Newspapers, novels, and magazines are all examples of the same.
On the other hand, digital media is any media that is distributed via electronic devices. This could include blogs, posts, videos, ebooks, and so on.
Physical media offers a tangible, physical experience to the consumers, and give them something they can store. It has a reputation, and air professionalism.
However, digital media comes with far bigger benefits- it’s a better tool for business, allows for more creative freedom, and can be an interactive source of information. And these benefits have been realised, with weekly print circulation reducing by 12% in 2017-2018 itself.
All of us still have a soft corner for print media – we love being gifted books on our birthdays, and seeing our grandparents read the newspaper and drink chai early in the morning – because of the feeling it evokes. So, what makes digital media so lucrative?
Digital Media – An Immediate Conversation Piece
Print media involves only one thing - reading and assimilating information. Words on paper, maybe an image or two, is all you’ll get. The rise of digital media, however, has enabled discussion and advocacy - at the press of a button, at the tips of your fingers. People from opposite ends of the world, from completely different backgrounds and communities, can debate on problems on a common platform - provided by digital media.
In fact, it’s digital media that’s made us so aware about the problems going on in the world today - not only can official platforms share information, but individuals, local publications, etc, can spread information around the world. Digital media has given rise to a whole new level of opportunities, for all one needs to do is switch on their phones or laptops to share an opinion on an article, start a magazine, or even launch a book.
A Two Page Long Document? Make That a Colourful Video
A decade ago, if someone told you that you could one day listen to thousands of books while traveling around the world, without having to carry a single page - well, let’s just say you wouldn’t believe them. It’s that kind of opportunity that comes with digital media. A lengthy and heavy article can be transformed into a beautifully animated video series, a weekly column into a conversational podcast, an encyclopedia into a cinematic documentary, and an article into a wonderfully interactive piece with videos, animations, colours. While scouring print media has a distinct experience in itself, it can often be tedious, and digital media has helped prevent just that.
See Only What You Want
In the case of print media, all sorts of content are pushed out to audiences, regardless of what their specific tastes may be. Digital media, however, enables a business, author, news agency, magazine, or anything else, to market its product specifically to its desired audiences with no extra cost! Simply by focusing on certain topics, using certain forums, and utilising specific keywords, a content creating agency can pull in specifically the viewers it wants to pull in - the interested ones! This, obviously, has made digital media far more lucrative for the businesses themselves.
Thousands of Articles and Books – All In Your Pocket
Do you still have that a designated shelf at home where all the old newspapers are stacked up, unnecessarily occupying valuable storage space? Or massive bookshelves to store all the books you’ve accumulated over the years?
Digital media takes up far lesser space - or rather, no space. All the information and resources are stored in your tiny phone, iPad, or laptop. Imagine if all that information was converted into print media - the amount of space it would take up is astronomical. And the amount of paper used? Even more!
Find Any Information At the Click of a Button
Many Indians can’t read, neither do they have a TV at home, but with relatively inexpensive smartphones - they can have access to information to news and the stories of their choice on platforms like YouTube, that too, in their own language.
For a smartphone owning individual, digital media makes information far more accessible than it was before. Take the example of a country like India, with a largely rural population, often living in inaccessible terrains. Print media often didn’t reach these places, creating an informational vacuum for the people there. In areas like these, digital media is far more accessible. However, the question of having access to digital media in the first place also exists, especially in countries like our own, where poverty prevents people from affording such luxuries.
Ever since the introduction of television to the mass market, print media has been on the decline.
An even bigger change, however, has been observed during the last decade with the introduction of the smartphone.
Print media is keeping a fight though, and there’s still a long way to go before it dies out. Maybe it’s because of the sentimental value of a physical book, or magazine, or even newspaper, something digital media could never capture.
Written by Tishya Doraiswamy
Content Writer @ Skyshot Media