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To Print or Not to Print?
Are digital publications running like bandits to the fledging world of print culture? At Jacket Copy, Matt Pearce surveys the scene.
“What do journalists, CEOs and senior citizens have in common?” an editor for website BuzzFeed tweeted the other day. “They are the only groups of people left who care about reading things in print.”
So goes the digital punch line in 2013. Conventional media wisdom maintains that print is headed remorselessly toward extinction, with many old-school publications continuing to struggle and, most recently, the legendary weekly magazine New York announcing that its print edition would soon go bimonthly.
While pundits were declaring the death of ink on paper, though, a funny thing happened: Some of the very people who helped pioneer online-only journalism and criticism began to reconsider print.
Indie-music kingmaker Pitchfork.com, which has spent 17 years publishing on the Web, just launched a quarterly print edition. The Los Angeles Review of Books, which began on Tumblr in 2011, recently celebrated the release of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal, while intellectual online journal the New Inquiry is planning a print anthology. This fall, the feminist site Jezebel, an arm of the Gawker Media empire, published “The Book of Jezebel” — an “illustrated encyclopedia of lady things” — and teen girl website Rookie published its second “Rookie Yearbook.”
“There’s been a lot of discussion of the transition in one direction: print to digital,” says New Inquiry editor in chief Rachel Rosenfelt, 28. “But this is the first generation of people who have always been digital, moving in the other direction.”
The reasons for this unlikely resurgence of print are complex, rooted both in business sense and sentimentality. Rather than rising and falling on a single platform, many brands today would rather reach for bigger audiences across multiple channels that publish — and profit — side by side.
But in some cases, the turn to print reflects a reaction to the very things that have made digital publishing so appealing: Where the Web is open-ended and interactive, print is closed and more authoritative, like a street that goes only one way. The Web is timelier, but paper lasts longer than browser tabs. [...]
Rock and roll ye vandercook on, at Jacket Copy.