I used to correspond with a man who was a self-professed Luddite. He's a great fellow, but he was born in the wrong century and hates computers, email and the internet.
Then one day, out of the blue, I got an email from him. I asked what was up, and he said he couldn't find ribbons for his typewriter any more.
The funny thing is that he probably could have purchased them online.
We all love to tease the technologically impaired, but there's another group we need to watch out for — i.e., the people who insist on using a computer to "solve" something that doesn't need solving. What do we call these people?
Computers have and will continue to change things, and everybody knows they've changed publishing rather substantially. But a level-headed approach to "digital transformation" can't, on the one hand, deny the transformation that's going on, or, on the other, exaggerate or misrepresent it. E.g., "print is dead."
Great intellectual property continues to sell — yes, even in print. See Chip and Joanna Gaines’ magazine increases circulation.
Often I fear that publishers are blaming "digital transformation" when the truth is that they're selling junk nobody wants. "The computer ate my business." Well, maybe it did, or maybe you've just forgotten some fundamentals.
Print is in decline, for lots of reasons. But print is still a huge part of the publishing business. Publishers need to optimize for digital, but they also need to optimize print.
There are some things print still does better. E.g., it's a lot easier to loan somebody a print copy of a magazine, or give it to them when you're done with it. And despite all the talk about "digital natives" doing everything on computers, students continue to prefer printed textbooks.
Next time you go to the newsstand, pick up the most tech-centric magazine you can find. I'll bet you a sandwich and a cup of coffee there will be blow-in cards in that magazine.
Yep. Dumb old printed cards. In 2017. Can you believe it?
You know why they're in there? Because they work.
A creative colleague of mine came up with a good name for the anti-Luddite.
Think sycophant, not elephant. As if they're always kissing up to technology.
I'm very far from being a Luddite. I love Star Trek and science fiction and technology and all that wacky stuff, and my kids will tell you I'm always saying things like "in the future we won't ____." The first thing I touch in the morning after turning off the alarm is my iPad.
But I also like to be practical. Most people read magazines in the dead tree version. Rather than bemoan that, and cry about it, and wish things were different, why not optimize it. Take advantage of the strengths of the medium and make print the best it can be. Use it in new and creative ways. Or swallow your pride and use it in some old-fashioned way that still works. Don't be so sold on "new" that you do the new thing that sucks.
For example, let's say you want your older audience to share an article with their kids. Why not perf the page and make it easy for them to rip it out?
Sure, it sounds old-fashioned, and some people will roll their eyes. "What? In 2017?"
But I'd bet you two sandwiches and five cups of coffee that perfed page will be a hundred times more effective in getting that article shared than giving them a URL or a QR code or any other tech solution.