8020 Publishing: Long Live the Printed Word

Print is difficult. It’s cumbersome and expensive. Highly impractical. But it’s also archival, beautiful, and emotive. Print can be intimate in a way the web never can. Print is part of real life. It’s there with you in the cafe, the restaurant, the bathroom. You can lose yourself in a story in print more than you can on a screen.” – Derek Powazek, 8020 Publishing

In the print journalism ecosystem, books are at the top of the food chain, followed by news magazines
and then newspapers. Here’s how it shakes out:

•    No one starts as a book author, but all journalists want to be one;

•    All newspaper reporters want to write magazine articles;

•    No magazine writer in her right mind wants to write for a newspaper, unless it’s an op-ed piece or the result of losing a bet

For many of today’s print journalists, there is one more: Online journalism and amateurs are a threat to all that is good and holy about the printed word. Sure, print jobs are scarce and the pay stinks, but there are those who nevertheless continue to hang on by their ink-stained fingertips.

I don’t believe online journalism, blogs, citizen journalism or other forms of social media are a threat, nor can the print model continue on its collision course with history’s proverbial scrap heap. Something has to change for print to survive – or does it?

8020 Publishing – Paper Still Rules
In a time where blogs are ubiquitous, new and old media companies are rushing online and the inventor of the online garage sale is now considered a media mogul, anyone who would dare challenge the All Digital Future has to either be a heretic, a lunatic or both. Enter 8020 Publishing, an online start-up that plans to publish offline magazines later this year.

If print is dead, no one told these guys. But listen to their reasons and you might understand why “print” is about much more than ink on paper, and why people like me still love and believe in print journalism despite all of its problems.

“In the good ol’ days, when the web was new, it was fun to imagine a future full of screens and pixels and not a trace of paper to be found,” said 8020’s Derek Powazek on the company’s blog. “But something funny happened on the way to the all-digital future. Paper didn’t go away. In fact, to those of use who live and breathe the web, paper became more interesting, not less. More exotic, emotional, and real.

“Don’t get us wrong, we know that the Internet changed everything,” he continued. “But it was a mistake to think that just because this funky new medium was good at some things, that it would be good at everything.”

Are Stories in Print More Emotional than Stories Online?
8020 isn’t ignoring online publishing, either, promising to create “web/print hybrid” magazines. Of course, the success of 8020 or any publishing company – online or off – depends on the content, or what we in the newspaper business used to call “stories.”

Assuming 8020 will, in Mr. Powazek’s words, publish “truly awesome magazines,” his theory becomes all the more interesting: are stories more emotional and “real” when we can hold them in our hands via the printed page? And does a story in a digital form diminish the emotional connection with the reader?

Perhaps the question is too subjective. Some would argue that hearing someone read a story aloud is more emotional, or watching someone tell a story on video. Words, if they are powerful enough, can transcend any container – you don’t need to touch them to feel them. Ink doesn’t have a soul.

But Mr. Powazek has a point. Print has an emotional immediacy born as much from our experience as from its tactile qualities. One wonders whether a generation brought up without newspapers will feel that same connection.

As for 8020, it’s at least as interesting an experiment in modern journalism as any other, and one worth watching – and, I would hope, one worth reading, too.

One thought on “8020 Publishing: Long Live the Printed Word

  1. I don’t think that a story in a digital form diminish the emotional connection with the reader. I still remember a few good stories I found and read online. But print has a future, I don’t have a doubt with this.

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