Innovation in Print: The Answer to Print Suicide… Create a Necessary and Sufficient Print Product

July 21, 2009

Here is a simple, doable solution for print people to utilize so that they will stop killing their printed products: create a necessary and sufficient print product.

It is that simple. I kid you not. If you want to ensure the survival of your printed product, you need to create a product that is both necessary and sufficient. Publishing 360 or publishing plus has been greatly misinterpreted and misused. Print people understood Publishing 360 as the need to be in print, on the web, on television, etc. shuffling from one medium to the other. You read excerpts of an interview in the magazine, then you go to the web to read the entire interview and watch the video. You pick up the newspaper and almost after every story there is a link to go to the web for more. Print folks keep on pushing people to put down the newspaper or the magazine down and head to the web for more. What type of reading experience you are going to have if you have to stop reading and head to the web after few paragraphs, and how often are you going to come back. On the other hand, very few publishers use the web to send people to print and to encourage them to pick up a printed copy of their products.

Print folks have lost confidence in their printed product and they are trying to create a hybrid product that sooner or later will eliminate the need for the same product they are attempting to save. If I do not need something, then for sure it is not going to be sufficient for me. You can’t be satisfied with something you do not need or want. Our dying newspapers have eliminated the need or even the want to be picked up and have ignored, albeit with few exceptions, the simple answer to the question What Is In It For Me (The WIIFM factor).

It is not the first time that I say print is not dying, just the folks who owns it are committing suicide. I firmly believe that our salvation is going to be in ensuring that each and every product, we media people produce, must be necessary and sufficient. Whether it is the newspaper, the web site or the video, each and every one of these products must provide readers/viewers with a self-satisfying experience that folks will lose themselves while interacting with that product. Publishing 360 should not mean that our readers/viewers are going to hop from one medium to the other in order to get the complete picture or experience. We are not in the business of hopping, but rather of reading or viewing. Leave the hopping to the rabbits, and give the humans reading or viewing relevant materials in the relevant medium that they desire.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that our printed products should not have websites and that we should not use the brand we have to the max. What I am saying is that the printed product should be sufficient for a whole experience for the reader; the web should provide a different whole experience; the same is true for any other medium invented or to be invented. None of the media should be short-changed to provide a link to the other medium. A newspaper should advertise their website, just like the rest of the ads it carries; it should be something the readers can go to later if they choose to do so. They should not feel cheated if they choose not to go to the web, the same as if they decide not to buy one of the advertised products in the newspapers. They do not feel cheated if they do not act upon the ads. The way newspapers now advertise and link the printed product to the web leaves you feeling as if you are missing something, thus the paper is not sufficient any more.

So before you blame the internet, or advertisers or anyone else but yourself for the demise of your newspaper or any other print product, examine yourself first and see if that printed product you are creating is necessary and sufficient, or it is just a vehicle that is used to transport to the world wide web. It is time for us to wake up and take a good critical look at our printed products and stop the mass suicide. Take a look at your printed product and tell why are you relevant, why are you needed, and are you sufficient? The problem is not with the printed messenger, the problem, the whole problem, is with the message. You do not have to take my word for it, just check any of the so dying printed products and try to answer the aforementioned questions. I bet you that you will find the majority of what we have now is not relevant, not needed and not sufficient. The sad thing is that the reason for those negative answers is not in the print media. It is with the people who are placing those messages on the ink on paper. Messages that are not relevant, messages that are not needed in that specific medium, and messages that do not engage the reader in a total fulfilling experience.

Print is not dead, and will not die, if and only if we produce a printed product that is BOTH necessary and sufficient. Let us innovate with our printed products rather than apply the old adage of providing a permanent solution to a temporary problem: Suicide.


  1. […] via  Mr. Magazine. […]

  2. Please look up the definition of “utilize” and then start using “use”. Thanks.

  3. I’ve said it a million times: if your magazine can be replaced by a website, it should be.

  4. Stoner is right on the money! If a magazine has a purpose – and can reach its market – It’ll survive regardless of TV, Radio, the Internet, the Town Crier…

  5. Get a load of mr. magazine’s book cover!:

    As someone who judges people by what they have done, not what they say, this guy should really NOT have a voice in our market…

  6. Now, having started and sold my own magazine, I can tell you that survival on the newsstand is another issue, altogether–the magazine I sold ultimately failed because of bad management. The content was purposeful, useful and wanted, but management ran it into the ground. That sort of thing can–and does–happen quite often. Remember “ONE?”

    • One magazine? A google search picked up a ton. The rollerblading mag?

      • No, DavidBlunt, it was a shelter/design magazine. I think the tag was ‘Design matters’ or some such thing. The head of that title famously ran through a million $$ or so and ran the magazine right into the ground…

  7. If you want a concrete example of what Samir is talking about, look at the recently launched UK edition of Wired. The print magazine is a thing of utter gorgeousness that allies unbeatable production values to content that ranges from gizmos to piracy off Somalia – the current issue even uses silver *inside* the run of paper. Then there’s the website that offers a whole lot more, and different. Both platforms play to their advantages and one does not cannibalise the other. It can be done; it has been done.
    Of course, we don’t all have the might of Condé Nast behind us …

    • Thanks Tim… a great example of what can and should be done.

  8. […] Husni, director del Magazine Innovation Center en la Universidad de Mississipi, en su blog Mr. Magazine. Las negritas son […]

  9. First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had trouble clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Cheers!

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