Does print have a shelf life?

10th Mar 2014 | Posted by Jim Joseph Jim Joseph's picture

I don’t think I’m alone here … I get virtually all of my news from social media.  Not sure I should be proud of that behavior, but it’s true.  I scan my newsfeed throughout the day and only click on what’s interesting to me in the moment.  Even if I don’t click though, I’m still getting all the headlines I need to keep me aware.

Let’s face it, news now moves at Twitter speed. We demand more from our news sources then just a well-organized summary, especially as we can watch things happen live.  Updates on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, anti-fracking rallies, spread of the flu, even snowfall predictions – it’s all information we want in real time, and I don’t mind if it’s filtered through someone I’m following. 
It works for me because it feels like the news is so fleeting now. I certainly can’t wait for the 6:00pm roundup to get my news or for a print outlet to cover it later in the week.  I’ve got to be ready for the virtual water cooler and have my own point of view in real time.
So it got me thinking:  is there a shelf life to print? 

It’s been said “today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s fish wrap” – has Twitter pushed the 24-hour news cycle to a 5 minute news cycle? Is there an impossible, unstated deadline that print now just can’t meet?

To some extent, yes, but what might be a more accurate portrayal is to take a look at what readers want from print - not that social media is such an easy option.  Print thrives in a longer form, providing a more in-depth analysis of the news and how it fits into a larger picture of what’s going on in the world … something a quick little tweet just can’t do.  Print also offers a more visual account of trends, one that only hard copy can showcase.
This is where print has the advantage over social media: in-depth analysis and dynamic images.  We can learn about the range of emotions involved in the Russia-Ukraine crisis, and the real stories of determination from the Olympics.  Print allows the story to stay alive long enough for us to actually absorb and learn from it.

So rather than trying to compete in a world of invisible deadlines expertly met by social media, print news adds value beyond what real-time mediums can offer through more thorough storytelling, a wider context and a range of expert opinions.
Then, and only then, will print be alive and kicking, with a shelf life longer than our social media attention span offers.


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