MediaPost: Is print doomed or not?

Two pieces in the latest issue of MediaPost magazine take opposite views on the issue of print’s longevity (or lack thereof). One, by Adam Penenberg — who has written for Forbes, the New York Times and Wired magazine — argues that print will almost surely disappear over time, simply because digital content is so much more flexible. It can be consumed on PCs and on mobile devices, and it supports video and interactivity in a way that print doesn’t. Penenberg says:

“Print as a medium will ultimately fade away, just as parchment became paper, the typewriter gave way to the pc, and the waxed cylinder morphed into the record, then the compact disc, and now the digital download. The first to go will be newspapers, but over time magazines and even books will follow.”

The other piece, by David Zinczenko — editor of Men’s Health magazine — argues that print will always be with us, whether it’s magazines, newspapers or books. Why? Because, Zinczenko says, we like to display our intelligence or wealth or sense of taste to those around us, and we can only do that by displaying the covers of magazines, books and newspapers. As he puts it:

“Sharing The New York Times with overnight guests, reading Best Life on the shuttle, or taking Blink to the beach tells those who occupy our physical space something about who we are – our values, our priorities, our interests. They are outward expressions of our individuality, and their impact simply can’t be duplicated by an electronic medium.”

Unfortunately, that’s the entirety of Zinczenko’s argument — an argument that comes under withering fire from Gawker, and not without justification. The thing that’s going to save print is that people are so egotistical they will continue buying and reading books and magazines just to show off? That’s a pretty sad argument.