Friday 12 December 2008

Three reasons why the web won't kill off print

Former Daily Express editor and newspaper consultant Richard Addis has given three reasons why the web won't replace print in his latest ShakeupMedia blog.

1. The idea that a new technology abolishes a previous role is much too simplistic. In the history of culture it has never happened that something has simply killed something else. Something has profoundly changed something else. The Pharaoh told Hermes that his new invention, writing, would kill off memory. In fact writing gave people more to remember. Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame says that the alphabet will kill images, the printing press will kill the cathedral (ceci tuera cela), but both the cathedral and the image have flourished mightily since Gutenberg. The photograph was meant to kill painting but Daguerre made Impressionism possible. After the invention of Daguerre, painters no longer felt obliged to serve as mere craftsmen charged with reproducing reality. Nor did photography only encourage abstract painting. There is a whole tradition in modern painting that could not exist without the photographic model (e.g. Hopper).

2. Precisely because the DNA of the web is profoundly different from the DNA of print or film or radio it will not replace those things. If it were the same (cassette tape/CD for instance) one might predict a swap. But it is becoming clear that it is not the same at all. Indeed as the web develops it is getting more distinctly and uniquely itself.

3. There is so much more to do with print. (Movable type has only been around since 1439!) Take newspapers. They have not fundamentally changed for over fifty years. They have gently evolved in every way, especially design and printing but have never been subject to a truly radical reinvention. Thanks to the web this will now happen and newspapers will be better. Just one example: no need any longer for long pages of share prices and TV listings, or of classified ads and news roundups. Newspapers can concentrate on the great yawning appetite of our age - the quest for meaning.

1 comment:

Martin Belam said...

>> In the history of culture it has never happened that something has simply killed something else.

There is always one exception isn't there - you'll be hard-pressed to find many "piano roll" salesmen after the advent of mass-produced recorded sound ;-)