Print and Digital Media: A Case for Coexistence

Photo by Genevieve Weber

Print media has existed for centuries, but it’s no longer the fastest or most cost-effective way to publish. Therefore, it’s no longer a relevant form of communication—at least that’s what some people believe.

With the recent downfall of popular print publications, including the video game magazine Nintendo Power, many question the need for print media in today’s digital society. As a result, businesses are abandoning one of the greatest mediums ever known. On top of everything else, writers and their works are becoming heavily devalued. After all, why should someone pay for a book or subscription when they can find the information online in a matter of minutes?

Let’s take a moment to examine online publication formats. With social media sites and other forms of online information being constantly updated, digital media allows writers to release content quicker and readers to find it faster. With an extended level of transparency, content is also much easier to share. If you need news, your favorite publication probably has a website; these websites rarely charge subscription fees. If you’re looking for product reviews, simply type the product name in a search engine to uncover a critique. In terms of entertainment, there are plenty of online magazines that provide up-to-date content on relevant hot topics.

However, weeding out unreliable content is another story. Online, everyone’s thoughts—ranging from amateur bloggers to people generating rumors about some celebrity’s death—constantly barrage you. With print media, you usually get more reliable information from more solid sources. And interestingly enough, the online site Mashable (of all things) highlighted a study from the University of Oregon claiming that readers retain more information from printed documents. The study’s conclusion stated that online news is ephemeral and “can appear and disappear without warning, thus creating an element of distraction.” Between in-town publications and magazines, you know exactly what to expect within the first few pages. Plus, it’s nice simply having something to hold on to.

We also have the differences (or similarities) of environmental impact. In a PBS Mediashift article, writer Don Carli outlines how environmental resources are just as heavily exhausted when creating digital media products. For instance, manufacturing digital devices exhausts greater amounts of electricity, while also posing greater waste issues when disposing of old devices. In this “new smartphone each year” society, electronic components—primarily circuit boards and plastics—aren’t considerably biodegradable.

Either way, we’re always going to have conflicts involving natural resources needed to manufacture many of our world’s goods. There are even entire guidelines for production companies to follow when acquiring materials, which are used to assure that mined minerals are “conflict-free” when purchased from certain nations.

In the end, both forms of writing contain their own level of significance, and could easily coexist. Because they offer readers different perspectives, the question isn’t which form of media is superior, but rather how they can complement each other. Print is still an excellent outlet for feature writing and specialty niches, while an online setting is probably more suited for up-to-the-minute news coverage.

Overall, what’s really important is ensuring that the quality of writing persists in its new digital setting, and that writers are properly recognized for their efforts. And please, we don’t need anyone else spreading celebrity death rumors.

By Sean Bassinger