The Decline of Publishing - Blame it on Johannes!
Have you wondered when the decline of newspaper and magazines really began? Have you considered the decline began the day after Johannes Guttenberg “invented” the process of printing?
Yes it is true, when I teach my Graphic Communications Class at The New York City College of Technology, “print the process”, invented by Johannes Gutenberg sometime between 1439 and 1450, I state that a few hours after the invention was introduced, print began its long and predictable decline, at least for the world of newspapers, magazines and publishing.
To me the most important, the most critical benefit of Johannes' invention was the ability of people throughout the then-known world to print, read books and newspapers (magazines have some time to come into common use) in the language of their birth, their native tongue! WOW!
That WOW moment is the precise moment when the decline began.
Once readers/subscribers (I prefer the term users) began to get what they wanted via this new invention of printing, they—as is normal—wanted more and more.
The next stage of decline took a long time and needed to include the introduction of a new media, the Internet, to reach its apogee. Users are now getting exactly what they/we wanted, in regard to publishing, newspapers and now magazines – the ability to customize the media as they see fit!
Thomas Pettitt in his fine discussion “The Gutenberg Parenthesis” got it right. Oral culture (which to me drove the birth of branded content) was interrupted by the invention of the printing press and now oral culture is looking for revenge and that revenge will be at the expense of publishing and book publishing.
Still doubt what I am saying? Think about it, oral traditions allowed the orator to adapt, change, modify, revise, alter the conversation to fit the need of the region, cause, location and if desired to provide the ability to generate personal profit for the narrator, via the offering of their (not certified) version of the story.
Sounds like branded content, custom publishing to me!
According to multiple sources the publishing market has declined and is continuing to decline. Based on the most recent Printing Industries of America-published Flash Report this industry will continue to decline over the next 10 years at a projected rate of 4%. Do I sense oral tradition hiding behind the corner of decline?
But what if we are all able to develop a digital-based version of the oral tradition of altering the narrative to make it work for the narrator? Adobe and AppStudio (and others) offer software that allows the designer to just that. Using publishing tools to allow a simple and easy conversion of a static project to an interactive project, a project that can be personalized to fit the vertical, the prospect and nearly anything in between.
Back in 59 BC when the Acta Diurna—the first newspaper—was published in Rome, Italy, the concept and perhaps need for immediate (as fast as the carver could cut into the stone) news and information was proven.
Things began to look up, you think?
No, we needed to have some guy (seems like us guys are always screwing things up) like Johannes Gutenberg screw things up and develop a process, a technology that would forever alter the way we lived, a process that beget the death of modern publishing.
JG (as he was known to his friends): WHY did you do it?
When I read, touch and interact with my tablet (iPad), when I can see the animation of the artwork, become one with the three dimensions of the photography and perform an act of commerce online, I can not only thank those that developed mobile interactive computer technology, but I can also thank Johannes Gutenberg, for he was so far ahead of the curve he may have been behind it.
Without his interference, JG’s interference, the current state of publishing would not be as dire as it is and we would have reached the desired state of advanced oral tradition narration linked to technology sooner.
So when you are ready to accept the fact that JG was the father and in the end the destroyer of printing let me know. I am here at the station “Print is Alive” waiting for the train to the land of advanced interactive visual/oral tradition, now linked to computer technology.
Print is not dead, JG is. And we all need to move on!
Thad Kubis is an unconventional storyteller, offering a confused marketplace a series of proven, valid, integrated marketing/communication solutions. He designs B2B or B2C experiential stories founded on Omni-Channel applications, featuring demographic/target audience relevance, integration, interaction, and performance analytics and program metrics.