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The Parade Still Went On, Proving that Print is "Old Media"

This week&

By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: January 6, 2008

This week's edition of Parade magazine, distributed with Sunday newspapers, and having a circulation of 32 million, shows one of the biggest problems with print: timeliness. The edition had a front page picture of Benazir Bhutto, subtitled “I Am What The Terrorists Most Fear.” Assassinated in a suicide bombing on December 27, the interview with Pakistan's former prime minister was to discuss her efforts to regain political office in this week's now postponed elections.

Editors and publishers always live in professional fear of breaking news making their publications out-of-date before they're even distributed. They look even worse on the newsstand, much like the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline of the Chicago Tribune when President Truman actually won in 1948, and had the pleasure of holding it up to the cameras for the other newspapers' reporters.

At that time, only radio had the ability to change the course of its content, and later, television could do the same. Even news magazines, because of the competition of broadcast media, pushed their presstimes later and later to avoid this very problem. Today's newsweeklies, along with the printing organizations, do an outstanding job in meeting this challenge.

Today, the Internet applies yet more pressure to be timely and relevant. Someone did not tell Parade magazine. It does acknowledge the death of Bhutto on its web page, noting “the assassination of Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto on December 27 occurred after Parade's January 6 issue went to press.”

The publishers did the best they could, under the circumstances, as their web page states “After her assassination, Parade immediately posted the entire interview online, and Sheehy appeared on network and cable TV news shows to discuss her face-to-face conversations with Bhutto.”

Yet this seems to be another reminder of the print medium's vulnerability to its digital competitors. Obviously, the Parade publishers weighed their options and let the issue remain in distribution. The costs of recalling it and reprinting it would have been extremely large considering its 32 million circulation (which is just shy of the entire population of Canada). The distribution pipeline for inclusion in Sunday newspapers requires considerable time to reach all of its properties. Bhutto died on December 27; this Parade edition was scheduled for delivery to consumers January 6. Surely something could have been done to “save face” for the publication and our beloved medium. Instead, it is a justification for those who paint us as “legacy media.”

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink.com's Economics and Research Center.

What do you think? Please send feedback to Dr. Joe by emailing him at drjoe@whattheythink.com.

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