Wow, it has been a long time between blog posts, hasn’t it? Started the new job at The Guardian, and realised – afresh – a few things about this big debate on “why doesn’t the print industry simply reinvent itself overnight to compete with all this stuff on the web, because after all the print guys have all the money and they’re there already and the web is small and yet they’re faster…”
You know why print is slow to change? Because it’s damn hard to do right. You get a daily newspaper working, and you interfere with those workings at your peril. Being fired would be the least of it. Once you get inside a huge citadel like The Guardian, you’re reminded once more that there are so many bits, and they all have to work smoothly together for the paper to appear. Copy has to get to pages. Pages have to be laid out. Corrections have to get incorporated. Deadlines have to be met. Only when this symphony of effort is complete and performed without (significant) error do you get a paper in your hands the next day.
So, in that situation, it’s not surprising if the IT department looks at you a bit askance if you say “Which year did you say this version of Quark Copydesk/Express came out?” The answer is simple: the year when they could get it to work. And which year is it going to be replaced? The year when the replacement works, every single time.
By contrast the web is easy. If you need to, really need to, you can hand-code web pages when things go a bit awry. (Try doing that down at the printing press. Ha.) That’s quite an advantage, in that medium. But of course the web side of the print thing (does that make sense?) can move quickly, and use the latest stuff.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think the print side is guaranteed to lose out in the shift to web. Print publications, at least dailies, have the advantage of knowing how to do this sort of thing, again and again.