Navaz Asaria, owner of the Daily Globe Newshop, believes print media is alive and well. ‘People like the hard copy,’ he says
Navaz Asaria has magazine and newspaper titles from all over the world packed into his long, skinny 17th Ave. S.W. shop. He’s been selling the printed word here at the Daily Globe Newshop for 15 years, and when he’s asked if he thinks print media is going to disappear, there’s no hesitation in his answer. “I don’t think it’s dying,” says Asaria. “People like the hard copy. Something like the Sunday New York Times — you’re not going to read that whole thing online.”
Asaria’s got it right. He sees value in the products he sells. Strangely, many others in the publishing industry don’t advertise this value. Here’s a headline that ran in the U.K.-based The Times last December: “Read all about it: newspapers are done for.” Below that headline, Andrew Sullivan, British blogger and former editor for The New Republic, encouraged his readers to “savour the piece of grubby newsprint” they held in their hands “because it is going to disappear far sooner than most analysts predict.” Nice.
Many writers have published similar sentiments about books, magazines, newspapers — the entire print spectrum. And frankly, it’s a bit weird. Canadian magazine consultant D.B. Scott calls it “a sort of collective suicide.” He wonders why so many in the publishing world promote the print-is-dead view, when they should know better and can actually be doing something positive about it. “Most publishers will tell you that these are very troubling, very difficult times,” says Scott. “No one will gainsay that. That’s absolutely right. But none of them will say that good magazines will fail.”
Scott says the magazine industry in Canada brings in around $1.5 billion each year. It’s a “big, diverse and robust” industry, he says, one that can survive troubling times — albeit with some losses. “The auto industry, I think, is a really good parallel here,” he says. “In the space of about two years, we went from saying the auto industry is troubled, to the auto industry is doomed and it’ll disappear, essentially. And we all know that that’s complete crap…. A kabillion-dollar business is not going to disappear. And the same thing [is true] with the magazine business.”
Of course, print media will change. Some titles will disappear; new ones will be born. “I think every publication’s trying to figure out how to differentiate itself from the others successfully,” says Janice Paskey, a Calgary writer who teaches journalism at Mount Royal College. But here’s the thing: there’s opportunity in the challenge. For newspapers, republishing press releases won’t cut it anymore. Most of that stuff is available online for free, and papers aren’t offering anything valuable when they jettison quality storytelling for press release reprints. “If we’re forced to be better, we’re forced to be better storytellers, we’re forced to dig deeper so readers can rely on a specific publication for not just breaking the news, but really good reporting that’s gone a little bit further — I have to think those publications will succeed,” says Paskey, who’s also a columnist for Metro.
That’s an exciting suggestion, and it’s much more helpful than moping about how print is dying and our industry is doomed and so on. Maybe the recession is a good kick in the pants for an industry that too often takes its readership for granted. Maybe this is a much-needed push towards content with more depth and substance. “I think people will always want a publication that they can pick up, that they can take on a bus, that they can curl up on their couch with,” says Paskey. “…They want good writing.”
That’s why people still go into Asaria’s store and come out with armfuls of magazines and newspapers. Business has slowed down a bit in recent months, he says, but does that mean print is dying? No way. “If that was the case, I wouldn’t be here,” says Asaria.