“The Rumors Of My Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated.”


Image: Brian / Adobe Stock

For those of us in the publishing biz, 2023 has been a crazy year. A number of our fellow media folks have recently joined the unemployment line and it seems the “Print is dead” mantra gains currency with every passing moment.

But is print really dead? Let me offer a slightly different perspective.

The internet drastically changed the publishing world and many outlets have indeed shuffled off this mortal coil. New technology has changed how we consume information, plus, as writer Dave Barry noted about the newspaper business, “We faced an existential challenge and responded with: Journalists.” It’s a wonder any of us have jobs.

Indeed, common wisdom says print is done and we might as well just throw in the towel — except our company has ended the year on a pretty strong note. How could this be possible?

I often use the analogy of steam locomotives and riverboats. Both represent old technology that was overtaken by more efficient ways of doing things. In the ensuing turmoil, their disappearance represented a complete change in the business and social model, throwing thousands of people out of work while redistributing wealth among the various winners and losers. Sound familiar?

However, if you look around in 2024, the remaining paddle-wheelers and steam locomotives are doing a bang-up business. In fact, steam locomotives have almost staged a renaissance as companies and people gain a renewed appreciation for the lumbering iron horse. More importantly, they don’t mind paying for the privilege of experiencing one. Riverboats aren’t quite as numerous but if you’ve priced a cruise on the Mississippi, you know they’re very expensive and subject to limited availability. Both technologies — old, out-of-date and hopelessly “dead” — still support a vibrant industry, albeit smaller than in its heyday. Sound familiar?

During the instability of the past year, I’ve also realized print magazines aren’t just another “content platform” but more akin to the locomotive and steamer. Both were once major advancements but there are now better, faster ways to get from Point A to Point B. However, it is undeniable many folks still love the unique cachet of the steam world, what each remaining individual example represents and the overall experience these outdated steel beasts provide to modern Internetus Sapiens. Sound … well, you know.

I’m biased as all hell, but GUNS and our sister publications American Handgunner and Shooting Industry aren’t just another platform for displaying bland SEO-optimized content. They represent the living, breathing embodiment of our shared passion and thankfully, many people will refuse to let go of such experiences, backing their choice with their wallet. For our clients, these are folks you want to reach, making us still highly relevant even if our SEO optimization and keyword relevancy ranking isn’t perfect.

What we’re seeing today is the print industry “right-sizing” to meet the discerning readership of the 2020s, rather than simply going extinct. For those of us who remain extant in this conflict, the future is actually looking reasonably optimistic if you know where to stand.

I plan on standing right next to the steam engine. Send me your comments to brent.wheat@fmghq.com.

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