Competition and Coexistence, Print vs. Online
One evening last week, I attended a panel discussion that included several notables in the world of interior design and fashion, including journalists. The panel discussion focused on the intersection of design services, magazines, and online venues, blogging in particular, in the world of style.
One of the participants was an author, as well as a style blogger for the New York Times , and contributor to well known magazines including British Vogue. Additional panelists were drawn from the world of interior design and journalism, including some (designers) who promote their services with an online presence which includes blogging.
Inevitably, the discussion grew more heated as issues of competition were raised, not only relative to print and online information, but designers who thought the availability of so much information online diluted their perceived value. I understand the initial reaction; one could say that’s true of many fields.
It was easy to spot those in attendance who had yet to understand what “citizen journalism” is about. Or, that Twitter, blogs, and online delivery of news or chatty tidbits do not necessarily compromise journalistic authority. More to the point, they don’t necessarily reduce more traditional business opportunities.
There’s no question that social media has changed our reading habits, our information access, and delivery of a variety of services. We’d better get used to it, and learn to use it to our advantage; it’s only just begun.
Peaceful Coexistence? (Can you spell Compatibility?)
As the New York Times journalist pointed out (paraphrasing) – “I don’t make money at my blog; for those who blog, it’s about passion.”
I know there are some who are doing well at monetizing their online writing, or at the very least, reaching audiences to ultimately direct toward their commercial enterprises. But most of us online are pursuing our passion for a particular domain, or writing in that domain, or, in the vaguely categorized universe of “personal blogging,” expressing ourselves.
I would go a step further than the panelist – social media is about passion and discussion, as well as what extends beyond the discussion. That includes potential business leads, sourcing (of all manner of products and services), “virtureal” networking, and finding one’s voice in a way previously unavailable.
Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Channel
For those who blog (from notable media like any of the major newspapers or sites), the basics of any successful communication remain true. Stories and images, as well as ongoing conversation, are oriented differently from what is read on the printed page. Just as it is for those individuals who write and publish through a blogging venue. Not only are print and online communications able to arrive at peaceful coexistence eventually, but they are compatible, and certainly interdependent. What online writer doesn’t use other online resources as references? And print resources as well?
We deliver related communications, speaking formally if appropriate, and conversationally – and with more brevity – through online channels.
Print versus Online
I believe (as did the panelists) that the printed page will not disappear. I love my Vogue, my Apollo, my many other print magazines. I love the ink on my fingers, after Sunday spent with the New York Times.
Even younger members of the audience (a number of design students) were nodding along with those of us over 30, and used to the pleasure of the paper between our fingers, the beauty of photography in our favorite magazines, as well as the tangibility and portability of periodicals and books.
And it is about pleasure.
Senses and Ritual
Whether we are reading Architectural Digest or ARTnews, Forbes or The Chicago Tribune, we are likely to be enjoying a ritual in a way. We mix the tactile with the hectic pace of our everyday lives: the newspaper on the commuter train into Grand Central, the fashion magazine, savored at the end of a long week. We experience these articles and images – even the ads – in a very different manner than online media, which we tend to consume in its immediacy, and with some impatience.
The purpose of print?
- Delivery of filtered and focused stories, complete with subject matter expertise
- (Presumed) editorial integrity
- A credible and authoritative permanent record
- Content with relevant ads of appropriate quality
What else? Depending upon the publication, superb writing.
Most of us are aware that print is not and cannot be instantaneous; there is lead time – often significant (months) to deliver us our printed words and award-winning photographs. This is not what Twitter or Facebook or blogging is about.
Print and online media complement each other. Yes, magazines of note have reduced staff, and some, closed their doors. Newspaper journalists and freelancers (myself included) have lost jobs. Writing itself – quality writing – has been devalued, as anyone who publishes on the internet can say “I’m a writer.”
But I see no issue with this. Not in the long run. Invariably, we will connect to personalities behind our online sources, and know that we read in part for the authenticity of the writers behind the screen, and the option to engage with them. Eventually, we must find our way to models of print and online publication that are complementary – some commercial, some informational, some personal – each with its agenda and audience, and a great deal of cross-pollinating involved.
Online Community, Social Media
One facet of online journalism which was barely addressed was the notion of community. And this is not to be underestimated. Those of us who have blogged seriously – even for a number of months – realize the extraordinary gift of connection. Not connectivity, but real connection via a virtual world.
Not only does the web-published page generate discussion, it encourages conversation, and sparks more. Threads grow, readership expands, knowledge (and at times, misinformation) is proliferated. In addition? Communities develop through readers, writers, and those who comment. Human connections are established. Lines are not so much drawn, as while the virtual bleeds into the real, and often, to our benefit. Might we not allow ourselves to enjoy that blurring of boundaries? To read between the lines?
My Week, My Online Communities
In my own (several) online communities, in the past seven days, women across the country – none of whom I’ve ever met in person – came to my aid. As technology dramas knocked me down daily, I found myself on the receiving end of a support system via email and phone that rallied around to help. And one remarkable woman ultimately pieced my technology world back together, behind the scenes, as a neighbor plodded through hardware issues that occurred simultaneously.
Might I add that the intrepid heroine is a working mother of three small children?
Women and Competition, Women and Community
I am a firm believer in competition. It motivates us to perform at higher levels. It encourages innovation. In personal relationships, it hasn’t been something that is typically part of my life.
Many women compete with each other over a host of items, personal and professional. This has never been my way. I compete with myself. I have been fortunate all my life to know other women who band together to assist each other – in community – and simply roll up their sleeves and jump in to help.
This past week, I was reminded of this powerful network, and this often overlooked quality that is integral to the lives of many women. This is not to say that men do not help; I have found that women do so with less of an agenda. They pitch in, in the spirit of community.
Your online voice? Your online communities?
Your thoughts on how your online words influence your daily life?
- Do you read in print as well as online?
- Do you do so, with a different experience and under different circumstances?
- How do you envision the print and online worlds coexisting?
- If you blog or Facebook or tweet, has it strengthened your voice? Your community?
And again – my thanks to those who helped this week – with moral support and technical support, with persistence and grace, and standing by to offer temporary homes for my words, should I need them. Without this “online world” I would not have come to know you. My real world is the richer for it.