Is newsprint newsworthy again?
by Mei Wing Chan
Since the world first embraced news and information in digital form (computers, portable devices, etc.), reports aplenty have predicted the end of print. As titles fold and papers paint an ever-gloomier picture of the state of their industry, the days of commuters wrestling with broadsheets are numbered.
Given the immediacy and convenience of electronic data, this is hardly news. Why bother with 24-hour-old reports when the latest headlines can be downloaded with a swipe and a click? As print declines in general use, it’s always heartening to see printed publications stand out, especially when digital natives are the target.
So has the medium become the message?
As wired-up workers continue to unwind at international hotspots, they might also be packing a copy of Mediterraneo, one of two special editions produced annually by Monocle magazine. Written and assembled as the perfect summer read, it covers all the hot topics a vacationer could need: reportage from countries a less-traveled reader may have difficulty locating, global cultural highlights of the season and stylish fashion spreads. Advertisements of luxury brands—both familiar and obscure—fill the space between articles. Mediterraneo (and its winter counterpart, Alpino) is printed on humble newsprint, projecting a sense of newness and practicality. After all, sun glare does not lend itself to reading from shiny gadgets.
One would expect a publisher to appreciate the smell of ink and the tactile quality of print on paper. To witness the same appreciation from an e-tailer would seem unusual. When Mr Porter celebrated its first birthday earlier this year, it commemorated the milestone by sending a magazine printed on newsprint to its members. This savvy brand understands that its customers' experiences revolve around more than just one touchpoint, and that even an online store needs a physical presence to connect with customers directly. Being a high-end e-tailer, Mr Porter could have created a glossy, heavyweight tome for its magazine. Instead, given the current economic climate, the company went with a workhorse stock.
The third example is a true reflection of the democratization of the printed word. At the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement last year, a group in London created a newspaper to highlight their cause. The Occupied Times of London first appeared entirely in black ink, distributed on the streets and online. Bold and powerful, the language of revolution and the urgency of their message could be heard loud and clear. The Occupied Times perfectly captured the mood of the moment, documenting it for all time. For a little while, it felt as if a newspaper could help change the world again.
As a designer, it’s always satisfying to see established media formats alongside new ones, so we can appreciate the heritage of print as well as the sleekness of digital. In this age of rapid technological innovation, it’s especially nice to see that newsprint itself is still hitting the headlines.
Mei Wing Chan is a design director for Siegel+Gale’s Los Angeles office.