The end of (some) print and the type industry

blank's picture

Two Detroit newspapers have announced that they’re ceasing home delivery. While Detroit may have an economy that’s atypically depressed, this is an important event in the long-predicted and slow death of the printed newspaper.

That announcement comes after last week’s news that the Washington Post is continuing its death spiral; an article in the Washington City paper has a copy of a potential Post plan for the future that includes the possibility of turning the paper into a non-profit funded by a trust. Incidentally, the Washington City paper has been predicting its own doom for months. The Pulitzer is now open to more online journalism than ever before. And the Washington Bureau Chief at Time has so much faith in the future of printed news that he’s going to go work for Vice President Joe Biden, who isn’t exactly the high-profile member of the new Executive Branch of government.

So what does the death spiral of the printed news media mean for the type industry? More commissions from newspapers and magazines trying to stay relevant with a fresh look? Commissions for custom typefaces designed to use with HTML or the new Flash Text engine?

Miguel Sousa's picture

> So what does the death spiral of the printed news media mean for the type industry?

It means that we'll need more fonts that render well on screen (or that we need to tweak some of the current fonts which currently only perform well in print).

dezcom's picture

Or we need screens that render fonts better.

Actually, my ritual of reading the paper while laying on the couch with a big mug of coffee is one I look forward to, daily. I hope papers outlive me. I just hate being fastened to a device and all it entrappings just to read. Sometimes, with my back propped up by an Elm tree, ijust want to sit in the shade on a Summer day and read without worrying if the site is down or wifi is on the fritz, or if I want to bend a page corner over to save my place while I take a nap. Oh, well. I will be 65 next month so I assume type on paper will endure longer than I will.

ChrisL

Florian Hardwig's picture

Oh, well. I will be 65 next month

Hey! When Hermann Zapf was 65, PostScript had yet to be invented. And look where we are now, with Mr Zapf still around, alive and kickin’!

dezcom's picture

:-)

Thanks, Florian. I am saving my old books and magazines for Carson's predicted day.

ChrisL

James Arboghast's picture

Melbourne's venerable The Age newspaper recently sacked their chief editor (sorry I can't remember his name) with much regret that they can no longer afford to pay his salary and will make do instead with a less capable person at the helm. The Age is scaling down its printing and press operations and number of journalist staff in response to loss of ad revenue. The general assumption is that the internet is taking ad revenue from print.

Two Detroit newspapers have announced that they’re ceasing home delivery.

In Australia delivery of newspapers to homes is outsourced to newsagents who pay paperboys to deliver the newspapers to homes. The shrinking budget of our papers is not visible as cutbacks to home delivery. Instead it is visible as cutbacks to newspaper staff positions and departments, and scaling down of day to day print operations.

So what does the death spiral of the printed news media mean for the type industry?

For starters it would help if you didn't fabricate careless labels like "the death spiral" of printed news media. That's an exaggerated and sensationalist label I'm certain the newspaper companies would very much appreciate you not sticking onto them. Some of them may read this and wonder if it's a good idea, or not, to give typeface design commissions to type designers with loose or errant mouths.

To answer your question, the shrinking prosperity of printed news media may lead to more custom font work for online news media, or it may not. Depends what happens in the next five to ten years in the way of computer screen technology. If screen resolution improves by one order of magnitude from the current 100 DPI --- to 1000 DPI or better, the difference between fonts that render well in print and those that render well on screen will be much less than it is now.

If that happens there won't be as much custom font work for screen fonts as some typophilers believe. If the order of magnitude improvement in screen resolution occurs soon enuff, within the next five years, it may be that many print newspapers will migrate to the online medium and survive on business models similar to those used by present day online news media services.

j a m e s

piccic's picture

> So what does the death spiral of the printed news media mean for the type industry?

To me, type design is not a merely utilitarian activity, so I hope this prompts newspapers to seriously revise the value of their content, and onscreen reading is an entirely different thing, and it's enormously dependent on technologies, a thing which printed or incised words have no problem about.

aluminum's picture

"Or we need screens that render fonts better."

Or, more specifically, readers that care.

I'd almost argue that current newsprint type is worse than current screen type on a web site. At least on a web site I can tweak to suit my tastes, while with the paper, I'm at the mercy of ever cheaper paper and fewer pages with more print on it.

"For starters it would help if you didn’t fabricate careless labels like “the death spiral” of printed news media."

I don't think that was stating a careless rumor. The newspaper industry has been sinking slowly for about a decade now. It's more of a common observation.

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