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Mixed Media, Mixed Message

Many of you know that I come from a print media background—mostly magazines, with a few books shuffled in. While I’ve moved on in my career to a place where most of my work seems to be electronic in nature—blogging, ebooks, social networking—I still have a soft spot for words on dead trees. So whenever somebody says that books, magazines, or newspapers are dying forms of media, I have to speak up.

Of course, nobody’s actually said that to me recently, so I need to stretch a bit. Just the other week, this brilliant video posted all over the Interwebs. While it turns out that it was prepared by a unit of Penguin Publishing, the message is no less valid. Make sure you watch and listen to the whole thing before you make up your mind.

Yes, it’s on YouTube. Yes, social networking has been a big deal long enough to go from fad to trend to established communication form. But there still has to be something to talk about. One can only get so deep into philosophy, current events, science, and art with Facebook or Buzz status updates. There will always be a place for physical media. These are major sources for big ideas.

New media can be the start of great print too. Social networking is a thousand different sociology experiments writ large, all happening at once. Good information on human behavior is there for the observing. Journalists get leads from Web sources all the time. And who’s to say that a hot exchange of tweets won’t inspire the next great novel—or that a blog won’t help us find out about it?

Sure, circulation and ad revenue are down, but that’s just good news for the trees. Executives must learn that the socialverse isn’t going away, and adjust print’s business practices to reflect this fact. I don’t have the answer yet, nor do they, but we’re working on it.