Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440. It would be roughly 550 years when some “digiterati” declared: Print is dead.
It took only 10 years for Wired magazine to declare the same thing for blogs (note the irony).
Every year since there seems to be a rehashing of the subject. Most recently Steve Rubel announced (6/25/09) he is no longer writing for his popular Micro Persuasion blog. Instead, he is going to feed his audience smaller, extemporaneous nuggets of insight via his Posterous site he calls The Steve Rubel Lifestream. Okay. Nothing wrong with that. Hey, I love real-tine free-flowing conversations as much as the next guy and platforms like Posterous, Twitter, and FriendFeed are great for this (and getting better with every iteration). But lets not over inflate a non-issue. Impromptu dialogs are not a substitute for well-organized, thoughtful commentaries.
Having worked in the publishing industry for a number of years (albeit as an interactive evangelist) I can safely say: The true value of print was never the “paper” but rather its meaningful organization of information. Lets face it, the biggest challenge with the Web is that there is just too much information scattered about with little confidence of its accuracy or authority.
A Glimpse into the (Near) Future
Media will be ubiquitous; available anywhere anytime. Seamlessly! The ultimate state of technology is to be so seamless that we are scarcely aware of its presence. There will be zero learning curve, it will just work! And the Geek Squad will have to find a new vocation.
Integrated circuits can be painted on to any semi-durable surface (including paper but I suspect that we will be environmentally responsible and use synthetics), allowing programmable media to appear virtually anywhere. From cereal boxes to contact lenses to windshields of cars. Imagine, your home entertainment center will appear as a blank walls (or as murals of gamboling wood nymphs if you choose) when “off” but transforms into a full-blown interactive multimedia theater instantly with a single command.
You can experience anything that has ever existed in human history from the World Supra-Internet Database. I write “experience” because data will be multi-sensory. It will include immersive sights, sounds, and smells beyond anything that exists today, plus, it will be capable of responding heuristically. Not quite the holodeck of Star Trek but perhaps the precursor.
Of course, speech recognition and multi-touch screens will be perfected but they will not be our primary human-to-machine interface; it will be our thoughts. Advances in neuromarketing have been touted for years and once perfected and reproduced cheaply, it will be as ubiquitous tomorrow as solid-state technology is today. Most likely, interaction will be a combination of voice, gestures, and thoughts depending on the application. Have you seen Project Natal Xbox 360?
The Return of Print (Sorta)
So, what’s the point? Three things:
1) journalistic institutions (some new, some old) will reclaim their rightful positions as reliable agencies of record
2) a delivery technology as cheap and convenient as paper (but much more permanent) will replace the “printed” newspaper, magazine, and book
3) blogging and bloggers will continue to evolve
With every new advance in tech there is a lot of experimentation. This is a good thing even if a specific experiment is not. Think of the Web right now at the stage of black-and-white television sets… Technicolor and Dolby Sound are just around the bend.