How Digital Music Hints at the Future of Print

It’s been 20 years since digital changed everything, so we can finally start seeing past the original disruption and onto what’s next. And according to Jessica Ruscello of Blurb Inc., print occupies a singular place in the new media context.

“When we were sitting on our family computers in the basement of our parent’s Midwestern homes, downloading music from Napster, Limewire, and, we had no idea we were part of a revolution—a way of getting and hearing music that would fundamentally change the industry forever,”  Ruscello explains in this PrintMag sponsored post. “We eventually quit because it was illegal and not worth the viruses, but not before that fundamental shift occurred. Nearly twenty years later, we don’t even bother with owning digital files, we stream them from various services.”

What’s the parallel to print? As Ruscello notes, these digital natives with their streaming music now do something we might not have expected: “…we collect vinyl.”

She believes that written content is sitting on the same precipice.

“The revolution only began when content and design migrated to the web, and we’re in the thick of it now as we watch the resurgence of print. Print isn’t dead, digital didn’t kill it, and the hybrid we have now has a greater power to stand the test of time than digital content or print content on their own ever did,” she explains.

This “New Print” (as she calls it) only really works if publishers do these three key things:

1. Create a complementary relationship between print and digital content.

Publishers need to marry “print and digital as a unified reader/user experience with design and content best suited to the distinct mediums. It’s no longer about creating print and digital experiences that mirror each other for brands, it’s about creating two experiences that work symbiotically well together,” she insists.

She cites brands like Bloomberg that are unifying the reader experience across channels, taking advantage of the benefits of each.

“We’re also seeing digital brands creating print pieces to create real-world advantages, and major publishing houses launch new publications for the first time in years,” she continues.

“HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have added The Magnolia Journal to their home-improvement empire, and the content is richer and deeper than what could exist on social media. It connects show moments or brand relationships with customers in a way that only print advertising next to deep-dive branded content could.”

2. Base your printed content on outstanding and innovative design.

Noting that the tactile feeling of print gives it a distinct advantage, Ruscello notes it’s more than this alone that makes print stand out.

“Print design does things that web design can’t do in terms of beauty, provocation, innovation, and variation. Without having to worry about being responsive, print designers can do new things with the static pages that can’t be coded for mobile,” she writes.

This gives designers the freedom to push boundaries in their design without needing a coding expert in their hip pocket.

“The transfer of idea to printed page is a much more ancient process that doesn’t require a digital middleman, so print publications can experiment and vary what they do from month to month without having to worry about site architecture.”

3. You truly understand how your audience wants to consume content. 

Ruscello likens print media to the vinyl albums that are again in vogue. “In the old days of print media, books were the LP albums and magazines were the EPs,” she writes. Now, with digital content coming fast and furious, consumers are looking to print for deep dives with interesting and beautiful content – much the way we used to linger over those album liner notes.

“The most successful print work acknowledges that the divide between reader intentions when arriving in both spaces is only getting wider.

As she notes, print knows it’s print and knows why the reader came. Successful print behaves accordingly.