Why and how print is not dead

For many years now, journalists have discussed whether the print press is dying or not. Most professionals, especially the young ones, are aware that the web is these days a key platform to develop their job. But, does this mean that the paper is over?

The panel discussion Why and how print is not dead dig into this topic in the second day of the 2015 International Journalism Festival. The event, moderated by the international journalist Alberto Mucci, relied on the personal experiences of other three young freelancers who challenged the mainstream and launched print magazines in the recent years. Ibrahim Nehme is founder and editor of The Outpost; Cesare Alemanni is co-founder and editor of Berlin Quarterly; and Ricarda Messner founded Flaneaur.

The moderator explained that while several big print media have closed or reduced drastically their staff, there have been many pop-up alternative magazines . These publications are usually quarterly and extremely niche, focused on a very particular readership. Alberto Mucci asked the speakers how they came up with their ideas and, especially, how they are doing money from them.

“It is important to have a strong idea to start with. Putting together some good stories with photos does not make a magazine”, said Cesare Alemanni. Berlin Quaterly is, as its writers define it, a European review of long form journalism. It mixes literary content, such as stories and poems, with journalistic storytelling. Everything is coordinated from Berlin, which Alemanni describes as the continent’s capital city, and is written in English, the universal language.

“Of course that you try to sell as much as possible, but distribution cost is too high, and we know that with that is not possible to survive. So you need to look for other sources of revenue.”

Flaneaur is another Berlin-based publication that born from a very innovative idea. The team choses an interesting street within a different city for each issue, and go to live there for some months. They develop then all the magazine’s content about their experiences, counting for this with the local artists’ collaboration.

“Maybe the market needs to slow done,” said Ricarda Messner. “People shouldn’t publish in print just because they are nostalgic, some content work online and it’s easier to launch it that way. Some particular ideas, such as mine, only work in print.”

She said to be “fighting completely against editorial advertisement”. So, though her magazine has some big advertisers, she selects which ones may fit with the publication and states her own conditions. “Big brands should have employees smart enough to think about placing adverts also outside the mass media,” she claimed.

Ibrahim Nehme spoke about the challenge of “being inventive in the ways of generating revenue but keeping independence”. His Beirut-based magazine tries to be a catalyst of social movements in the Arab world, and for that reason it has some committed subscribers. Still, they are exploring new ways to fund themselves.

“In the past few years there was a rise of paper magazines trying to demonstrate that paper is not dead. But not all good products are able to make money,” he explained. In his opinion the whole press industry needs to be reinvented: “We need to create a sustainable publishing environment in which magazines like these could flow.”

Teresa López