Is the Printing Industry Degrading?

by admin on May 18, 2009

Fascinating article in Slate about  trains running slower now than they did in the 1920s:

"Consider, for example, the Burlington Zephyr, described by the Saturday Evening Post as "a prodigious, silvery, three-jointed worm, with one stalk eye, a hoofish nose, no visible means of locomotion, seeming either to be speeding on its belly or to be propelled by its own roar," which barreled from Chicago to Denver in 1934 in a little more than 13 hours. (It would take more than 18 today.)" bolded by pilgrim

It is nearly impossible to summarize the points made in the article, but I think the logic can also apply to the printing industry. Like business travelers in the 40s fleeing trains to use aircraft, advertisers today are deserting print publications to advertise on the internet. This must have an impact on the "craft" and capabilities of the printing industry as a whole. For example, does anyone remember the printing of Wired magazine done by Quad Saratoga on Trendsetters back in the late 1990s? Metallic inks, fluorescents inks, the trapping just for the front cover could be a nightmare.

Then Wired was bought by the Conde Nast group and not a few critics thought the mag went to crap, in regard to content and publication design.

That's just one example. But I cannot remember the last time I picked up a magazine at a newstand just to examine the artwork.


Jeff Lazerus May 20, 2009 at 7:07 am

I used to subscribe to Wired mainly for the fantastic graphic design and prepress you describe. They used to do some really interesting things with fluorescent and metallics, they’d experiment with overprints, take some risks with the typography just for the fun of it. I stopped subscribing because the content started getting pretty inane.
My 14 year old recently started taking the magazine, so I’ve been reading it again. For those of us who grew up actually reading books, newspapers and magazines, it is a bit disappointing. There are some interesting articles, but the magazine now lacks the depth that I crave. The design is enjoyable, but not outstanding.

I thought magazine would be more interesting than it was. Publishers are panicking, and it shows. Rather than give customers a high-value offering (like what Wired used to) they are cutting costs and hoping they can survive month to month. Then they wonder why readers leave. The coolness is gone.

Printing used to be a lot more fun. Now it’s more about surviving, which really does degrade the whole industry.

Shannon K. May 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

I used to read Wired magazine as well. I no longer do – it’s incredibly boring.

That’s really interesting about the trains moving faster years ago, than now. I didn’t know that.

Laurens May 22, 2009 at 1:05 pm

There are actually still metalic inks used in Wired magazine but you are right: the magazine became a lot cheaper here in Europe but at the same time the quality took a steep dive. I guess they are gambling that a broader audience is more profitable than an elite one.

I think the railway service analogy only applies to some places – the highspeed trains here in Europe are way faster than 50 or 100 years ago. It all depends on whether a certain service is considered valuable by the general public and businesses – obviously that is not the case for railway transportation in the US!

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