Charles Darwin taught us that the smarter, faster, and stronger are the winners in the game of life. The process of natural selection ensures the "survival of the fittest." These changes, spanning millennia, in human evolution are often categorized by ages. The Stone Age where humans mastered the use of rudimentary tools is personified by the recent Capitol One commercials. Stones were eventually replaced by the Copper, Bronze, and Iron Ages, as our knowledge base and mastery of tools progressed.
Every Age has disruptors along the way. These "revolutions" are marked by relatively short periods of rapid change. The Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries had profound and lasting effects on society, cultures, and economies. According to Wikipedia, "It started with the mechanisation of the textile industries, the development of iron-making techniques and the increased use of refined coal. Trade expansion was enabled by the introduction of canals, improved roads and railways. The introduction of steam power fueled primarily by coal, wider utilization of water wheels and powered machinery (mainly in textile manufacturing) underpinned the dramatic increases in production capacity. The development of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century facilitated the manufacture of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries. The effects spread throughout Western Europe and North America during the 19th century, eventually affecting most of the world, a process that continues as industrialisation. The impact of this change on society was enormous."
The Industrial Revolution conveniently coincided with the Golden Age of Print. The tremendous changes and knowledge of this period needed to be shared, debated, and recorded for posterity. Print was the perfect medium for the job. Print was relatively fast and cheap as compared with previous methods and could be easily distributed. As a result, print as a communication platform flourished and would remain a dominant medium until the dawn of the Information Age.
Blame the microprocessor and the Internet for the rapid change in communication and information exchange. The Internet as a distribution network has been adept at reducing the need for printed material. Online forms with back end databases have replaced form printing. Advertising collateral such as direct mailers, posters, flyers, are supplemented by social media and mobile campaigns (text, QR, apps). A portion, yet to be determined, of book and magazine printers' work is being distributed digitally on Kindles and the soon to be released iPad. No amount of optimism or dreaming will revert the tide of printing lost to bits and bytes, but stop blaming what cannot be controlled and contained. Companies and individuals involved in print need to quit dwelling on recent "woes" and focus on getting "fit."
This is not a sad story, nor is it printing's swan song. Contrary to The Buggles song, video did not kill the radio star. Just as TV did not kill radio, all-things-digital will not kill printing. New technology simply causes existing technology to adapt – to evolve. After all, the medium that delivers the intended message to the targeted audience with the best cost to action ratio is the winner.
How are you getting fit?