Print Finally Died
I don’t know if anyone in the print world realized it at the time, but the fatal blow came in the late 1990’s. That’s when technology knocked on the door of the publishing companies and instead of answering, the suits took cover under their desks and inventoried their survival supplies. Once those ran out, they realized they didn’t have the stomach for a fight and sold to the highest bidder.
That highest bidder was packed full of print publishing experts, marketing agents, IT people, and other educated folks ready and willing to take some of your favorite titles into the future. What they weren’t willing to do, however, was risk their careers to battle the millions of buzzing bumblebees on their own terms. They were slow, stagnant, and stuck in deep mud formed by so many decades of watered down content bought and paid for by the advertiser.
They never had a chance – in print or online. They still don’t. That much we know for sure…
If you would have told me in 2000 that by 2020, both Street Rodder and Rod & Custom would be historical publications, I would not have been surprised. In fact, the 24 year old me would have puffed his chest out, smiled, and taken credit for it. But I’m older now and have the benefit of both hindsight and experience to fall back on.
Obviously, I had nothing to do with the fall of print in our little hot rod world. Even typing that I could have thought at one time to be so important seems nothing short of preposterous. I don’t belong in the same chapter of this story, much less the same sentence… And I only bring it up now, because the younger me was so sure that I’d be more important to this story.
I saw a very simplified battlefield. I saw publishing companies selling out their content to the highest bidder and I saw frustrated consumers without a voice. At the time, I thought I was providing a place for those consumers to have a voice and a way for hot rodders to not only make their own content, but consume content that was more legitimate.
And I think I did that to a degree, but only because I was in the right place at the right time… and not nearly on the scale that I thought.
What was really happening was that individuals were taking back their content on their own terms and they were using whatever medium had the most access and impact to do so. For a very short moment in time and for a very focused genre, that medium was the H.A.M.B. and other online avenues. Quickly and fiercely, these independently owned and operated platforms were either bought out or ran off to obscurity by the human pursuit of gratification and admiration.
Facebook, Instagram and others seemed like the wild west. A guy can own his own part of the story, tell his, and project an image the he and he alone is responsible for. Once again, technology was passing over the middleman and giving the power to the individual.
We want to be the voice of the working man, a tool in the toolbox of the guy that does it himself, and a place where citizen journalists can show the “big-time” media a thing or two.
Given this mission that I gave myself so many years ago, I have no grounds for an argument. These huge technology companies have done a far better job of this than I ever could have dreamed of. They have, however, done it at a cost that I don’t think is fully realized by most.
If you post on Facebook (I don’t) or Instagram (I do) or even just have the apps on your phone, you have given away more privacy than you are probably aware of. As a technology guy that has grown up in the world of TOS agreements, laws, and regulations, the scale at which these companies are invading your lives is downright spine-chilling. And we’ve given them this access simply out of our own human need to be heard.
This all stings me to admit of course as in a very small way, I do compete with the likes of Facebook and Instagram for eyeballs. But what stings the most to realize is that we traded our fabled print publications for our own narcissism. And the net result is that none of us have ourselves anymore. We just think we do.
In any regard, what’s done… is well, done. And we are left in a world without any real editorial voice of any real scale. And never have I ever been more appreciative of the best hot rod and custom magazine to ever be published – The Rodder’s Journal. Don’t take it for granted fellas…