Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Great (Print-Online) Debate (Cage Match Edition)

Posted on | June 14, 2010 | 4 Comments

In one corner, John Donovan, the crafty veteran (he of, sat eyeing his opponent, rubbing his Everlast gloves together in anticipation; in the other, another crafty veteran, John Reardon, Donovan’s ex-boss at RTC Group, glared, as he shuffled his laced-up, ankle-high shoes on the canvas. In between them sat a third veteran, Rick Jamison, his eyes darting warily back and forth between the two pugilists. Two Irish guys about to brawl–you don’t see that very often.

jack johnson boxing match
Ding! Ding! Out they came to renew hostilities from earlier this year when Donovan and Reardon jabbed back and forth on Jamison’s blog about the virtues of print versus online. (The fight was so memorable that Jamison, ever the canny promoter (as well as referee) invited them back to the 47th DAC to renew their battle as part of Synopsys’ excellent Conversation Central live interview and podcast program. Publicists dubbed it “War Time in Anaheim.” ESPN bought the rights). Here is a link to the audio call of the great cage match.

Donovan, light on his toes, danced out to center ring, flicking his gloves upward at Reardon in a taunting, come-try-me invitation.

“I’m not predicting the death of print, just the dearth of print,” he offered, echoing the best of Ali.

Reardon charged.

The media companies have done their best to kill off print. At RTC, we let the clients make the decision. Where they’re willing to spent their money is on print. We get 10x in print than we do online.”

Boom! A snap-jab to the side of head. Donovan only blinked.

Online you form communities and engineers, which you really can’t do effectively in print, he parried.

“Blogs are the basically the watercoolers of the 21st century.”

Shuffling, shuffling, shuffling, Reardon circled. Another quick jab:

“Point me to one Web page in our industry that generates $1million in revenue. I can point to three magazines in my space.”

He came with a right cross:

“We have 100 years of history that says print works. The Web can’t decide if the business model works, and it has 30 seconds of history.”

Jamison, pushed up the garters on his sleeves and stepped between the men.

Gentlemen, what of the generational demographics? he asked, pushing them apart with astonishing ease, as the crowd gasped at the query. Will youth gravitate toward print when it’s been weaned on digital? He clapped his hands quickly together to signal the fighters box on.

Donovan quoteReardon punched quickly: It’s about branding, and that’s where magazines shine.

Donovan came back with a quick combination, left-right-left:

“Corporations are losing control of their brand because of online and unless you can engage online…” he backed off, wiped with nose with a glove and took a satisfied breath as he bounced on the balls of his feet.

Reardon quote copyReardon bobbed his head side to side but suddenly came in for a roundhouse:

“I can hand you a phone book and tell you your clients are in there some place. But I’m looking for 50,000 qualified people to read the publication this month and take purchasing action next month. People are looking for qualified opportunities to sell into.”

Donovan’s head bounced with the blow, but he danced back and bounced around the ring, arms outstretched (bring it on, big boy) and then snapped off a head shot.

“Tech companies are moving online because they can get quantifiable results. It’s different than blasting to 40,000 people, four whom really care.”

Reardon buckled slightly.

“The Web is here to stay but for a company to base a billion-dollar organization on different kinds of social media activities is a very dangerous move.”

Ding-ding! rang metallically around the Anaheim Convention Center and Jamison jumped in to separate the fighters for the break.

The crowd roared its approval and then began excitedly murmuring its commentary. Ringside scribes tapped on iPads as blue-gray smoke from their huge cigars corkscrewed up into the darkness. Somewhere amid the buzz, a drunk stumbled and fell on his way to the bathroom. A woman wearing astonishingly little strutted around the canvas to wild cheers as she held aloft a huge cardboard sign that read:

Next Round TBD.

(Disclaimer: Your faithful correspondent has worked in one form or another for both these brawlers at some point in the past year).

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4 Responses to “The Great (Print-Online) Debate (Cage Match Edition)”

  1. Rick Jamison
    June 16th, 2010 @ 2:35 pm

    Great ringside account of an outstanding bout between two mighty effective voices on the future of print v. Web. These guys are so thoughtful and agile on the topic that I’m pretty sure they’re both right. Thanks, Brian, for the super recap of the blow by blow.

  2. Ron Ploof
    June 16th, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    Nice job, Brian. As someone who was sitting ringside during this bout, it’s great to be able to read a blow by blow description:-)

  3. Brian
    June 16th, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    Gents, thanks, but I would have much preferred to be where you were in the midst of the conversation at DAC. Rick and team Synopsys did a graceful job at showing the industry what regular programming could look like (and how valuable it can be).
    And Ron’s insights, as always, were excellent, particularly because they pulled no punches.

  4. Bill Barron
    June 21st, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    First let me say it’s great to see Brian blogging in earnest again! This post reminds me how a great writer can make the mundane fun.
    Now, I don’t mean to belittle the subject but haven’t we argued this long enough already? The truth is; It’s and AND not OR world and our readers use all these mediums and more when searhing for answers. Of course they are both right, it’s just a matter of matching one’s marketing efforts and budgets to the time spent on each by the target audience. And John, Paul and myself all have research showing you just how much time EE’s spend with each if anyone cares to study it. By the way, my new research says 85% of design engineers spend less than 5% of their time engaged in social media today. Today being the operative word. When I show this to marketers who have an agenda to spend big on a social media initiative they dismiss it. When I show it to those who are firmly entrenched in what they already do and don’t like change, they embrace it.
    Go figure. 🙂

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