Speaking at The New School in Manhattan, author Dave Eggers was optimistic about the future of print media in the face of popular conversion to electronic news outlets.
But Eggers, who also edits McSweeney’s, emphasized the necessity of practical expectations for writers, editors, owners, and publishers. “The numbers can work out where you’re not going to lose your shirt, but that’s if you don’t automatically buy a building or sports team. Just be a little cautious and work within reasonable expectations, and people who are in it to make money can probably make money–as a lot of people still are.”
Eggers spoke on the occasion of the publication of the San Francisco Panorama, an over-sized newspaper he put out with Salon.com backer Laura Miller and Chris Ying, an editor and designer at McSweeney’s. Panorama was published partially in homage to the traditional newspaper, printed in broadsheet format and featuring reportage of public events, sports, books, and art, as well as a magazine insert. It ran about 300 pages and sold for $5.00 at newstands and $16 in bookstores. The initial printing sold out in one day.
Eggers pointed to the independent mindset as an asset to successful print papers, stressing stylistic quality and interesting opinions as the antidote to the immediacy of internet news sources. “You’re not going to be necessarily breaking news, but if you can summarize that like how the Wall Street Journal does on its front page and have in addition to that longer, definitive features, then you will have the readership to be able to maintain this model.”
The appeal and salvation of printed media, turned out by professional journalists instead of amateurs in slippers, is a niche appreciation for quality over quantity. “It’s about scale. There might not be 500,000 subscribers but with 10,000 daily readers you can make a go of it. That’s where you can maintain a distinct editorial voice.”