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Read all about it?

Tuesday, 03 December 2019
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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3 min read

Print or digital? Paper or screen? Is leafing through a newspaper better than reading online?

My God, I can hear you say, not another quarrel! Relax. This isn’t a for or against different media, simply my observations on publications, both print and digital, that have watches as their subject matter. Of which, let’s be honest, there is no shortage. Think of the innumerable special supplements tucked inside national newspapers and general-interest magazines, whose lack of originality sometimes borders on the embarrassing. I’ve often asked myself how these publications, glossy and otherwise, think they can survive by selling “journalistic” articles that depend on photos supplied by brands’ press divisions and are filled with a remake of copy from the same source. Reproduced as is on the newspaper’s website.

I am aware that, with a few rare exceptions, profitability remains an issue in publishing and no-one knows exactly how to boost the bottom line. The web has rewritten the rules of an industry that has been doing the same thing since the days of Gutenberg, five hundred years ago – even if printing techniques and distribution have evolved over time. Digital is a game-changer that has driven the art of typography and journalism into a fourth dimension; one that is no longer linear and doesn’t obey the established rules. And the result is chaos.

Polls enlighten us that people have stopped buying newspapers: given what's on offer, that's hardly a scoop!

No-one can wave a magic wand and resolve the problem, me less than anyone. But a little common sense can help. Ever since this revolution began, print and digital have inhabited diametrically opposed worlds. And yet instead of investing straight away in creativity and seeking new solutions, publishing houses chose to lay off staff, shut down titles and bury their head in the sand. Polls then enlighten us that people have stopped buying newspapers: given what’s on offer, that’s hardly a scoop!

Parthenogenesis of information

The web has a syntax different to that of paper, and vice versa. After beating paper in the “race” to deliver information almost in real time, the web has given us the link economy: the sprawling net of hypertext links that connect and give meaning to the growing avalanche of self-reproducing, auto-activating data. Even a child can understand that links that provide a minimum of information have a strategic value for anyone, businesses in particular, able to use them to their advantage. This is why, including in the Fine Watchmaking segment, specialist and non-specialist publications, as well as brands, should be thinking about making different use of web and print in order to get the most out of both.

Paper is culture.

Beyond the obvious – information on new releases, flashbacks, product comparisons, forums, videos, animations and interactive infographics – the web is designed to propose a succession of updated links to lure consumers and readers who, like everyone else in the digital age, have changed the way they read and, more importantly, the way they think. It is the role of print media, on the other hand, to provide quality, to offer features, in-depth reporting and literary specificity in a cultural and historical context; things that wouldn’t make sense online. Nobody would dream of driving a Ferrari across a field just as no-one would pull onto the starting grid at Le Mans in an SUV. Because let’s not forget: while the web delivers raw information, print is high-end. Paper is culture.

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