By Kelsey Boudin
President and Founder, Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
One of my favorite movies ever is Ghostbusters. It’s hilarious and well-made — one of those flicks that I can watch for the millionth time and still enjoy.
There’s a line in there that never fails to stand out as fascinating to me. Janine, the Ghostbusters’ receptionist, says to Dr. Spengler, “I bet you like to read a lot, too.” Emerging from under her desk, the consummate academic Spengler barely looks up as he says, curtly, “Print is dead.”
There they were in a film released in 1984. I assume filming wrapped in 1983 and it was written in 1981 or earlier. Even then, the information world was already moving so fast that writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis (who played Spengler) felt strongly enough to note that the written word was dead as a communications medium.
Were they right? It’s easy to understand their sentiment, with nearly every set of eyes in America at the time glued to their big box color TVs nightly for their news, evening game shows and other frivolity. And with how rapidly communications technology of all types had advanced in decades prior, they probably felt that by now we’d be consuming books and periodicals in pill form.
Today the written word is far from dead. It may feel dead because many of the time-honored media from a romantic yesteryear have indeed declined. You may recall the crinkling of your father’s evening newspaper, but today you engage in endless political debates on the local paper’s Facebook page. Or worse yet, your local paper may be among the one in five that have closed in the last 15 years, easily halving the number of working journalists. Millions of people binge hours of their favorite shows thanks to unlimited streaming access, yet 27 percent of American adults have not consumed a book in the last year, up from 19 percent in 2011.
But, as always, there’s more to the story.
Writing (good writing) has never been more important.
Writing, as a medium, serves numerous critical roles in society. Here are just a few.
Every year, governments and private foundations award billions of dollars in grants to nonprofits, charities and other benevolent societies to support:
- Launching new programs and initiatives
- Sustainability of old programs and initiatives
- Program planning
- Research and development
- Hiring staff
- General operations
For perspective, the National Endowment for the Arts issued a second round of 2019 funding totaling over $80 million across the U.S.
Grant writing is a critical public service to support nonprofit and charitable endeavors from education to health care and poverty to youth organizations. Someone has to research available grant opportunities, develop initiatives, and write the proposals and follow-up reports.
Invasive marketing is so prevalent it’s sickening. Every day you’re inundated with up to 10,000 marketing messages, no exaggeration. And you’re completely unaware of most of them.
Taking notice of the shift in public perceptions, media consumption and buying habits, marketers (smart ones, that is) grew up and stopped talking about themselves and became more helpful to consumers through content marketing.
You already know most of the world’s commerce takes place in the digital realm. But buyers are now so much more sophisticated. Instead of buying what I call the “greasy car salesman pitch,” they seek legitimate solutions to their problems.
It’s a less-in-your-face style of marketing that uses digital content to provide solutions and answers to user problems. After all, more than 75% of adults are online daily and more than 1 in 4 describe themselves as “almost always online.” Where do you go if you have a problem — any problem? Driving directions? Lawn mower won’t work? That recipe for chicken marsala? That’s right, you head to the internet and look for it. You probably take out your phone and Google it.
What do you find? You find a store near you with the chicken marsala ingredient you need. A link to a provider of the broken lawn mower part or a list of the best new mowers out there. Recommendations for restaurants you’ll find when you get there.
That’s content marketing — all of those millions of helpful blogs, social media posts, reviews, recommendations, videos, etc. And someone has to strategize it, write it, organize it and curate it.
Remember your father’s crinkling newspaper example above? That’s true. You’re probably not picking up the newspaper to read it, although I know more than a few not-necessarily-old people who prefer the physical copy. Count me among them.
Yes, newsrooms everywhere are shedding staff and daily editions and consolidating, leaning more heavily on paid advertising, or closing outright. But journalism today — a digital juggernaut of mainstream and freelance writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers, social media posters, and opinion commentators — remains just as important, impactful and viable when done right.
Again, someone has to organize, write, strategize and produce every article and column inch you read, TV news script you view and podcast you hear.
Fewer people read books today, but publishing is still a MASSIVE global market. Nearly 700 million print books — physical copies — are sold in the U.S. each year. E-books and audiobooks record billions of dollars in sales annually. Whatever their form, books remain a valuable source of education, enlightenment and entertainment.
Ask every person out there who likes to Instagram their pumpkin-spice latte next to the new novel they just can’t wait to read. Ask every academic who reads hundreds of books each year and has published four or five themselves. Heck, ask every first-grade kid who reads a book a night for homework.
Once more, someone has to write the outline, drafts, manuscript, synopsis and produce the final product. Someone has to consult, review and edit it before navigating the often complex processes of soliciting publishing houses or self-publishing.