Web or Print?

Dec. 22, 2011
Web or print? How do you like to get your news and information?

Many thousands of managers and engineers are reading this short essay on a printed page in an elegantly designed magazine—not that I’m biased or anything. On the other hand, many thousands more—especially for those who are located outside the United States—are reading this online—either on a Web browser or on our iPad app.

Me? I swing both ways. I have been reading news on the Web for over eight years, mostly through RSS feeds that flow into what Dave Winer calls “the River of News.” This is where I pick up most of my news information. Followers of my Twitter stream see links to articles I find most interesting or informative.

But for years I have been frustrated with magazine Web sites that are overly complicated. Go to the typical trade magazine Web site—especially the home page—and you can’t figure anything out.

Magazine print people were firm in the belief that the home page had to sell advertisers and readers on the complete coverage of the magazine. And they had to have many columns of jumbled up content of news, ads and everything else they archive. But they make it darn near impossible to find the news.

So I’m proud to say that the Web team at Automation World has been able to totally re-create our Web site into the River of News format. You can return every day and see the latest news, articles, videos, products and everything else. They also greatly simplified navigation. We stepped back and defined the major buckets of coverage and eliminated the complexities of other ways to navigate. After all, what’s the normal way of navigating on the Web? Search, of course. So our enhanced search, along with behind-the-scenes programming that serves up related articles, will enhance user experience.

I also love print. Even though I’ve been an Internet and then Web junkie for more than 20 years, I still love to open a well-crafted magazine filled with stories and information that interests me. It’s almost an erotic experience. And forget that “dead tree” comment. Paper is biodegradable and recyclable. It returns to nature to create more trees. Electronic gadgets, even though I love them, contain lots of toxic substances that are difficult to recycle.

So, for me it’s a toss up. I have a stack of magazines that I look forward to opening every month. I’m on the Web constantly. I get news and information in ways relevant to my needs. How about you? What’s your personal print-to-online ratio?


In a recent blog post, professor and author Andrew Hargadon called manufacturing one of the most innovative endeavors. It’s what makes a country competitive. That same idea is a driving force here at Automation World when we evaluate coverage. This month, for the third time, we are reporting on what you all think are the important innovations in manufacturing and automation. There are always fascinating insights that come from you.

On the other hand, we don’t always get those responses from automation suppliers. Jim Pinto, always quick to point out shortcomings of what he calls “the automation majors,” addressed this issue in his November column. John Berra, not one to be so quick to judge, also wondered in his November column where the next wave of innovation would come from.

Here is a brief list that I’ve started while I think about top potential areas for innovation in automation: cloud computing, mobile interfaces, database technology, small/powerful controllers, and sensors. What do you think? Send me a note. Gary Mintchell can be reached at [email protected]