Of course, print is dying! At least a bit. But it’s a little too early to call in the organist and order a nice arrangement of flowers.
Print is not even close to drawing its final breath. While the future is undeniably digital news, there’s a fiercely loyal core base of readers who only, or mostly, want print. And that kind of publisher/reader relationship is something digital can learn from.
Ditching print or even ignoring it is short-sighted for well-established publications. Startups wouldn’t begin there, at least unless it’s a niche, nostalgic market. Aside from still holding court as a major revenue source, print offers generations of industry experience and knowledge that the digital revolution can still draw use.
You know what people say: you should respect your elders.
#1: Digital is Just the Delivery Device; News Still Matters
The news is still the news. Delivery mechanisms evolve, but news consumption stays fairly steady. In 50 years, who knows what might exist? Certainly, newsrooms of 50 years ago couldn’t have imagined the digital revolution and how it would change everything.
According to Apple Reviews, print has loyalty because of, not in spite of, its delivery. People who get prefer news on TV are more likely to also prefer print newspapers, according to Pew Research. And people who watch the least TV news tend to read news online.
Delivery matches the appetite of the consumer. The desire for news isn’t falling away. It’s just how people get it that’s changing.
#2: Print Ads are Moneymakers that Command Attention
If there’s anything print has over digital, it’s ad performance. It’s declining along with subscriptions and overall print revenue. But print ads are still big moneymakers that perform much better than digital with impressive CPMs.
The performance of print advertising proves that ads aren’t relegated to the annals of revenue generating history. Advertisers pay for the privilege of a spot in print. And if there wasn’t a decent ROI, you can bet the budget spend would go elsewhere.
So maybe the problem isn’t that people are growing weary of ads. Maybe it’s the delivery that still needs some work. Ad blockers prove that digital news consumers do not want to be bothered with annoying ads. But the key there is “annoying.”
Find an ad format that doesn’t buzz like an annoying gnat, and the audience will probably respond. That’s one of the biggest puzzles of this age.
#3: Digital and Print Can Coexist Better With Separate Management Teams
What if managing digital and print under the same umbrella made each delivery mechanism weaker? They aren’t the same. So trying to shoehorn one into the other won’t work. Print can’t be all that it could if it’s trying to live up to digital standards. And the same applies to digital.
They’re vastly different products, and perhaps should be managed as separate entities. That’s what newsroom consultant and journalism teacher, Matt DeRienzo, says at Editor and Publisher online magazine.
DeRienzo suggests not just separate management, but also separate branding to capitalize on what makes each mechanism special to its readers. Dividing them could be the future of newspapers.
Print newspapers have readers who aren’t afraid to pay. And it gives editors the ability to craft an experience that’s designed for a specific style of consumption. Digital offers quick access, lots of options, immediate gratification, and interaction that’s not available in print.
#4: Some Young People Still Love Print
Who has the biggest digital news appetite? Generation X and Millennials. According to Pew Research, there’s barely a discernible difference.
- Millennials who get news online: 50 Percent
- Generation X who gets news online: 49 percent
But all of the reliance on digital doesn’t mean print can’t rate. Ten percent of Generation X reads the news in print. And while 5 percent seems much smaller, by comparison, it’s still a surprising number for a generation that’s been plugged in and switched on since birth.
As print lay slowly dying, some younger people still love it for various reasons. One of them is nostalgia. According to a slightly pointed article by Sasha Lekach at Mashable, there’s a recent graduate in Arkansas who just became the proud owner of a small, local print newspaper.
Hayden Taylor, the new owner, has no immediate plans for a digital edition!
There’s already evidence that digital has a breaking point where print can step in and help. Media saturation and fatigue are real things that cause readers to step away.
DeRienzo says the same curation and editorial skills that make print a special experience are beginning to work for overloaded digital consumers, just in a different medium. When digital consumers pop out of the website experience, they pick up on small, targeted, curated emails and newsletters. Print still has something to teach the young whippersnappers.
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