Times are challenging for the press and magazines industry. Readership is declining, fake news scandal making headlines, new technologies forcing change and advertising revenues falling.
As one of the newspapers headline stated: “This disruption didn’t happen because newspapers foolishly shifted some of their investment to digital.” There is much more to it. In this blog we’re covering a few factors shaping the media industry yesterday and today.
When buying a newspaper used to be a daily habit for many, the overall readership has been plummeting for decades. In fact, according to the various sources, in the US circulation has been falling since 1985 and circulation per household has been falling since 1947. In the UK the landscape is similar with the ABC figures from January 2017 confirming a long-running downward trend in circulation. The decline of paper newspapers has even its own Wikipedia page covering the history, sources of the industry problems. And although readers decline have been widely observed and documented, it’s important to note that in certain regions such as Latin America, Asia and the Middle East newspapers sales continue rising . One of the great examples could be India with its thriving dailies.
“Figures for newspaper readership released by the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) show that over the last decade, newspaper circulation has grown significantly in India, from 39.1 million copies in 2006 to 62.8 million in 2016 – a 60% increase, for which there is no parallel in the world.”
When the paper reading habits is declining could digital be a saviour? Could the online content and readership solve the problem? Some argue that increases in online readership have offset the loss of print readers.
Impact of technology
In today’s technologically savvy world nearly every aspect of our life has become digital including how we consume news. To remain relevant and survive publishers needed to adopt innovation.
Moving from print to online
- The first ever online only newspaper “News Report” has been created over 40 years ago in 1974 (commencing the end of the Print-First Publishing)
- From 2007 majority of printed newspapers have online editions distributed online
- Some, based on unsustainable print-based model went online only such as the Southport Reporter in the UK and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which stopped publishing in print after 149 years in March 2009
- Launch of first iPads from Microsoft (2000, Microsoft Tablet PCs), Amazon Kindle (2007) and Apple’s iPad (2010) kicked off the start of the e-publishing with e-papers and magazines hitting the market
- In 2011, Andrew Miller from The Guardian, opened a conversation about digital-first publishing as a new content approach. In his view story of the article considered in all formats at the ideation stage became the starting point as opposed to printing and adapting to digital after
- But many news editors took shortcuts by shoe-horning a print design format across digital platforms
New revenue sources
According to the Wall Street Journal: “Global spending on newspaper print ads is expected to decline 8.7% to $52.6 billion in 2016, according to estimates from GroupM, the ad-buying firm owned by WPP PLC. That would be the biggest drop since the recession, when world-wide spending plummeted 13.7% in 2009.”
Following the shrinking revenue sources, the race begun! Publishers started their sprint for the digital revenue sources to make up for the collapse of print advertising. Some contrarily turned to shrunken print editions for most of the revenues. Sadly others begun worldwide reducing the journalists headcount.
- Newspapers started to search for revenues directly from readers by imposing some kind of paywalls on their digital editions with the New York Times being one of the first newspaper paywalls introduced in 2011
“The move of many newspapers towards subscription-based models is in large part an effort to monetise online content that was “given away” for years. However, it is also an attempt to preserve those print circulations.”, The Guardian
- But in 2016 the Sun in the UK has removed its hard paywall to avoid losing reach and influence
- Instead ‘open journalism’ based on unlimited and wide readers participations and a strong relationship has been claimed to be the only thing that saves both traditional print newspapers and the digital-only ones
But have all these steps helped? Many disagree.
“The web: is it the source of the problem or the source of the solution?”
“Print is dying; digital is no savior”
According to Pew Research Center (June 2016), despite declining paper news circulation, print remains vital. “In in the US, 2015, print circulation makes up 78% of weekday circulation and 86% of all Sunday circulation.”
Young audiences – keen readers
But will young people continue buying news printed on paper? The industry fears that habit of buying newspapers is directly correlated with age. Therefore paper broadcasting will die with older generations (Campaign). Can mobile save news reading?
According to the Guardian: “Total readership across print and digital news brands is 35% of the total UK population daily, 63% weekly and 90% monthly, with the highest monthly reach among the youngest groups (18-34) who tend to access via mobile devices.”
Bite-size interactivity or in-depth reporting
- Based on a Pew Research Center survey people age 18-34 are consistently less knowledgeable about current events than their elders
- Is this due to the fact that they simply wait for 24-hour news alerts on their phones avoiding in depth articles?
- Following Ofcom in the UK, in 2014, 60% of young people aged 16-24 consumed news through social media or the internet. Is this thanks to interactivity of online news that print cannot offer?
- Do young people accept to consume bite sized news packages only? Apparently The Wall Street Journal have all explicitly told their reporters to write shorter stories:
“We were told to make stories shorter [and] pay attention to what is hot on social media,”
- Contrarily many argue that: “You want to convince the younger audience that it needs and deserves real news and not just the fluff or rumours that may appear on social media.”