Everyone has heard the mantra: “Print is Dead”. Outshined by the convenience and timeliness of news websites, newspapers in particular had been expected to go the way of the boom box by now. But if that’s not happening, what is?
Print subscription and advertising revenues make print viable. If print’s digital counterparts had been successful in stealing that revenue, digital newspapers would be dominating, as predicted. A look at the chart Print vs. Online Revenues below shows something else entirely. Yes, print revenues have been on the decline since their peak in 2006, but digital revenues have not come anywhere close to making up for it. Despite what the online news industry would have you believe, digital newspaper revenues have been essentially flat for the last 8-10 years.
Surprisingly, even when the same content is available for free online, the following pie charts reveal that about half of newspaper readers choose to read only in print. In other words – all things equal – half of newspaper readers would rather pay for a printed newspaper than receive the same digital content, free or not.
One area where printed newspapers have an edge is in the quality of reporting. As portrayed in the Academy Award winner for Best Picture last year, Spotlight, it seems to have been forgotten by some that journalists are still out there doing great work. As you can see, it’s the print revenues that are still paying their salaries.
As print revenues have declined, many newspapers have come up with creative ways to generate revenue branching out from the print core model. These are not only investments in enhancements on the digital sites or successful movements towards a paid subscription model like that of The New York Times. According to an article in Journalism.org published on journalism.org, newspapers have restructured sales forces, rebranded their print product and even offered web consulting for small businesses as ways to earn money beyond their core business.
Some have branched out in surprising ways, onto online video games, television cooking shows and live music events to supplement revenues. Producing web and print content that actually complement each other, investing in video and introducing subject based websites like the Denver Post’s marijuana website, The Cannabist (thecannabist.co) are a couple of successful initiatives worth mentioning. Innovation and consolidation appear to be the real story; not obsolescence. And in case you didn’t study the first chart carefully – printed newspaper revenues are still outpacing digital by 400 to 500%!
There’s a lot to love about newspapers nowadays. Given that print is still the industry’s financial foundation and platform for great journalism and innovation, it’s not time to write them off just yet!