Print : Web : Digital : can they co-exist in plunging markets?

Monday's media section of The Independent carried this piece that caught by eye for the wider implications it poses for newspaper and magazine publishers.

It asked whether or not a move by Asda to launch a digital newsagent can really catch on and whether the public in general is prepared to buy DRM protect titles that they will only be able to read online. and are already doing exactly that, with other options from providers such as the free library offered to digital publishers at the Yudu Media beta site.

On the face of it, digital appears to be going from strength to strength, and can only continue to do so if it can be fully integrated with mobile phones, home entertainment and touch-screen technologies just around the corner.

And something is badly needed to give the industry a lift.

There remains huge concern in the States where the New York Times is considering a fire sale, just days after the LA Times and Chicago Tribune to file for bankruptcy, as digital advertising hasn't yet met their expectations while print advertising has nosedived.

Indeed, according to today's FT, a new consortium called QuadrantOne and involving publishers Tribune, Gannet, Hearst Corporation and The New York Times, are pooling advertising space to take on the likes of Yahoo.

It was tried before in the 90s but foundered when companies thought they could do better alone, until they discovered otherwise.

Print, in my view, will not only continue to survive, but eventually enjoy a resurgence, assuming publishers are bright enough to adapt content, go for niche markets, investigations, weighty columnists – backed by all the whistles and bells of the net and mobile markets.

The key will be in understanding who their readers are, what they want, and allowing them to tailor the product online, to help drive sales at the newsstands through cross promotions, memberships and other initiatives.

Although a far more depressing view comes out a a new report by Deloitte who predict one in 10 print publications will be forced to reduce its frequency by half in 2009. 

There is already evidence of that, the Edinburgh Evening News among those cutting editions, and the freebie Record PM dropping northern editions altogether earlier in the year.

Its author, partner Howard Davies, also predicts classified advertising will plunge a further 20% at a time when online advertising is still being developed.

He suggested looking towards Japan, where the media crash has been less, by restricting what content is available for free on the web, forcing people out to buy print or subscribe for premium online content.

And maybe that's where the lesson is to be learned.

There should be nothing to stop publishers from offering multi-platforms for their content, they just have to be prepared to market them accordingly for specific readers, rather than treating their habits as all being the same.

Categories: Media philosophy & trends

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