In recent years, there has been a lot of debate focussed around the decline of printed media. Indeed, there are clear signs that readership and advertising rates have dropped significantly over the last decade, while other media channels such as online or digital have thrived.
While national newspapers appear to suffer most, regional papers seem better at maintaining readership, or at least managing a much slower decline. In the USA, the well-known billionaire Warren Buffett is even investing in newspapers, which should encourage us all to do so the same, given Mr Buffett’s excellent investment record.
An interesting thing is happening though. Virtually every printed publication has got its own web site, and in some instances these sites are of very high standards, in effect a mirror of the printed paper, especially those available on subscription only. The greater availability of mobile devices and bandwidth is enabling online newspaper content to develop from basic text and images to a more interactive level, too. There is now a dual and converging movement: TV and radio have a distinctive and growing web presence, and so do newspapers and magazines.
Take the BBC web site, for example. Only a few years ago there was a clear demarcation between radio and TV content and what was online. Now you can find news and TV programmes online. Similarly, many papers and magazines, for which the main distribution channel is still print-based, also feature media clips on their web sites. So, while all these channels are distinct in their primary delivery method, they are now converging on the web.
The next decade is going to be interesting. Our reading habits will change dramatically, as illustrated by the advent of Kindle. I don’t think printed media will altogether disappear, but I would place a bet that anything printed will in future demand a high premium. More access to good quality online sources may become more restricted (paywalls) though I suspect that there will be movements towards a revenue sharing operation, so that ‘tokens’ could be traded for access to paid sites, rather than fixed daily/monthly amounts.
Generating sufficient income for the media in the new world of digital communications is inevitably going to be more difficult and requires greater creativity. But I don’t think this will be a bad thing. After all, the world of printed media has so far been very slow in adapting to the new media landscape and adopting new marketing strategies. The time has now come for them to demonstrate that they can respond to the new challenges.