Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The decline and fall of print

It's been at least five years since I last subscribed to a newspaper. I still read magazines, but mostly when travelling. So I wasn't all that surprised when the news we've been waiting to hear for the past 10 years came rattling through the tubes:

US online advertising spend set to overtake all print and DM

New York - Spending on digital advertising in the US will overtake print for the first time this year, according to new figures.

The report from marketing analyst Outsell forecasts that marketers will spend $119.6bn on digital strategies and $111.5bn on print, including ads in newspapers and magazines and all direct mail.

Overall, US ad spend is expected to return to growth and increase 1.2% to $368bn.
Despite the growth of online, magazine advertising is expected to increase by 1.9% to $9.4bn after falling 26% last year.

Chuck Richard, vice president and lead analyst at Outsell, said: "Advertisers are directing dollars toward the channels which generate the most qualified leads and most effective branding.

"As they emerge from the recession, they need more accountability, and they're spreading their spending over a widening set of options."

The Outsell report surveyed more than 1,000 US marketers online in December.

Last September, a report from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) suggested that online had usurped TV to become the biggest advertising medium in the UK after rising 4.6% in the first half of 2009.

According to the biannual IAB report, internet UK ad spend generated £1.75bn pounds and accounted for 23.5% of all spend. This compared with 18.7% in the first half of 2008. Elsewhere, Television accounted for 21.9%, press display for 18.5% and direct mail for 11.5%.

So there you go. Print is on its way out, at least as far as advertisers are concerned. Is anyone really shocked?

The major publications, seeing which way the wind was blowing, long ago added online versions. Some are for subscribers only, but many are free. Instant, free, and tree-free. That's how I like my news.

But there is some question as to whether the "papers" are giving too much away online. Publicis bigman, Maurice Levy, recently told the Abu Dhabi media summit that news organizations are already giving too much away, and are therefore over-dependent on advertising(!):

"Analogue media has to find a new model ... content has value and that's something for which I have a strong point of view. I think media giving away their content is not a good service to themselves. It's a shame, a pity. This content has a lot of value and it has to be valued reasonably."

Silly me. I always assumed that the nominal charge for a newspaper was to cover printing and distribution expenses. And the only ones I pick up these days are the free commuter ones anyway. How do they do it?

I'm not even an early adopter, and I get much of my news sent my way through my social networks. The rest, I get through paper-free sites like cbc, or news aggregators like Google or (for the weird stuff).

The Independent last week stated that social media is the TV and newspaper of the future:
"The wider availability of nearly instantaneous micro newsfeeds has changed the very notion of our news consumption. Younger generations and technological savvy individuals are relying on news sources that are delivered in the form of community-sourced information. These "news sources" are often supplied in the form of friends status updates, blogs, trending topics and retweeted news headlines."

The only part I'd argue with is the headline's use of the word "future". It's happening right now (even as you read this humble blog).

So I agree with Google, who recommended to generalist newspapers to modernize their approach and engage readers directly during their leisure hours, rather than trying to charge them for generic news they can get everywhere.


  1. Quite right. Newspaper proprietors do not necessarily have to have a cover price for their publications because advertisement revenue takes care of their operations costs, besides making them a handsome profits.

    The free-sheets are doing it so why can't they? Evening Standard is a pretty good example. Some would argue that it appears more successful than when it was being sold.

    It is the greed that is driving their newspapers to the grave. They are now in a bind. Some like Mr Rupert Murdoch are even thinking of charging for online newspapers by paywalling the Timesonline and The Sunday Times.

    If they still want to sell them make them cheap enough to attract customers who will not think twice before parting with their pennies and appoint unemployed people to become vendors who should be allowed to keep the money for selling.

    Shiv Satchit