Why Print isn’t Dying

17th Oct 2013

We all love a good ‘Print is Dead’ story. These crop up regularly, in part because there is often substance to them, but also because journalists and especially sensational (web) journalists often go for big punchy titles – and these type of definitive statements make for good copy. On top of this we also feel the need to be thoroughly in tune with the ‘digital zeitgeist’, to be ahead of the curve – a place where print is no longer perceived to be.

However, a number of recent stories and some interesting research I have come across recently, give the lie to this particular position.

In the first of these pieces, the Wall Street Journal recently looked at the resurgence of the glossy magazine in New York


It observed that for a handful of well-connected New Yorkers, glossy, start-up magazines have become the latest status symbols.

“It’s either mad or genius to start a print publication in 2013,” said Kevin Sessums, the editor of FourTwoNine, a new gay publication exploring topics such as activism, relationships and fashion. It’s also expensive: The first issue of Wherever, a new travel magazine, cost about $20,000 to put out. FourTwoNine wouldn’t say how much it’s spent, but it “wasn’t cheap,” a spokeswoman said.

Separately, Monocle Magazine is a bastion of traditional magazine publishing, and although it has a developed web presence and multi-media App, it still champions the traditional world of magazine journalism.

In the latest issue the Editor, Tyler Brule, tackled head on the difference between off and online reading –
”By now we all know the reason why we’re not so keen on reading daily papers anymore or stocking up on our favourite magazines. It’s much easier and cheaper to consume media on the web. After all, news is easier to break when there are no clunky Heidelberg printing presses standing in the way, and good old magazines are just as interesting to click and flip through on a back-lit Sony screen. Or is this really the case?”

Brule suggests that it’s all about presentation – promising and delivering quality. But, this is not happening when readers are being put off by the reality of lacklustre newsstands full of diminished off-line publications. All the budgets have gone online, where many readers are, but the advertising money isn’t.

The solution proffered, is The Monocle Kiosk (effectively a premium pop-up shop) that is designed to slide in between shops on busy high streets, stand in lobbies or be anchored on airport terminal concourses. The Kiosk seeks to put quality back into the traditional print purchasing and reading experience – with a curated array of the best newspapers, magazines and refreshments on offer . A Monocle kiosk : http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeclark/7230043618/

Of course these are niche examples and newspapers, in particular, have manifest problems with falling circulations and declining revenues. But whilst this is an issue in the West, there are areas where the newspaper market is buoyant –

This from George Brock’s analysis in his excellent book: Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age – ‘Over 5 years to 2012 newspaper circulations in Asia, have grown by 16%…circulations have also risen in India, Brazil and China’ http://ow.ly/pUWV2

The final piece indicating the strength of print comes from some research carried out by Sticky Content (http://www.stickycontent.com) – a very smart digital copywriting agency, who recently carried out a survey into the State of Digital Copywriting in 2013.
One of the questions, asked of 365 content professionals, was – ‘Where do you expect to find the best-written quality content?
The results were as follows – 77% of responses said print (newspapers, magazines and brochures etc.) and only 23% of responses said digital environments (see chart at this link – http://www.stickycontent.com/survey/ )

This is interesting because the sample represented here are Content Experts – people who are adept at communicating effectively across all channels, both on and off-line. Their perspective, that the most compelling and persuasive content exists in the print format, is ironic given the increasing consumption of online content at the expense of that off-line.

The obvious point here is about quality vs. quantity. Whilst there is a great deal of good digital content around, in many cases print can outshine it’s digital competitors and use it’s heritage, quality and real world gravitas, to secure a place in an increasingly digital world.