Traditional Media: Reports of the Death of Print are Premature
Every year sees further predictions as to when print media will finally be put out of its misery by its digital cousin. There's no doubt print media is down, but it’s far from out. In fact, we believe some sectors may stage a bit of a comeback in 2011.Let’s look at newspapers – the clouds gathering around this sector showed some signs of silver linings in 2010. Take the Evening Standard – a publication on its knees before Alexander Lebedev purchased it and made it free. It’s circulation continues to soar and its advertising revenues continue to climb. It may have diluted its upmarket audience somewhat but it remains a better vehicle for premium brands than rivals such as the Metro.And who would have believed that 2010 would see the launch of a new national newspaper – i from the Independent. Although its circulation doesn’t pitch it into the big league, it looks like it's going to double the circulation of its sister title The Independent, delivering a time poor, affluent audience. And if it becomes free, as we expect it to, we could see another title with soaring circulations. Not something that the digital doomsayers would have predicted.On the magazine front, the trend to ‘free’ will also grow. The success of Stylist, the sister publication to men’s title Shortlist, has piqued the interest of the big magazine publishers, especially as they see more advertisers flocking to the title. On the whole, magazine circulations and readerships have fared relatively well in the recession, with the exception of the ‘lads mag’ category, but they are declining nonetheless, albeit gradually. For publishers, the only way to achieve strong growth may be to make existing titles free or launch new ones.The final category which I think will stage a little renaissance in 2011 is outdoor. Of course, much of the growth in this sector has come from digital, but I think good old fashioned 6 sheets, 48 sheets, bus sides et al may stage a recovery. Why? Because it's an exceptionally effective interruptive media – people can’t click away, switch off or turn over the page. Interruptive media may not be fashionable in this era of permission marketing but we all like to be interrupted from time to time – with something useful, entertaining or uplifting.Killing off something that’s been around for over 500 years is going to take more than a few years, and that’s because in some respects print is superior to its digital cousin. Whilst digital is individual, interactive, engaging and memorable, print is tactile and tangible, its ad formats can be highly impactful, people spend more time with it and it can cost effectively deliver mass audiences. The cleverest of publishers has yet to surpass the experience of flicking through a magazine or newspaper online.Rather than deadly rivals, we like to see print and digital as close friends that can work well together to optimise the effectiveness of campaigns. And we think they'll be working hand-in-hand in this manner for many years to come.