I’m recently back from holiday where I managed to consume three wonderful non-fiction books and devour several chunky magazines from cover to cover. For an online research junkie, print remains something of a luxury to me.
Although I wouldn’t abandon my digital devices for love no money, I do find print more relaxing and value its ability to take me away from my office, which in reality is the Mac and iPhone.
So much is said about the demise of print, but where are we really in the scheme of things? I thought I’d draw together a few facts and thoughts that outline how the printed book, newspaper and magazine is faring.
Newspapers under pressure: Rising web consumption and dwindling ad spend has been causing problems for a while, but the recession has been a catalyst in exacerbating these trends.
North America has been particularly hard hit suffering a series of high profile closures this year. Media spend forecaster Zenith reports that newspaper’s share of ad spend in North America will fall from 26% in 2008 to 19% in 2011. In the same year, Internet spend will move above newspapers, achieving a high of 19.4%.
No wonder then that the dismal situation is forcing a rethink of business models in a bid to stimulate revenue, notably online. It now seems inevitable there will be a shift back to paying for print news online, but will it be enough? You can read what a couple of companies are up to here: News Corp; Post-Gazette (US). The New York Times also does a good summary review.
Of course, advertising spend trends mirror what’s happening on the consumption side and quite simply, newspapers are losing popularity. Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center revealed the shift away from print consumption in the US. Print newspaper readership declined from 34% of all Americans in 2006 to 25% in 2008. Perhaps more worrying for the industry is that newspapers are also losing total share. Combined print and online readership has also slipped 43% to 39% over the same time period.
Loss of market share to other media, notably online, is being played out in major markets – Japan, Germany, the UK as well as fast-growth economies like China, although at different rates.
Magazines benefit from targeted, niche content: Magazines have faired better than newspapers, able to compete in terms of speciality content, but its not been an easy time for them either. Advertising cut-backs have created difficulty across the board. PSFK recently posted a good article exploring some of the deeper issues.
In North America, Zenith asserts that it is ‘less easy’ to replicate the magazine reading experience online, which is helping to sustain print readership. I agree, the magazine experience is about taking time out and being able to languish over it. Lots of magazines are getting it right online by not replicating the the print magazine, designing with the web in mind. Thus, print retains its charm and differentiation.
The big difference is that magazine print readership is remaining quite solid in comparison to newsapers. The Magazine Publishers Association (MPA) released a white paper in June with some solid stats around readership growth in the US, among old and younger consumer groups.
One area of growing popularity is in customer (custom) magazines. In the UK, the likes of Boots, Tesco and M&S have been creating their own magazines for many years. Signs are this is now happening elsewhere too, on the back of the branded content trend and ‘ everyone becoming a publisher. Branded magazines remain a popular means of engaging and driving loyalty offline and increasingly online.
Books are still valuable in the web knowledge economy: The Bookseller reports that publishers are more than sustaining readership in the US and UK. In volume terms, books sales have grown in both markets between 2004-09.
e-Readers are undoubtedly gaining ground. Forrester reported in June that they are on the tipping point of going mainstream. They note that consumers are ‘falling in love’ with Amazon’s Kindle on-stop shop features, used not just for books, but all kind of published media and documentation.
Printed books remains a much-sought product, even if it does have tough competition from an array of entertainment substitutes, not to mention the web as an entertainment platform in itself.
I think there is a considerable amount of prestige attached to reading books in print, its more enjoyable and relaxing. On the producer side, it remains highly aspirational to have a book in print. Probably because anyone can write a blog and do web writing these days. There’s more credibility and certain celebrity-status to it. Even social web gurus like Mitch Joel and Chris Brogan, who have built up hugely successful businesses and personal brands online, deliver the printed word. Both have recently launched their own books.
The ability to book publish is easier than ever, aided by self-publishing sites like Lulu. But also, the web is bringing new talent to the fore who may not otherwise have gained exposure. Take something like Simon’s Cat. Animator Simon Tofield created some amazing films highlighting human interaction with cats (which I love). Massive success on YouTube has made the brand a online word-of-mouth sensation. And he’s now launched his own book, which will no doubt push him further into superstardom.
Printed web content: There’s been a number of initiatives to bring web content to print. We’ve already mentioned self-publishing becoming easier, with the technological tools available, like Lulu. Services like HP’s MagCloud are helping to democratize magazine publishing, enabling anyone to produce a magazine with minimal investment. It also serves as a marketplace, where consumers can browse even the most niche of titles and order their own copy to be printed on demand (using HP Indigo technology of course).
This post is already a lot longer than it should be and I could go on. Just to sum up, I think its fair to say that print is still such an exciting format. I hope business models can evolve to protect it and work on ways to stem the fall in readership in newspapers. But, it’s challenging times and with such a focus on making digital work and so much new competition, media companies have their work cut out.
I’d love to get other people’s perspectives – what’s your view on print? Do you like it/hate it – think it has a future? Be great to get your thoughts.