How Can Publishers Change the Perception That Print is Dying?

By: Adreana Young & Darren M. Edwards

Where did this notion that print is on the decline come from? The rise of the digital age? Newspapers and magazines’ formatting has now expanded to include Web and mobile. However, that doesn’t mean these mediums are replacing the original. In fact, a study conducted by Nielsen found that 51 percent of newspaper readership is exclusively in print.

Today’s digital age consists of instantaneous news. The latest topics and events are now just fingertips away from the average reader. In response, the content of print has had to change. The hard, breaking news that used to grace the front pages and had readers grappling to get ahold of the daily newspaper is no longer possible.

These stories—the ones that could change entirely by the end of the day—don’t belong in publications that now only print a few times a week. Instead, print has softened in terms of the types of stories it contains. It has needed to, in order to keep with the new age. Breaking news has become mainly reserved for online and television, where updates can be made within minutes.

Newspapers and magazines may have reduced their distribution, but that doesn’t mean the content of their publications should be diminished. Rather than the basic ‘‘who, what, when, where, why and how’’ typically associated with hard news, print publications now have the opportunity to delve deeper into the types of stories they produce: in-depth pieces, topics not necessarily associated with the latest politics and sports updates.

With decreased circulation, these stories of higher quality and detail need to catch readers’ eyes, as well as grab and hold on to their attention. They’re the ones that cause a reader to stop what they’re doing and take a few minutes out of their usual, fast-paced day to just pause and read.

Print is evolving, not dying. A door has been opened for the original media form to explore and build on for an audience that isn’t going anywhere because even with the sudden rise of the Internet and mobile for news publishing and gathering, there’s still nothing quite like turning the pages of a magazine or newspaper.

First, let’s look at the reality. Print isn’t dying. According to Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, recent years have seen an increase in new print launches that far outweigh the number of print publications folding during the same period.

It is notable when a major print publication tanks, but much like “Batman v Superman,” tanking didn’t indicate the death of the superhero movie industry. Newsweek moving to an online only format isn’t evidence that the print industry is dying. (Editor’s note: Newsweek stopped printing in 2012, but returned to print in 2014).

Successful sales teams have an arsenal of arguments available for hesitant advertising clients. These arguments stretch from the fact that readers are more focused while engaging a print publication to the coffee table appeal that adds longevity to print ads.

As editors, our most effective tool for changing the perception that print is dead is to just keep doing what we’re doing.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but since the argument that print is dying (or dead) is invalid—as proven by our continued existence—our most effective strategy is to keep putting out quality content, the kind of content readers expect when they pick up a print publication, the kind of content that continues to give readers the impression that print is a more trustworthy source of information than the Web, the kind of content that doesn’t bombard readers but carefully frames each article, ad, image, and idea.

It’s also important to look at how we talk about our industry. I’ve overheard publishers, editors, and writers bemoan the state of print publications when they personally have a difficult quarter.

Allowing ourselves to lean on the crutch of this false notion not only hinders us from finding out why our personal publications may have struggled for a period, but it also reinforces the erroneous idea that print has one foot in the grave.

Author: Adreana Young & Darren M. Edwards

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