As per every major shift in media technology before it, the ‘arrival’ of digital media spawned a glut of public assertions that would see print media in the grave before sunset.
“The newspaper is dead”
“No one will ever read a magazine again”
“There will only be eBooks” (this may yet happen if we run out of trees!)
They were partly right – traditional news consumption has undergone a seismic shift.
Free content is delivered immediately online, there’s no need to wait for the morning paper; citizen journalism has created a ‘democracy of information’ but simultaneously, a huge grey cloud over the credibility of news; international tabloid news gathering tactics have made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Before newspapers even had the chance to respond to the ‘digital attack’ – or in some cases, even believe it was happening – sales certainly plummeted.
But now, something of a retroversion seems to be happening – last month’s statistics show that some titles may have ridden the wave successfully – at least for the moment.
“News Corp Australia has bucked the trend of declining newspaper print readership to post a 2 per cent increase across its national, metropolitan and regional titles over the past year, well above the 4 per cent decline across all major newspaper print mastheads.”
Now this is news in itself. That it even was possible to buck this trend seems unthinkable. News Corp’s diversified holdings surely must account for some of this – but ultimately, their content strategy must be spot on.
“The Sydney Morning Herald retained the No 1 spot across print and digital…
The West Australian was the only major paper to post a significant drop in total audience, down 8.3 per cent to 1.863 million”. (source)
So SMH has successfully balanced the books by combining up-to-the-minute digital content and relevant print news… but The West Australian is obviously doing something wrong… despite having the most captive audience in the nation, they seem to be slipping behind in a two-horse race.
And glossy magazines too – despite their enormous production price tag – have failed to fall off the map. Clever cross promotion on tv, digital and retail platforms (helped by cross media ownership I’m sure) seems to be the key to holding market share.
According to News Life Media’s website, their collective digital and print assets reach an audience of 7.7 million – representing 45% of Australians aged over 14. (source)
This is an incredible statistic – but not surprising when you consider the content reach – and clever commercial partnering – on some of their titles:
- Australian Good Taste (with Woolworths)
- Australian Parents (with Woolworths)
- Country Style
- delicious. (with the ABC)
- donna hay
- Gardening Australia (with the ABC)
- GQ Australia
- Inside Out
- MasterChef Magazine
- Vogue Australia
Australians are firmly on the foodie wagon – even when you might think we’ve reached saturation point – nope, we’re just swallowing the entrée.
The contrived scenes of tension created using reasonable people with excellent culinary skills must ring true with a huge whack of domesticated adults.
Either that or they’re just hungry.
Following it up with a magazine purchase to recreate the very emotional food experience they’ve just bought into is clearly a no-brainer. And lets face it… it’s way harder to follow a recipe when the screen keeps going to sleep every 60 seconds.
Being eaten up with the same amount of ravenous enthusiasm is the topic of home renovations. People can’t get enough of watching other people pull down rooms and redecorate them.
Preferably with the occasional hot-couple-argument thrown in for good measure.
So it makes sense that some hard copy ‘inspiration’ should feed those creative decorating demons.
By why not just surf Pinterest til the cows come home?
That’s definitely happening, but that’s not where it ends.
Pinterest and other image-heavy platforms are great for the immediate binge. But maybe they don’t hold fast for the long, slow ponder. Maybe a magazine is less invasive with its lack of flashing gifs and targeted banner ads; more timeless and durable, within its natural habitat of the private or public coffee table; and therefore more suited to a contemplative decision-making mood.
So for hot-headed impulsive purchases, the click-bait has it covered. But for a larger or more involved purchase – one that might require having to – gasp – ‘discuss’ the decision, then it makes sense that a magazine provides a solid selection of concepts in print.
So its good news that print is not dead. Keeping the quality of journalism high while adding in-depth, thought-provoking analysis to current issues is worth holding in your hands.
Adaptability is a wonderful thing.
And you would think a person crazy if they told you they were about to launch a magazine, right? But, niche magazines – new titles! – have sprung up all over the place, like Flow Magazine from the Netherlands.
Take Frankie and add a layer of uber-cool Dutch aesthetic; an extra dollop of designer-maker-look-its-another-doily-but-cooler; and a limited run of only 4 editions annually and all of a sudden you have a top quality printed mag in high demand by 20 and 30-something craft-obsessed neo hipsters.
Of course, Flow comes with its own neat little app, bringing you 365 Days of Flow… cute illustrations combined with pick-me-up quotes and homemaker tips deliver a daily brand reminder. So obvious I can’t bare to call it clever, yet it works a treat.
Even local marketing agencies have reverted to print to make their point.
Out for dinner during the week at the tasty Wine Store & Kitchen in East Fremantle, I spotted a stack of stylish looking newspapers. Simply titled ‘George’ the 24 page paper beautifully promotes selected businesses on George Street, with high quality photos and carefully written copy. I notice in the fine print it has distribution of 16,000 to a handful of high-end suburbs.
Targeted, tangible and perfectly placed.
Next week… Print is not dead, Part 2 – So much to print, so little time…