Print Trends and Other Horror Stories

Line Graph 1The disappointing condition of the magazine and newspaper industry has become front page news in, of all paces, newspapers. This blog post summarizes a number of articles that I feel are pertinent to automotive publishers.

Local Newspaper’s Web Scramble…

With newspaper sales staffs on a web learning curve, ad sales have tended to focus on print. In 2007 web-only startups had 43.5% of the $8.5B local online ad market. Newspapers had just 33.4% in 2007, down from 44.1% in 2004 (Borrell Associates). Local newspapers have failed to convert Moms and Pops to the web leaving them with bigger accounts but fewer ad clients and therefore increased vulnerability:

Many newspapers also hurt themselves by simply plopping their papers online instead of creating new web sites that offered advertisers something they couldn’t get in print. Newspapers are tied too closely to defending their print products and have not seen the Internet as an innovative and competitive tool to go out and compete.

Online exchanges have grown like weeds by creating a more cost-effective opportunity for advertisers. A  double-whammy to newspapers: Loss of print advertising plus an inability to effectively attract and retain online advertisers.

How to Fix a Broken Newspaper…

Early leaders of the Journal’s online edition privately referred to it as “the paper killer.”

Thanks to rivalry between online and print departments, neither could deliver an optimal product. This reared its ugly head where the circ folks could not agree on how to combine offers for both print and online for fear of suppressing response.

A bigger problem was that newspapers sought to copy fairly closely on the web what they did in print, rather than offer new products taking full advantage of digitization. The most creative new products came mainly from enterprise with little connection to newspapers.

Cost cutting can only do so much and newspapers’ web initiatives, such as they are, have not yet filled the revenue void on the print side.

“It’s a Long Slow Sunset for Ink-on-Paper Magazines…… but sunsets can produce vast sums of money,” according to publishing executive Felix Dennis commenting in a recent issue of The Economist. (Dennis sold the US arm of his publishing firm for $240M.) This quick read provides yet another perspective on the struggle magazines face in re-purposing their content online in an engaging fashion to consumers. Bottom line: Think and implement creatively with online benefits unique to the medium.

It’s About Community, Stupid…Yes, I’m gonna beat a dead horse: The reader rules.Magazines and newspapers gain traction online when they make readers part of the plan. This article from Revenue magazine points to a number of successful implementations of community participation of editorial content resulting in significant spikes in web traffic. Author John Gartner, editor of Matter-Mag:

Publishing is no longer in the realm of the exalted few, and to ignore the potential of reader contributions is suicidal.

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