Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Print Poised For A Comeback?

In the last couple weeks, major newspapers and publications, including The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and now The Washington Post, have been sold at deep discounted prices.  At the same time, Time Warner is ready to jettison the Time, Inc. business.  Print revenues overall are down and many wonder what the future hold.  But I believe that print is poised for a comeback.

Print content distributors are at a crossroads between traditional hard copy and digital distribution.  Younger consumers are embracing the web and have found their content without paging through a newspaper or magazine.  It is the older demographics that still enjoy getting their newspaper and sorting through each section finding the articles they want to read.  The challenges that face these new owners and print overall are many, but there are also opportunities.

The Washington Post, like other publications, still have a powerful brand name.  Their history and years of publication make them a very credible resource.  And it is that brand that has to push deeper into the digital universe.  Newspapers are recognized by the region they serve.  They may offer national and international news but it is their regional and local news reporting that identifies them so strongly.  That localism can be used to better sell them in their market. 

For newspapers and for magazines,  these publications must redefine their distribution strategy as they slowly move away from traditional media.  I recommend a strategy where every print subscriber is automatically a digital subscriber.  Let the consumer then decide how they wish to receive their copy.   Print must also embrace a multi-platform approach with plenty of video and interactive content to highlight the info and articles.  The tablet and phone have become ideal mechanisms for consumers to access their subscriptions.  Make its access ergonomically attractive and easy to use.  And lastly, embrace your content and the writers that create it.  Make them exclusive to your platform and market their value and uniqueness of the stories they tell and the news they write.  These journalists are part of your brand value, too.

Digital has lowered the barriers of entry and brought more competition against print.  It is hard to sell subscriptions when websites offer their content free.  That scenario faces other businesses as well.  The bottom line I believe is staying true to the quality of the journalism and to let that uniqueness and exclusivity drive the value proposition. What Howard Stern is to Sirius, David Carr is to the New York Times and Walt Mossberg is to the Wall Street Journal.  Push that exclusivity.  Consumers will pay if they believe there is value received.  And print delivers a lot of value.  It may be a slow road back, but the "new" newspaper should soon be ready for its close-up.

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