Monday, August 4, 2014

Print No Longer Part Of A Multi Media Strategy

Content synergy, enabling companies to diversify and present its media across multiple platforms, seems to have a black sheep in the family.  While it seems crucial that content be accessible wherever and whenever the consumer chooses, there are limits.  The notion of content everywhere, on TV, on mobile, on computer, but not on print.  And companies are jettisoning their print businesses to focus on content everywhere else. 

This spinning off of print businesses has increased of late.  Earlier this year we watched Time Warner unload its Time magazine business into a separate company.  Last week, E. W. Scripps and Journal Communications announced plans to "spin off the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Scripps' newspapers into a new publicly traded company, Journal Media Group" while merging their broadcast business into its own business.  And today, Tribune Company is splitting its broadcast operations from its printing business and brands like The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.  Synergy with print media can't be done according to Scripps, Time Warner, and Tribune. 

Each of these new independent print publishing businesses, competing in what is assuredly a very mature business, have to work alone to create new multimedia partnerships.  Pushing hard to transition from print to digital, from test and photo only to the incorporation of video and audio content from new sources.  Each of their parent companies couldn't see ways to do it across businesses and sharing content internally.  Its time for these print companies to either sink or swim.

What went wrong?  Why couldn't they find internal economies of scale to support the old business model while new ones are established?  Why couldn't synergy work?  I think that part of the problem lies in the fact that public owned companies are hard pressed to grow quickly and anything that slows them down must be jettisoned off.  Until print finds its footing in a digital space, it is a mature business with high costs and an uncertain future.  Public companies can't always afford to nurture and be patient. 

Another possibility is that new digital content companies are already pursing old print customers; consumers can go online today and find the news they need from websites and social networks.  Of course, they lack the credibility or full resources of an established news gathering organization.  And in a world of immediacy, we seem to prefer now our news quickly at our fingertips and in short, easy to digest bursts.  That puts print at a disadvantage until they can better connect to the consumer with a continuous and noticeable update of their news feed.  And consumers have to see enough differentiation to agree to pay a subscription fee as opposed to trolling the web for free content.  That may be the most difficult model to maintain.

So expect more companies with broadcast and print businesses to follow suit.  Spin off their old newspaper and print distribution businesses and focus on their broadcast and digital content instead. 


  1. The focus is definitely on digital marketing and content but savvy businesses can use printed materials to complement their online marketing efforts and further brand their image.

    1. Thanks Rob. My point was regarding print as a distribution business - newspapers, magazines, etc, and not as printed marketing support, a necessary component of a full marketing strategy.