Newspapers and magazines have, for years, enjoyed a particularly and peculiarly protected status in terms of shifts in trends. For over a century they were the go-to for your daily slice of current affairs, until the Internet juggernaut hit and took a large chunk out of their casual readership, severely damaging circulation figures as a result. Despite challenges presented by the rise of opinion-cum-news behemoths like Huffington Post, reader services like Feedly and Flipboard and aggregators/trapper-keepers like Instapaper and, my personal favourite, Scoopinion – and despite being slow off the mark – newspapers are just about keeping their heads above water. The hard core of people that still exists that prefers to read the news on printed media, mixed with the ongoing sale of print advertising space, is helping to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, this trend will not continue.
Believe it or not, declining readerships will not be the death of print media – I think we’ve reached an equilibrium point in terms of saturation which will only tail off as the older generation dies. Print will die out before its readers do for one simple reason: it is, by far, the least convenient way for businesses to advertise.
If I want to advertise, say, on Google through AdSense – I log into Google, select my targeted regions, topics or sites, upload my ad, pay and start getting impressions. If I want to hire someone to run an SEO campaign I might call around two or three different companies for quotes, but I’ll pay and get the campaign underway often within hours. If I want to run a national advertising campaign in print, split out by region, I have to call – without exaggeration – 15 people just to make the booking (this is before factoring in the creatives, copy, proofing, scheduled payment calls and other assorted miscellanea – including these, the calls could run into the hundreds).
Despite the fact that all of the print media companies in the UK are owned by 3 or 4 large conglomerates (Trinity Mirror, Newsquest, Johnstone Press, News Corp etc.) it appears that still, in 2013, all of these conglomerates lack an integrated, countrywide way of dealing with advertising. If I want to advertise in the (made up) Hereford Standard and Charter then I have to talk to their ROP salesperson, the Herts Standard to THEIR ROP salesperson – if I’m lucky, I might be able to talk to someone who can book out ads for an entire 30sq/km region (wow!) and kill off 20 or 30 bookings in one fell swoop – but if I wanted to do the same for a region that borders it, I’d have to talk to a rep from that region.
Am I the only person that this makes no sense to whatsoever?
This week, for our launch, I have the following things to do:
- Budget, devise, research, construct and deploy a national Google AdWords campaign
- Perform a full SEO audit of our new websites and put together a manual of best practice
- Liaise with our creative heads in and out of house to complete delivery of a 20,000 piece maildrop
- Organise a regionally-targeted print media campaign with creatives already available and ready to print
Guess which of these is taking the longest, preventing me from getting other things done and generally causing the most headaches?
This dogged determination to hold on to old practices because “this is the way things have always been done” will kill off print. SMEs no longer need print to generate word of mouth – it’s just a means to an end. To demonstrate this, call any paper in the UK. Go on, do it now. I’ll wait. Ask how much a full page colour ad will cost you.
It’s a lot, isn’t it?
Tell them you think it’s a lot.
What’s that? They discounted the price by 50% on the spot?
Tell them you still think it’s too expensive.
75% off if you take 4 inserts?
Get the picture?
Newspapers will NOT die because people stop buying them – free papers still exist, after all. Newspapers will die because businesses no longer see a reason to deal with the hassle, time and expense that goes along with dealing with them. Print media companies are already offering such insanely deep discounts (one of my suppliers offered me up to 90% off if I committed to 6 months) that it’s a sign that they’re already struggling to fill the advertising space they have – and they sure as heck can’t afford to fill the remaining space with content, because the majority of them have made deep cuts to editorial teams across the board. Unless they’re willing to make the difficult decisions, rationalise and centralise their advertising ventures as they have done with their editorial capabilities and streamline the entire process, then businesses will go elsewhere to advertise. The evidence is there that they already have.