The digital transformation has radically altered the publishing industry. Many people believe that the emergence of eBooks, audiobooks, and online news marks the impending death of the printed word. But is print media truly on its way to becoming a museum piece or will it prove to be resilient in the face of the digital era?
Virtually everyone agrees that the digital transformation of the media industry is already well underway. Consumer behavior and expectations are driving this change, and younger generations in particular are accustomed to instant access to global content at all times. The rapid rise of mobile and other technologies has reshaped the manner in which the world creates and consumes information, and this change is profoundly affecting the media sector. The relative affordability of mobile technology is another catalyst for the digital transformation, as it allows a growing number of consumers to utilize the latest tools in their quest to enjoy content.
The Impact of Digital Transformation in the Media and Entertainment Sector report, produced by Econsultancy in partnership with Adobe, notes that an incredible 97% of media companies surveyed believe that the digital transformation has disrupted their sector. At the same time, only 44% see themselves as being part of the disruption and helping to lead the way to a new approach. To close this gap, we recommend that instead of viewing digitalization as a threat, media enterprises should integrate their content into high-quality user experiences, including customized content, more relevant and personalized advertisements, and other innovative methods to successfully compete in the modern ecosystem.
While there’s no question that the digital transformation has permanently changed the media industry, reports of the death of print have been greatly exaggerated. The reality is that the tangible nature of physical media remains important to a large percentage of consumers.
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last 12 months, which is more than double the 28% share who had read an e-book in the same period, and more than four times the 14% who had listened to an audiobook. Clearly, printed books are alive and well.
The numbers show that physical copies are still an essential part of the magazine landscape, with the top U.S. magazine, AARP The Magazine, having a circulation of over 23 million. And some luxury publishers, such as Monocle, Hodinkee, and Goop, have recently launched new print magazine offerings, further illustrating the continued resilience of the printed word.
According to data collected by Scarborough, a market research company owned by Nielsen, for the 51 largest American newspapers the print edition reaches 28% of circulation areas, while the digital version only reaches 10%. Digital readers don’t stick around. Data from Pew Research Center indicates that people going directly to news websites stay for less than five minutes on average, while readers coming from Facebook leave in less than two minutes. Pew’s data shows that print-only remains the most popular way to digest news, with more than half of the people surveyed reading a printed newspaper every day.
While the digital transformation is definitely happening, print remains an integral part of our communities. However, the fact that print advertising is declining is indisputable. Newspaper ad revenues in the U.S. fell by 12% in 2016, down to $12 billion, while American magazine ad revenues dropped by 9% to $8.5 billion. Ten years ago, newspaper advertising represented $43 billion and magazine ads were at $19 billion, according to research published by Magna Global.
So, yes, the power of print has undoubtedly declined due to the proliferation of digital media and technological advancements. And while traditional print mediums still have their audience, it’s essential that they evolve to ensure a prosperous future.
How can publishers remain relevant?
- Firstly, it’s important to understand and leverage data through human insights. To effectively engage an audience in the current landscape, data must be used not only to serve or optimize content but also to assist in the process of content creation. By developing innovative ways to interpret and apply this data, media companies can use their understanding of consumers to create new products that meet or exceed the expectations of today’s readership.
- The digital transformation cannot be ignored. Instead, media enterprises must develop a clear strategy around mobile, video, social media, analytics, and the user experience.
- By devising agile operating models capable of leveraging the power of digital means for syncing content generation and delivery, the media industry can continue to thrive as consumer expectations shift.
In a world where information is much more accessible but far less reliable than it used to be, the potential for print to thrive remains strong. And the human attachment to physical books, newspapers, and magazines is undeniable. At the same time, it appears clear that digital media is poised to dominate in the future, as the number of purely digital media offerings is multiplying. But always remember: technology isn’t going to kill print media. When used effectively, technology can help digital and print in different ways, allowing both to thrive as we move forward in the ever-changing landscape of the media world.