Critical Thinking: How Can Publishers Change the Perception That Print is Dying?

CriticalThinkingJuly16 web

How can publishers change the perception that print is dying?”

Alex Delaney-Gesing_web Alex Delaney-Gesing, 21, senior, Kent State University (Kent, Ohio)

Delaney-Gesing is a magazine journalism major. She is currently serving as the summer editor for Kent State’s student-run newspaper, The Kent Stater, and writes for the university’s student magazine, The Burr.

Where did this notion that print is on the decline come from? The rise of the digital age? Newspapers and magazines’ formatting has now expanded to include Web and mobile. However, that doesn’t mean these mediums are replacing the original. In fact, a study conducted by Nielsen found that 51 percent of newspaper readership is exclusively in print.

Today’s digital age consists of instantaneous news. The latest topics and events are now just fingertips away from the average reader. In response, the content of print has had to change. The hard, breaking news that used to grace the front pages and had readers grappling to get ahold of the daily newspaper is no longer possible.

These stories—the ones that could change entirely by the end of the day—don’t belong in publications that now only print a few times a week. Instead, print has softened in terms of the types of stories it contains. It has needed to, in order to keep with the new age. Breaking news has become mainly reserved for online and television, where updates can be made within minutes.

Newspapers and magazines may have reduced their distribution, but that doesn’t mean the content of their publications should be diminished. Rather than the basic ‘‘who, what, when, where, why and how’’ typically associated with hard news, print publications now have the opportunity to delve deeper into the types of stories they produce: in-depth pieces, topics not necessarily associated with the latest politics and sports updates.

With decreased circulation, these stories of higher quality and detail need to catch readers’ eyes, as well as grab and hold on to their attention. They’re the ones that cause a reader to stop what they’re doing and take a few minutes out of their usual, fast-paced day to just pause and read.

Print is evolving, not dying. A door has been opened for the original media form to explore and build on for an audience that isn’t going anywhere because even with the sudden rise of the Internet and mobile for news publishing and gathering, there’s still nothing quite like turning the pages of a magazine or newspaper.

 

Darren Edwards_webDarren M. Edwards, 35, managing editor, The Southern Utah Independent (St. George, Utah)

Edwards is the former founding editor of The Creative, a creative arts magazine in Southern Utah. He is also the author of “Utah Sport Climbing: Stories and Reflections on the Bolting of the Beehive State,” which will be published in January 2017.

First, let’s look at the reality. Print isn’t dying. According to Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, recent years have seen an increase in new print launches that far outweigh the number of print publications folding during the same period.

It is notable when a major print publication tanks, but much like “Batman v Superman,” tanking didn’t indicate the death of the superhero movie industry. Newsweek moving to an online only format isn’t evidence that the print industry is dying. (Editor’s note: Newsweek stopped printing in 2012, but returned to print in 2014).

Successful sales teams have an arsenal of arguments available for hesitant advertising clients. These arguments stretch from the fact that readers are more focused while engaging a print publication to the coffee table appeal that adds longevity to print ads.

As editors, our most effective tool for changing the perception that print is dead is to just keep doing what we’re doing.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but since the argument that print is dying (or dead) is invalid—as proven by our continued existence—our most effective strategy is to keep putting out quality content, the kind of content readers expect when they pick up a print publication, the kind of content that continues to give readers the impression that print is a more trustworthy source of information than the Web, the kind of content that doesn’t bombard readers but carefully frames each article, ad, image, and idea.

It’s also important to look at how we talk about our industry. I’ve overheard publishers, editors, and writers bemoan the state of print publications when they personally have a difficult quarter.

Allowing ourselves to lean on the crutch of this false notion not only hinders us from finding out why our personal publications may have struggled for a period, but it also reinforces the erroneous idea that print has one foot in the grave.

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Published: July 14, 2016

8 thoughts on “Critical Thinking: How Can Publishers Change the Perception That Print is Dying?

  • July 14, 2016 at 4:50 am
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    As it has done with so many industries, the Internet has solved problems facing publishers. Take sharing content for example. It you read an article and want to share it with five colleagues, friends and/or family, you can cut out the article, fax it or copy and mail it, both cumbersome time-consuming options. Or if you’re web savvy, you can find the article online (often time-consuming as well) and cut and paste the link and send it out. Also not the most elegant solution. To make print more useful to readers, publishers need to bring their offline and online publications closer. For example, publishers can use a service like ours to add a simple link to every article: Share this article with a friend in seconds: pub.info/123 — the “123” is reserved for the online version of a print article. When a reader types in this link (it’s fictitious and therefore does not work), he/she is taken to the article in question in one step in a few seconds! Sharing tools on most sites make it easy to share that link with others. This simple solution gives readers a value added tool that makes print more valuable. I’m sure there are many others in the same vein.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2016 at 8:03 am
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    “Newspapers and magazines may have reduced their distribution, but that doesn’t mean the content of their publications should be diminished.”

    She needs to get a business course or two under her belt before she graduates. If distribution is decreased, revenue is decreased, so who’s going to pay for all that content she touts?

    “Print isn’t dying. According to Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, recent years have seen an increase in new print launches that far outweigh the number of print publications folding during the same period.”

    I think that irrelevant observation is in the category of whistling past the graveyard. Print circulation in the top twenty newspapers dropped by half from 2004 to 2014. Web views did not nearly make that up, not to mention that web views don’t generate much revenue. Classifieds are gone to Craigslist and not coming back. A twenty-something moviegoer would literally never even consider using a newspaper to select a movie. Brick-and-mortar retail is slipping because of online retailing, reducing their advertising in locals. I’ve noticed that most of the newspaper racks that used to sit around in front of stores and restaurants are gone. The money to support robust print is gone, and it’s not coming back.

    Perhaps worst of all, the quality of newspaper and magazine content has slipped to the level that educated people laugh at it. Our local newspaper is full of typos, repeated content, non-sequiturs, and reprinted press releases used to fill up space. Why would anyone spend their money on that?

    Print is dying. It’s fantasy to think otherwise. The question is not whether print is dying, but what replaces it. Based on this wish-fulfillment “analysis”, the authors are not even ready to face reality and start figuring out what that replacement might look like.

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  • July 14, 2016 at 8:17 pm
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    Dave has it nailed cold. Even in breaking news, print has its place. Online, you’ll get the story that John Doe was arrested for murder, or has a warrant out for his arrest, or whatever. But will online tell you that the crime should never have happened because he was released from prison without probation afterwards by mistake–probation, which he would have violated and been held without bond for violating had the error not been made, so the killing would never have happened? Or a guy was wanted on a felony warrant and had even visited with the local police chief the week before his first bank robbery, but the chief didn’t know that he was wanted just 17 miles away for a felony because even though the people there knew he was in the neighboring town daily, nobody bothered to call and say, “Hey, if you see old so-and-so there’s a warrant out for him–if you run into him, run a records check. We’ll be glad to pick him up.”? Print needn’t limit itself to soft–it needs to do in-depth hard, and follow-up on the points where the real hard news is and doesn’t change hourly. Those are the things people really want to know. It needs to find ways to make the world make sense to the reader, rather than having the reader feeling constantly bombarded by a barrage of unconnected, poorly explained, never again mentioned tidbits of “news” that does nothing to help better help him or her better understand a fast-changing, confusing world.

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  • July 15, 2016 at 5:47 am
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    The best salesperson for killing print is large corporate daily news organizations. They felt they could give up the printed piece go online and make more money. Yet community newspapers across the country that focus local, promote local and continue to have a strong presence in their communities are surviving. The biggest loser for the decline in print is the readers, our communities and a nation. Today Watergate wouldn’t have happened because there isn’t any large newspaper group that would be willing to invest the people and their organization to do the level of investigation that was done so many years ago. Yet community newspapers continue to focus on what they know best – their communities and it’s paying off for them and their readers.

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  • July 15, 2016 at 11:20 am
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    Find me one trend line critical to the business, circulation, readership, trust, retail revenue, classified revenue, that isn’t in a death spiral.

    51 percent get news exclusive in print … there was a time when that was 100 percent, and even after the birth of broadcast it was between 70 and 80 percent, until digital hit.

    And of those 51 percent, about 98 percent are only a decade or two short of the grave.

    Anybody who thinks there is a future of more than a decade (I give it less than five years) for print is fooling themselves.

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    • July 19, 2016 at 7:14 am
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      From what I can see, both writers above are far from “a decade or two short of the grave”. For the last 25 years I have been hearing that “print is dead” but here we are today still talking about how the digital world will end it once and for all. There is no doubt that print needs to evolve and I have no reason to believe that it will not rise to the challenge. The simple fact that, two writers under 35 years of age (Millennials) are supporting the premise that it is not dead illustrates the point that though its weight has been diminished it will still play a significant role for the faceable future.

      Reply
  • July 18, 2016 at 5:52 am
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    Howard, nothing in our lives is like it used to be. If you’re longing for the “good old days,” well, that just isn’t going to happen. But as long as there are Little League programs, high school sports, people getting married/divorced/arrested, community papers will always be relevant and read.

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  • July 18, 2016 at 4:23 pm
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    “But as long as there are Little League programs, high school sports, people getting married/divorced/arrested, community papers will always be relevant and read.”

    I don’t see where this whole discussion in the comments about community papers applies much to the article. It isn’t about such things; the word “community” does not appear in the article.

    Besides, the community paper thing will only last as long as we have grandparents who still think stuff printed on paper is somehow more important than what’s posted on Facebook. Community papers will succumb to online replacements too. The economics will drive it.

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