With all the communal hand-ringing that surrounds the world of print (and which the press itself seems to masochistically enjoy reporting on with almost ghoulish delight), you’d be forgiven
for thinking this storied and noble medium is doomed to an inevitable and imminent death.
While there have been turbulent times endured, and there will be more ahead, not all the apparently bad news is equally negative. And much has been exaggerated. After all, plenty of print businesses still make margins far in excess of businesses in other industries.
As I’ve said before, the print industry probably has more opportunity in front of it now than ever before. While some readers have defected from the printed product to the online realm -- and not always exclusively to the same news and
lifestyle brands -- many retain the offline relationship, too. They consume across platforms.
The nature of the print product should make it ideal for leveraging the non-linear, interactive and increasingly tactile world of electronic media.
Print was the first touch “screen” media -- assuming you omit cave paintings. Paper and screens are both just display interfaces.
Print was the first DVR -- many people read their magazine or paper of choice in ways other than front to back, section by section. Many start with the sports section, others start with the main news, head to sports and then to the TV pages. That’s pretty nonlinear if you ask me.
Much of the printed media available to us is available On Demand also. Sure, a magazine may come out once a week or once a month, but we read it any time after first obtaining it.
Print has always been highly mobile.
That said, one would think that the cultural shift to electronic media with all the wonders of time-shifting, interactivity, On Demand access, mobility etc., would be easier than it seems to have been.
But the difficulty lays in the fact that all the factors listed above relate much more to how readers have used the printed media rather than to how publishers have perceived themselves.
In recent years, many of the more forward-looking publishers have begun to realign thinking and practice to take advantage of these apparently latent characteristics across platforms. They have leveraged their brands and reputations rather than thinking paper first, reader second.
It’s never really been about paper. It’s always been about the nature and quality of the content and the relationship readers have with the publisher brand. Today, publishers are in a better position than ever to throw off the shackles of print and become truly platform-neutral as they leverage both the ultimate cross-platform offering (news, information and entertainment) across a multitude of devices with a dazzling array of functionalities.
Such devies are set to deliver the kind of user experience paper never could -- not to mention the data the electronic channel provides back to base.