The purported migration from print to digital platforms and long-promised demise of “dead tree and paper media” never seemed to get here as expected. But now that tablet and smartphone touchscreens give many people more credible non-print modes of content consumption, the “death of print” has re-emerged as a cultural trope.
Not so fast, say publishers. In its annual survey of publications, the Audit Bureau of Circulations finds that confidence in print’s survival remains high -- albeit a tad more shaky than in the past. Among the newspaper and magazine publications polled by ABC in late 2011, which audits print and digital circulation, only 12% agreed that their brands would be “digital-only” within the next five years. Still, that is twice the number who agreed just a year before.
The stalwarts of print remain, well, stalwart. A year ago 34% of publications strongly disagreed that they would be digital-only in five years -- precisely the same share as the year before. But it is in that middle ground where some slippage is apparent. In 2010 44% just “disagreed” with the digital-only proposition, but by last year it had dropped a bit to 42%.
The biggest shift in confidence comes in those who are now unsure. While a year ago 18% declared a neutral position on the matter, now only 12% do. In other words, the uncertainty over some inevitable print to digital migration has moved more toward certainty among those who had been undecided.
To be sure, 76% of publishers overall still believe their titles will be in print in five years.