Alas Poor Print, I Knew Him Well

Just three days after the nation celebrated the 400th anniversary of the great bard's death, which handily coincides with St George's Day, it seems only fitting to quote Hamlet when looking at the truly sorry statistics around the demise of print. While all other channels are giving cause for high fives all around, print is down 11% against an average rise in UK ad spend of just over 7%. While the UK ad industry grows at its fastest rate since the global slowdown, print has firmly strapped on its divers' boots.

Another way of looking at this is the comparison between the furor over the risk to 4,000 jobs at Tata's Port Talbot steelworks. The public is rightly concerned, and it has become a national news story in which the Government is expected to contribute to an eventual rescue package. Meanwhile, 6,000 jobs amounting to around four in every five journalists working in local newspapers have been lost in the last decade. Remember, that is just local journalism -- not the many nationals and magazine jobs that have gone as publishers face the inconvenient truth that print sales are in decline, so revenue is in decline and digital ads do not make up the shortfall.

Hence, newspaper and magazines are seeing good digital ad revenue growth -- 14% on the nationals to be precise. The trouble is that a quick calculation shows that digital only accounts for around a fifth (nationals) or a quarter (magazines) of total revenue. The other four-fifths or three-quarters comes from the print part which is down 11% and so dwarves any gains made in digital.

Sadly, print's losses will continue, and at some point an equilibrium will be met where print remains stable and any losses will be made up for by a rise in digital. The overall pot -- when that happens -- will be significantly smaller than it is today, and a fraction of what it was in 2010 which is the starting point of today's AA/Warc figures showing the biggest gains in ad spend for the past five years.

The real tragedy is that like Hamlet print is dying without having killed off the interlopers and stepped into their shoes. Its jobs pages have been sucked into job boards, its property sections are being replaced by Zoopla and Rightmove and the mega brands that would previously have always put print at the heart of a campaign have had their heads turned by digital -- and half of all that spend will on search, primarily to Google. There are some honourable exceptions, such as DMG and Trinity Mirror owning successful recruitment sites and The Guardian still living off the proceeds of selling 

In general, print isn't where the budgets are -- and it has only partially managed to move where budget are going. Like the dead court jester, Yorick, its "flashes of merriment that were want to set the table on a roar" are a thing of a fading past.

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