Digital is presented as a shiny toy that marketers are obsessed with, alongside a prediction they'll come to their senses and rediscover the allure of print. However, if you really want to know where this is all headed, just look at the brand that is chosen to say how print really does have a future -- Sky. The brand goes to great lengths to say how traditional channels have a big future but that's enough of the talk for now, though, let's look at the figures.
Sky is the country's biggest print advertiser. According to Nielsen, it spent GBP47.7m in 2015, but this was down nearly 16% on 2014 and down more than a fifth -- 22.4% -- compared to 2013. If the poster boy for how great your channel is turns out to be spending nearly a quarter less on that channel than just two years ago, it's not the biggest ringing endorsement, is it?
It doesn't matter how brave a face the newspaper industry puts on it -- readership levels have plummeted. Sure, they can say a particular issue has done well, such as the announcement of the Brexit vote, but typically ABC figures are through the floor. They can also talk about newspaper ads being viewed for longer than online ads and that print is an immersive medium where the viewer is focussed on content. However, it could just as easily be said that it's a channel that has no way of activating any of the interest it generates, like a PC or a smartphone, and it's ultimately a sit-back medium rather than a lean forward one. For awareness, then, it holds promise without a doubt.
Predictions that print could stop falling this year or next and allow publishers to enjoy rising digital revenue without having to look over their backs may well be true. The problem is that when print does plateau, it will be at a far lower level than it used to be and the rise in digital revenue will not plug the gap between where print used to be and where it is now. That's just simple economics.
Here's another worry for print publishers, as if they didn't have enough on their plates. Study after study shows that people are increasingly discovering news through social media and are starting to lose the habit of going straight to a news brand's home page to check the day's stories. Whether it's links on Facebook posted by friends, Twitter moments or Apple News, people are becoming used to being directed to stories by third parties and often these news sources are digital start-ups, such as Vice or the Huffington Post.
Sure, print has a future, but it is vastly diminished compared to where it was a decade ago. It doesn't matter how much of a brave face you put on it -- print is in the midst of a major decline. It can point to studies that say what a great medium it is, but if you want to know the only truth that matters, just follow the money.