At the end of 2012, when Newsweek magazine ceased printing and moved all content online, some media observers declared print was “dead.” Predictions were that, within a decade, all content would be online, accessed by on-the-go readers using tablets and other smart devices.
Immediacy, accessibility, searchability, interactivity, embedded video – all available for free – give online media huge competitive advantages over traditional print. Early in the online vs. print debate, magazine and newspaper publishers questioned how they could hold onto paid subscribers if they gave away the content on their website. Publication websites were mostly placeholders, where past issues could be warehoused along with media kits and subscription information.
Now, more publications are making their websites their primary delivery method. The shift from traditional print to web forces publishers to rethink every aspect of their business. How can they continuously produce fresh content? Where will the revenue come from to support a staff of writers, editors, designers and salespeople? Can they afford to create two versions of the publication? How will they build in interactivity? Who will monitor and respond to readers’ comments? How will they use social media to extend their reach?
One of the magazines to which I contribute articles from our members made this transition in the past year. Now, instead of submitting a bimonthly column for the print magazine, we are posting a weekly blog written by our members. The editors then choose among the blog posts for the print edition, based on web traffic and knowledge of their print audience.
I believe the publishers that reinvent themselves as online content providers will be the ones that flourish in the future. They will examine traditional business models and develop new ways to attract readers and advertisers. They will provide a nonstop flow of information that it is timely and relevant. They will engage readers in conversations that add perspective to the content. Their websites will be multimedia, multidimensional vehicles for news, opinion, entertainment and connectivity.
Print isn’t dead, but I think it’s safe to say it’s on the endangered list. Start charging your smart devices.
Addendum: Shortly after I finished writing this blog, the new owners of Newsweek announced they would resume publishing a print version of the magazine in January or February. The New York Times reported that the magazine will focus on in-depth, global reporting and rely on subscribers rather than advertisers for revenue, which will result in higher subscription rates. I look forward to seeing how this develops.