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Digital at Newsprint’s funeral

Published: 06/05/2016

newspaper, phone and coffee

Is digital putting the final nail in newsprint’s coffin? Perhaps.

As a fully integrated marketing agency based in Oxford, it’s a discussion that’s done the rounds several times in our office, which isn’t bad for something that’s been pronounced dead as many times as it has. Just like the ‘death of SEO’, ‘print is dead’ has almost become a marketing buzzword, despite it still contributing to a significant amount of work for marketing agencies across the country. The latest bulletin to spark the discussion is the closure of The New Day, a print-only based newspaper that started circulation just 10 weeks ago.

But was this sudden failure down to its determination to avoid the digital marketplace? Was it because the way that we consume news is changing? Or was it something else?

Digital publishing

JJ Newspaper print vs. digital  

Print isn’t dead but it’s certainly made its way into intensive care. And The New Day was never, ever going to work, so it’s no surprise that it’s been given the last rites. My experience: I used to be a journalist on a regional newspaper and I was a loyal newspaper buyer. Then I started getting my news online. Then I got a phone which meant I could also get news online while on the move. I stopped buying papers. Then I joined Twitter and found all the breaking news and links out to interesting stories on there. My parents used to get a paper delivered every day. Now they don’t. My Dad subscribes to the tablet edition of The Telegraph. He’s 73. So even the older generation has adapted. There’s still a huge hunger for news. But that “news” now encompasses everything from geopolitics to ridiculous listicles. And you can get it pretty much anywhere, not just the “traditional” broadsheets or tabloids, and certainly not solely via an untried, print-only newcomer like The New Day. And publishers have got an even bigger problem. How do you make money from digital? Because the shift to digital isn’t generally replacing the money lost from the decline in print – and I’m not sure anyone has managed to really find the answer to that.

Michael Cavanagh, Content Director

Print is dying – it’s a statement that’s been rumbling around for many years, spanning across not just the newspaper and magazine industry, but also the book world. Our lives are dictated by digital, as we look to the web to answer our questions, communicate with our friends and even organise our lives. It’s therefore not unexpected that the creation of a tangible product to provide us with something as fast moving as current affairs has become an unprofitable business. Even though we might be sad to lose a part of publishing history, like every other industry, it’s vital to stay relevant and move with the times.

Hannah Grimmette, PR Account Executive

The closure of New Day is no real surprise but the speed is somewhat remarkable. Raising the price of a print-only paper in a world of free, digital news was a move many predicted would fail. Modern attentions move fast, feeding constantly, which is why those publications with significant digital presences seem to fare best. It may be endearing to think that media can survive with no online element but, as we see in the 10-week span of New Day, this is just a romantic notion. The key will be in cultivating platforms to mutually strengthen each other, rather than let an unbalanced focus sink the whole operation.

- Matthew Perryman, Content Executive

Why didn’t The New Day begin a newspaper renaissance? There are many obvious factors. Typically, people are loyal to the newspapers they’d buy and aren’t going to shift their habits for a newspaper that doesn’t offer anything different. And there are countless places we can now get our news, without paying a penny. Many people get their news updates from social. Twitter has latched on to this and just recently has re-categorised itself as ‘news’ in Apple’s app store. Can media survive without digital? With digital we read news as it happens, it’s convenient and up-to-date. Many printed newspapers embrace an online presence with regular social updates that can keep readers engaged and loyal to a particular newspaper. Without an online presence, traditional newspapers cannot continuously update their stories and a ‘hot off the press’ article can very quickly become old news.

- Bethany Lucas, Social Account Executive

Digital Vs. Non-digital marketing

There are many varying views on the subject across our agency but it seems as though we can all agree on something – there’s still room for print, but you just can’t ignore digital. It’s all about what is right for the audience. Relevancy is key and, what’s more, if you fail to keep up with the pace of your audience or to provide anything of real significance or originality then you’re doomed from the start. The Independent, ironically, made headlines just a few months ago in declaring that it would be the first national newspaper to move to a digital-only future. So you might think this would be the future for all newspapers, but what’s significant here is that the decision was based on their readership. Independent.co.uk has seen its monthly audience grow by 33.3% in the last 12 months, seeing it reach a 70 million total of global unique users. Digital certainly doesn’t stand for the death of print; 6.8 million newspapers are sold daily, vinyl has started selling in Sainsbury’s, our bookshelves still stand as a record of our read past, but digital is making us appreciate the beauty in these things. There’s a time and a place for all of it. Where The New Day failed is in failing to really understand its audience, something that no amount of costly TV ads can overcome. Share your view on digital vs. print with us on Twitter.

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