Many industry watchers are debating whether the printed newspaper has a future. I believe that it does for the foreseeable future - but whether that future extends beyond another ten years is a far trickier question.
Online platforms have unveiled opportunties to engage audiences and raise revenues in ways not previously possible but for many in media, the digital age has created an invidious predicament – margins and profits are under pressure, print circulations are falling and advertising rates are being squeezed. In the words of Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, “the economics of newspaper publishing do not add up” and the only supposed route back to growth lies in the online medium.
So why are so many organisations persisting with business models rooted firmly in the analogue past and not the digital future?
Instinct tells me that some are waiting for some sort of magic bullet; the perfect solution that will work for them all. But of course, there is no single solution and different online content models will work for different publications. It is only by a process of trial and error that publishers will eventually figure out what the ideal content model is for an individual publication.
However, I think that many organisations perceive this issue as more of a short-term threat than a long-term opportunity; thus explaining the degree of reticence which remains.
Much of the inaction is also driven by a fear that that venturing too far online can only serve to cannibalise existing market share in the traditional print world. That’s understandable but embracing the world of digital content is now a business imperative. Early winners will surely be those who demonstrate the nerve to make a fundamental change; who are not afraid to experiment and who can translate that experience into a workable and profitable model. In my view, simply not playing the game isn’t an option.