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Should publishers move from Print to Online?

The answer is yes and No, it all depends. There has been much talk over the last few years, in fact probably the last decade, about the ‘death’ of print publications in the UK with many of the major news groups and publishers in the UK now operating a ‘digital first’ policy for many of their titles.

Something which, if you haven’t seen already, we’ve just helped the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce to do with the first ever digital edition of their quarterly magazine Business Life.

It all started with the idea pioneered by certain media groups that went against the traditional paid model of buying your daily or weekly paper at the newsagent  to the rise of ‘freesheets’ like The Metro, Shortlist and Stylist, among others, that could be picked up at a train station on your way to work.

This then moved to the digital first model with many news sources such as the Daily Mail, Sky News and the Daily Mirror creating news that could be ‘broken’ online first before hitting the print and broadcast mediums they were using. This was to cater for the always-on lifestyle that many of us lead these days with 24 hours access to the latest news relevant to us, direct from our smartphone or tablet.

In fact, according to data from Ofcom, in 2018, Internet news sources were the second most (TV was first) used platform for consuming news, with 64% of UK adults saying it was the first place they went. What is even more interesting is that among those aged 16-24, the internet was the most used platform with 82% saying it was their first choice for news.

Within that, the data also showed that social media is the most popular type of online news, used by 44% of UK adults, compared to 37% that use any other type of internet source.

But why is this?

It’s simple really. Digital publishers are seen to be more flexible and more real time, publishing news in minutes rather than hours or even days. Plus, with media agencies like Zenith reporting that global online video consumption is predicted to grow by an average of 9 minutes per day each year until 2020, it’s no surprise that many media titles are looking to online as the channel of the future

So surely that means that going digital is the only way to go, right?

Not necessarily, in fact, some sectors are reporting promising strong numbers for their print titles.

Publishers who show real success in print are focusing on specific sectors and what could be described as niche audiences. These are the people that want to see their industry or topic of interest printed in full technicolour and don’t mind paying for it. They are also willing to wait for it as magazines cut down their frequency from monthly to quarterly or even bi-annual.

So what’s the answer?

Be smart, look at what the numbers are telling you. Who are your readers and how do they consume what you create?

Also, you need to actually speak to your audience. It is very easy these days to gauge a general opinion by creating polls on social media and twitter and while these may not be 100% reliable, they can help to build out the wider picture to ensure that the right decision is made.

If your audience want more video content and links to sources and further stories, the chances are that digital is the way to go. If they want the feel of printed content in their hands and to pour over it with a coffee away from their screens then stick with or indeed move to print.

So the answer is that there is no one size fits all solution. Stay in print, go digital only, do both, but whatever you do, do what is right for the publication and the audience it is meant for and the chances are that you will succeed.

So, if you want to see how we helped the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce move over to digital then take a look here. And, if you want some help taking a publication into the digital age then head over to our contact page and come and talk to us.

Neil Watts

Media and Communications Director

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