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Is Print Media Dead?

To print or not to print, that is the question...

Some subjects, such as this one, are easier to tackle than others. Whether a mar-comms professional who started out as a journalist or a lifelong marketer, many of us still believe in the value of print.

Even though printer ink still courses through our veins, unfortunately, the data tells us it's time to let go. Like other consumers, we primarily get our news digitally. By the time daily newspapers arrive, headlines are outdated.

Where does that leave consumer marketing? Let's review stats for print media.

Is Print Advertising Still Effective?

Consumer confidence in the media is shaky at best. This information bankruptcy deepened with a pandemic fraught with misinformation and conflicting information.

The digital takeover for the past decade accounts for much of the shifting relationship with print media, as well as:

  • A pattern of distrust based on how information is conveyed.

  • Perceived lack of value for traditional media compared to "free" social media.

  • Options of choosing when, where, and how to consume news with users more likely to read blogs, social newsfeeds, or aggregate news sites than newspapers.

Magazines also fill fewer newsstands. According to Statista, a global market and consumer data company, the average audience for magazines—print and digital—decreased in the US from 691.5 million in December 2019 to 642.5 million in December 2020. Globally, print subscription revenue is projected to decrease by nearly 3% by 2026.

However, print magazines still have a faint heartbeat. Another Statista report shows 222 million magazine readers 18 and older in the US in 2020. That marks a decrease of over six million readers from 2019, which recorded the most extensive readership since 2012.

Despite the gloomy outlook for print media, some consumers remain devoted to newspapers and magazines for reasons such as:

  • Growing up in families where reading the newspaper was a daily ritual.

  • Interested in niche topics such as healthcare.

  • Inspiring covers attract their attention.

  • Support pop culture idols—no different from previous generations of teenagers, Gen Zs want glossies of Harry Styles and K-Pop bands on their walls.

How is print media adapting?

Many print brands now offer digital versions or have gone completely digital. However, retaining consumer interest evolves with ever-changing technology. For instance, the Washington Post recently launched on TikTok to attract younger audiences. It directly targets Gen Z with light-hearted takes on trending news.

Unhealthy finances may have prompted such a bold move. Earlier this year, the Post announced it expects to lose money in 2022 for the first time in years.

According to the Pew Center, total circulation for US newspapers dropped more than 50% since 2015, and advertising revenues declined 40% between 2019 and 2020. While digital circulation increased year-over-year since 2015, readership gains are not keeping up with readership losses.

The switch to digital for locally focused newspapers seems to be making gains. Digital circulation remained steady in 2020 after a long decline, and traffic to local news sites continues to increase. However, advertising revenue for local newspapers in the US dipped below circulation revenue for the first time in 2020.

Where are consumers getting their news and information?

No surprise—consumers go online for almost every need. Pew Research shows consumer preferences for where they get their news have stayed consistent since 2020.

  • Digital devices, 53%

  • Television, 33%

  • Radio, 7%

  • Print, 5%

  • Search internet, 36%

  • In retail stores, 27%

  • Television ads, 25%

  • Word of mouth, 23%

  • Online reviews, 20%

  • Social media, 17%

  • YouTube, 13%

  • Online product videos, 9%

Does print still belong in the marketing mix?

Before pulling the plug on print marketing, understand audiences, particularly in smaller towns. The community newspaper may still be the best way to inform them.

Editorial opportunities keep getting smaller for marketers. Sponsored print content designed to look like editorial presents an option for delivering messages. The rules of marketing have changed, and pay-to-play models continue to grow across all media channels.

Print still offers the best forum for in-depth coverage of topics. Nurturing relationships with print journalist remains key to garnering earned media.

According to Cision's 2022 State of the Media, the number one thing that journalists want from public relations professionals—news announcements and press releases.

While acknowledging the decline of traditional media—both print and broadcast—77% of journalists surveyed by Pew Research would still choose the same career all over again. Letting go for news hounds is still hard to do.

TotalCom is a full-service marketing agency helping brands like yours tell their story to the right audiences. Email Lori Moore or call TotalCom Marketing Communications at 205.345.7363 to see how TotalCom may be the right fit for you

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