Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Print Publishing Woes

I came across this yesterday. I've been out of newspapers for a few years now, but it still pains me to see headlines like that. And, it's the second time in the last two years that they have cut 100 jobs. It's also coming on top of a pay cut that happened earlier this year.

The article mentions that the layoffs are because of lost advertising revenue, but it doesn't mention anything about circulation. Of course, advertising revenue is tied to circulation numbers, but that doesn't mean that the whole dynamic isn't changing. In the past, a newspaper or magazine could keep its advertising revenues high as long as it had a large enough circulation. Now, it's probably possible to keep circulation numbers steady and still lose ad revenue.

If you need to advertise, I can imagine that the value of print advertising is likely falling because of the easy availability of online advertising and the lower cost for an audience of the same size. I've written a number of articles that compare the potential audience number of a site and it's advertising costs vs. the same audience for a print publication and its cost to advertise. It's just no contest anymore. Publishing Web content is far less expensive than publishing print content, leading to a glut of online publications. Add to that the growing number of people who are online and you have an enormous opportunity for advertising while keeping those costs low. That may be part of what's sinking our newspapers and magazines right now. Or not.

But, even with circulation numbers going down, it's certainly possible that the ease and cost of online advertising is taking a lot of value out of spending a fortune for print advertising. Right now, the print and Web publishing worlds continue to butt heads to keep circulation numbers and advertisers. In the end, I have the feeling that print advertising will be a very different thing than it is now. I can see it someday evolving away from national advertising and becoming more valued for targeted local advertising. Of course, then national magazines would have a hard time surviving and would to come out with a number of regional editions in order to grab that local advertising. Arrrg, I'm way over thinking this when I have work to do.


Mikal said...

I've been thinking about this a lot recently too...the print method for newspapers is pretty evidently on the way out.

With the rise of ebook readers like the Kindle and Nook, do you think newspapers and magazines will evolve to utilize subscriptions for those devices? Or is that model doomed to failure as well?

Using a subscription-only method might work because the costs of printing and distribution are virtually eliminated. However, I understand that most revenue for newspapers comes from advertising, not subscriptions, so this may not work. Anyway, any thoughts on this?

L. Shepherd said...

There are already quite a few newspapers that have digital subscriptions for Kindle. I believe they are pretty popular, so it does look like it may be moving in that direction.

I think the tactile experience of handling a newspaper will linger for awhile, but after a generation or two people won't remember that experience and will turn to their readers instead.