"Print is dead, get over it"

Posted on February 22, 2005 
Filed Under Uncategorized

…or so says Sports Illustrated President John Squires at conference in Toronto in November, 2004. This coming from the guy who makes more money from the Swimsuit Print Edition, than any content he’s giving away free online.

In 1999, I wrote a piece entitled “When old media meets new” for CNET, questioning
how local media was keeping up with the sweeping changes in the news delivery business.

On Feb 20th, 2005, in the Washington Post article “Hard News: Daily Papers Face Unprecedented Competition”, quoting Squires, writer Frank Ahrens suggests that, quote:

“The venerable newspaper is in trouble. Under sustained assault from cable television, the Internet, all-news radio and lifestyles so cram-packed they leave little time for the daily paper, the industry is struggling to remake itself.

“Papers are conducting exhaustive surveys to find out what readers want. They are launching new sections, beefing up Web sites and spinning off free community papers and commuter giveaways in hopes of widening their audience. They even are trying to change the very language of the industry, asking advertisers and investors to dwell less on ‘circulation’ — how many papers are sold — and more on ‘readership,’ or the number of people exposed to a paper’s journalism wherever it appears, in print, on the Web or over the air.”

Ahrens cited Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr suggesting “it’s the bulk thing” that is the reason people aren’t buying papers anymore. On Sundays, The Post’s 12 1/2-by-11-inch newspaper can weigh as much as seven pounds.

But, he points out, there’s still a huge revenue gap between Washingtonpost.com and its parent paper:

AD REV: Jan-Sep, 2004, The Post: US$433 million.
AD REV: Jan-Sep, 2004, Washingtonpost.com: US$45 million.

Quote: “The good news for newspaper websites is that, after the 2001 dot-com crash, Internet advertising is roaring back, exceeding previous highs.

“Total Internet ad spending in the first six months of 2004 was 40 percent higher than in the comparable period in 2003, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“The sobering news? Internet advertising still accounts for only about 3 percent of total ad spending each year.”

Comment: certainly given the tragedy of banners and inflated and unproven value of AdWord click-thrus, one wonders how anyone can pronounce that print is dead?

Yes, circulation and print advertising may be eroding, but is readership? Why for instance isn’t “readership” from the blogging community and other online readers via phone, PDA or other means considered a “reader” but evaluated by the vague term “pageview”. The metrics just aren’t in place.

Digitization places pressure on delivery mechanisms. That is the crux of it. And papers will lose out to digitally delivered information that is near-free or faster and more efficient, like what eBay and Craigslist do to classifieds.

Media conglomerates aren’t stupid. They “follow the money”, just like all smart business people do. Some got terribly burnt when they believed all the previous hype that print is dead, and failed miserably at ambitious web ventures.

The second wave of madness seems to be drawing near.

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