Not a week goes by when there isn't another nail in the coffin of the print media industry. In the past few weeks we have seen the Daily and Sunday Mirror newspapers merge leading to a number of job losses, the Express group beginning its £5 million cost cutting programme with a head-count reduction and now the monthly trade magazine for journalists, the Press Gazette is moving to become a quarterly title. Last week also saw the first phase roll-out whereby a number of regional titles owned by Johnston Press are shifting from daily to weekly print. These include local newspapers such as the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and the Peterborough Evening Telegraph, once seen as 'must-read' titles for residents wanting to know what was going on around them.
When even Rupert Murdoch states that printed newspapers have only another 20 years before they disappear altogether is it time for PR agencies to accept the inevitable and rethink our strategies for the future? I was fortunate recently to attend a presentation by a famous news anchor who asked the audience (primarily students) how they consumed news. The generational differences were clearly marked. The 'baby boomers' were still purchasing a newspaper and reading it daily, whilst 'Generation Z' were entirely consuming online or via television. Those in the middle, like myself seemed to obtain news from the most diverse sources, combining both print and digital. Purchasing daily newspapers feels like an extravagance when the same content is available for free, and all you are looking for is news and straight editorial, but treating myself to the weekend papers is a routine I won't be giving up anytime soon.
So where do the opportunities lie for PR companies? They still exist, but a more bespoke approach is required. Firstly, who is reading newspapers? The Daily Telegraph, for example, has a predominantly ABC1 readership, many of whom are over 65, so it makes sense to tailor campaigns accordingly to suit these audiences.
Magazines also offer PR opportunities. Deloitte's sixth annual State of the Media Survey from earlier this year found 88 % of people who read magazine content in 2011 preferred to do so in print - a proportion unchanged since 2010. This makes sense to me - feature and image-led content is far more enjoyable consumed in a visually appealing print format. A number of online brands have also gone the other way - fashion site asos.com launched a spin-off print magazine in 2007 and more recently York lifestyle and news site One & Other announced it will be introducing a hard copy offering.
There is also a plethora of contract publishers who manage content on behalf of brands. Relevant, non-competing content will be welcomed by editors wanting to reach a highly targeted demographic. This also applies to in-flight and train magazines that have a captive audience. The in-flight magazine for British Airways, 'High Life' has a monthly circulation of over 180,000 and whilst the criteria for editorial may be strict, the return is highly significant.
Whilst the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade or so, this does not mean the death of print media just yet. The UK has an ageing population and older readers are more likely to read newspapers and magazines, and are also more likely to have the disposable income to purchase products and services. Online PR is vital and likely to become more so with increased ownership of smartphones and tablets, but this competitive landscape will hopefully lead to separating the wheat from the chaff. There are still hundreds of thousands of consumers reading magazines and newspaper, and I for one am not ready to discount the power of print media just yet.