THE BLOG
15/09/2012 18:54 BST | Updated 14/11/2012 05:12 GMT

The Next Big Thing? - Rewriting the Rules of Print Journalism

The debate around the fall of the print media industry has been raging for some time now. TV and radio threw the first punches and the internet went for the knockout blow. Closings and layoffs are now a regular occurrence and it is generally accepted that the news business has struggled to capitalise on the rise of digital.

'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that focuses on small businesses, start-up brands and talented people in the UK. Whether they are quirky, practical, pioneering or downright bizarre, this blog shines the spotlight on what could be the next big thing...

The BBC's show 'The Thick Of It' returned to our screens this week and I'm a massive fan. One of the show's main protagonists is foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (played by Peter Capaldi) who is the feared Director of Communications. His job often finds him coming into contact with the print press, who he constantly lambasts for being irrelevant and a dying breed (I may have used nicer words than he did). So are newspapers and magazines only good for recycling statistics?

The debate around the fall of the print media industry has been raging for some time now. TV and radio threw the first punches and the internet went for the knockout blow. Closings and layoffs are now a regular occurrence and it is generally accepted that the news business has struggled to capitalise on the rise of digital. There are some notable exceptions to this rule - the Daily Mail's website is one of the biggest in the world, with 5.3m visitors a day as of January (it's impossible not to read a story about a seven-year-old boy trapped in a silent world...until his cat Jessi taught him to speak...)

Factors such as falling revenue from print ads and the emergence of online-only news platforms are also fuelling the fire (he says, typing away on The Huffington Post). The ways in which we all consume media is simply evolving and let's face it, it is easier to peruse the BBC online than attempt to read a goliath newspaper on a crowded Tube train.

ABC, the industry body for media measurement, publishes monthly figures about newspaper circulation. In July, the trend shows that all but one of the UK's major national newspapers are in decline year-on-year. Even with this year's Jubilee celebrations and Olympic Games, newspaper owners have struggled to claw back their sales.

However, there are people who say that the sort of in-depth analysis and opinion that you can read in a newspaper or magazine is worth the money. And the industry is finding other ways to fight back. Johnston Press has re-launched 23 print titles in the first half of this year, changing some from dailies to weeklies, in a bid to refresh its portfolio. And Independent Print launched 'i' two years ago, at just 20p. Figures show that 'i' is growing year-on-year by over 52%.

But the push into Twitter profiles, RSS feeds, live video-streaming and similar digital territories does appear to be unrelenting. Can those left in the print media evolve with it? Yes if Boat Magazine is anything to go by, a bi-annual print publication born out of a creative studio based at London's King's Cross.

Boat Magazine is, in essence, a completely new arrival to the print media scene; and an exciting one at that. The team of writers are nomadic and they temporarily base themselves in cities around the world that have stories to tell. Cities like Sarajevo and Detroit.

Creative Director Davey Spens describes how it works: "We pick our studio up and relocate to the city we're writing about, inviting contributors to join us to collaborate and work with those locals that we meet. We find stories by spending long enough in a city and digging around, meeting people, following trails, chatting. We spend at least three weeks in each location, with no fixed plans or agenda. We keep our ears to the ground before we go out so we have some sort of idea of what stories we might find, but most of it happens when we get there".

Spens goes on to talk about how he wanted to be different from the sort of hit-and-run style journalism that he thinks is quite prevalent these days, with print media sometimes misrepresenting cities and not giving them the journalistic attention that they deserve. He believes that Boat Magazine offers the sort of in-depth analysis and story-telling that people still value in print.

And this completely new style of print journalism looks to be working: "Boat Magazine grows from issue to issue; we're still blown away by how it has been received. We never really anticipated people would buy it in such numbers; it's just something we felt passionately about and really wanted to do".

Spens and his team have just picked their studio up and moved it to Athens. Who knows what they'll find...