What is black, white and read all over? Not an old fashioned print newspaper it would seem…
Last week it was announced the last two remaining journalists would be shutting up shop on London’s Fleet Street, which has for decades been synonymous with UK print journalism (and, the home of Sweeny Todd’s barber shop). Dubbed the ‘street of shame’ it was the home of the UK’s first print newspaper the Daily Courant, which was first published on 11 March 1702. At its height, reaching Fleet Street was the pinnacle of any journalist’s career with every national newspaper and several provincial newspapers having an office within a half-mile radius.
Although the closure of Dundee-based Sunday Post’s London office is as much to do with the rising office rents in this part of the Capital, it does raise the question of whether there is still a place for print journalism in an ever-changing online world? Particularly when coupled with the recent demise of the Independent and failure of Trinity Mirror’s New Day, which ceased publication just two months after its launch.
In a world when we are constantly online, whether it be on an smart phone, tablet or computer, we cannot escape the internet as a news source. You always know that you are only a few clicks away from getting the lowdown on a story, it is simply quicker and easier to digest (and share) than print. Whether it be scrolling through twitter or monitoring emails, we are constantly receiving news. Similarly, the idea of a story breaking on the front page is already outdated for the next generation who are growing up with social media and the internet, never having to embrace print to find out what was going on in the world. As time passes it will inevitably be these people that come to rule the world.
However, from a publishers point of view, print media is and, will continue to be, more profitable. An online user just isn’t as valuable as a print customer. Take the example of The Daily Mail, who’s MailOnline is the most visited English-language newspaper website in the world with a click rate increase of 550% since 2009 and over 14 million daily users. However, it only brought in £73m of revenue last year compared to £449m from its 1.7 million print customers. Titles like The Times and The Financial Times have enjoyed success online by adopting a “can’t beat them, join them” approach and introducing pay walls and internet subscription methods, but this is not a model that works for all. The Sun, for example found that its now defunct paywall held it the brand back as its rivals expanded their own free online services. Low cost and free papers also continue to rise in popularity; after all the Evening Standard continues to have the highest circulation of any daily national.
Print media still carries a significant amount of clout and at a time when the morning radio and television channels feature a segment on the morning’s headlines, its importance can be neither ignored, nor forgotten. It also offers a far greater level of analysis that can uncover the story behind the headlines – something many would suggest is what real journalism is all about. It is perhaps for this reason as well as the level of credibility you just don’t get with online, that we still prioritise print coverage for our clients alongside regular online hits.
Nevertheless, the internet is not going to go away and it is clear that the painful transition from the good old pre-internet days is far from over. To combat this, publishing houses need to ensure they are striking the right balance between quick and shareable online content, with thought provoking print content. Otherwise, it cannot be that long before another famous title goes the same way as one of Fleet Street’s famous barber’s clients…