Print media circulation figures have been in decline for many years. Since the turn of the century, readership of the national print media has gone into freefall, and it’s now decreasing at a consistent rate of between 7% and 12% per year in the UK.
These are facts. You can’t argue with them. Or can you?
I recently carried out some digital media training for a communications agency, the introduction to which was devised to set the scene around exactly why attention to digital media is increasingly important. I showed the graph below (source).
This displays the rapid decline in the circulation of four UK national newspapers to mid 2015 and predicts trend lines moving forward. Since this was published, the Independent has ceased to be a print publication at all, as the graph predicted.
On the face of it, the evidence seems rather damning.
However, the graph prompted a rather vociferous reaction from one of my senior level delegates. His view was that it doesn’t tell the whole picture and that the influence of print media is far greater than online media forms.
Circle the Wagons!
To the latter point, maybe…maybe not. Personally I’m unconvinced about the argument that people pay more attention to what’s in print even if they tend to spend more time with it. But either way, that does not alter the fact that, influential or not, print media is on its last stand.
Unless you quite simply refuse to accept the evidence, of course. My delegate confronted me with the challenge that: “That is simply not correct, is it? You cannot stand here and say there will be no newspapers in three or fours years’ time.”
I responded by saying that the evidence says otherwise but that while, no, I cannot say for certain that print newspapers will be dead by 2020, you equally cannot say for certain that print newspapers will still be in existence by the end of 2020. Which was met with: “I can categorically say that say that they will.”
This little conflict set me thinking, and in the days after this training took place, I did some more research to check my facts. But wherever I turned I came back to the same conclusion from multiple sources. This graph from themediabriefing.com is probably the best example of what I found:
So I stand by it. The vast majority of daily newspapers are likely to be dead by the end of 2020.
Stop and think about the implications of this for a moment: there will be no newspapers in less than four years’ time.
From either an individual or a company perspective:
If media sell-ins still form the bulk of your activity, you’re in trouble.
If getting a mention in print is the highlight of your week, you’re in trouble.
If you don’t fully understand how PR impacts search rankings, you’re in trouble.
If you think digital media and social media are essentially the same thing, you’re in trouble.
If you think digital creativity means coming up with a hashtag, you’re in trouble.
If you measure digital by follower numbers and reach, you’re in trouble.
If digital is an add-on rather than a fundamental part of your planning process, you’re in trouble.
Oh, and also, if you think that it’s simply a case of switching from print news coverage to online news coverage, you’re in trouble. That ship has sailed. Online news media has just a 6% share of our total media attention (source: Global Web Index).
The stark reality of what’s happening in today’s media forms the backdrop of everything that will be talked about at the upcoming Digital Download London. Among others, there are sessions on planning for digital media, SEO, influencer marketing and future communications trends.
If you want to stay relevant, you might want to consider grabbing yourself a ticket quick before they all go. Or not…it’s your funeral 😉