Print Media: A Thing of the Past?

Newspapers B&W (3)

When I was a kid, a huge part of our Sundays focused around the Sunday paper. My mom got the financial section and the coupons, my dad got news and sports, and my sisters and I argued over entertainment and cartoons.

Now that I’m grown, I don’t even get the Sunday paper anymore. I can find everything I need to know online and on the local news, which I can stream on my Android device. There’s no need to fight with anyone over who gets the news first, either — my family members all have Internet access and smartphones of their own.

And although I love to read as much as ever, it’s been over a year since I actually packed a book to take out of town with me. Instead, I take my Kindle, which is loaded with over a hundred books. Whether you have a NEMA 1-rated device or the oldest version of NOOK, you probably get at least some of your information and entertainment digitally as well.

Does all this mean that print is dead? Maybe. And maybe not.

Schedule the Funeral

There’s no question that print media has taken a beating over the past couple of years. Borders Books and Music, the second largest bookstore chain in the United States, went into bankruptcy and closed its doors forever in 2011. Analysts placed at least part of the blame on the fact that Borders had no digital platform.

In 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica announced its decision to stop publishing its print edition in favor of focusing on its digital material. That same year, Huffington Post listed the newspaper industry as the industry facing the greatest risk of disappearing, and the Denver Post published an article stating that, for the first time in history, online ad spending was expected to exceed print ad spending.

In the meantime, 28 percent of Americans — almost one in three — reported owning e-readers. For several years in a row, digital material has been outselling print material on Amazon.

Call off the Hearse!

Even though digital media is soaring in popularity, print media still has its fans. Time.com, for instance, reported that readers have an easier time recalling material they read in print format than recalling material they read in digital format. This may affect the popularity of digital textbooks, which currently make up only about 6 percent of total textbook sales.

Also, a European survey conducted in 2011 suggests that while many people find digital media useful for scanning headlines and looking up quick facts, the majority still prefer print for in-depth reading and research. The study found, for instance, that 80 percent of all consumers — 83 percent of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 — preferred reading documents on paper to reading documents on a screen. In addition, many highly professional fields have adopted this technology for use on the job. Specifically, this is the ideal choice for a private investigator company and other traveling professionals have done away with print and adopted digital media.

In the end, although printed materials have taken a hard hit from digital media, it is unlikely that either medium will disappear completely. Most likely, they will find a way to co-exist, just as print media has managed to co-exist with radio and television over the years.

If you still enjoy your daily paper, don’t despair; it isn’t going away anytime soon.

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David B. Grinberg

Nice post, Shane. You raise several excellent points.

Yes, it’s true that several large regional newspapers have either folded or gone all digital — like the Rocky Mountain News of Denver and the Seattle Post Intelligencer of Washington state. Others, like the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (noted by Cat below) only publish a few days a week. Even the venerable Newsweek magazine recently announced it is discarding the print edition in favor of an all digital platform.

Despite the downward spiral of print media generally, a cadre of leading newspapers still play an influential role in determining what makes national and global news. For a list of the top 100 U.S. newspapers by circulation see this chart.

The Top 10 daily newspapers, for instance, still have a combined readership of about 10 million. Moreover, national TV and cable news networks, new media, and major wire services (AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, Dow Jones), still get many of their leading stories from what appears on the front pages of the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times and the Washington Post — the old wise men and women of journalism. This concept is known as Pack Journalism.

Thus, while print media appear to be dying a slow death, newspapers and the like still account for a consequential slice of the overall media pie and should not be given up for dead — at least not yet.

Jessica Day

Indeed. It’s not over yet. The internet doesn’t mean the end of libraries, online dating doesn’t mean people stop going out on Friday night. But it is time to adapt to the changing world and approaching all media from an online/offline partnership.

Shane Jones

Thanks for your comments guys!! Appreciate it!! Frightening what this all means for jobs but hopefully our world can adapt! 🙂 History indicates we’re pretty good at it! 😉