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Print brands still have intimate relation with consumers, but it’s a mix & match economy

21-April-2010
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Print brands still have intimate relation with consumers, but it’s a mix & match economy

The Festival of Media 2010 also brought the oldest form of media under the scanner with a discussion on ‘Innovate or Die: Future of Print Media’. Alisa Thomson Reuters Alisa Bowen, SVP Head of Consumer Publishing, Thomson Reuters, kicked off the discussion saying, “Innovate or Die is not a new theme but let's plan the wake. We have seen data suggestion that daily paid circulation, circulation per capita and so on are all dropping but does this mean it is over? I wouldn’t think so. Hal Varian had pointed out three big problems for newspapers --- one that cross subsidisation that was possible once between sections is no longer working. It’s hard to do contextual targeting for pure news and unpredictable, often unpleasant, alternatives provide better ROI.”

She said that people are spending less time reading news online than offline, but at the same time, offline newsreaders were shrinking. For Bowen, this meant that there were three things that publishers should pay attention to. This included getting real about cost base on the top of the list. She said, “There are many estimates on how newspapers need to change their economic model. Circulation and subs are 20 per cent and production and distribution is 52 per cent of costs. Can newspapers look at alternatives like outsourcing and crowd sourcing, or creating core in-house team that produces unique content that a particular community values?”

Getting real about what you stand for; newspaper is not equal to news but also community, entertainment and insights was the second area that Bowen said publishers should pay attention to and finally getting the mix right, and embracing multiple platforms - virtual can increase demand of physical media. She ended her address by saying, “Jeff Jarvis said ‘print is not dead, print is where words go to die... we have to find other ways of keeping these stories alive.”

PHD’s Global CEO Mike Cooper was next on stage to give the media agency perspective on the printed page. In true Cooper style, he cited data to establish that there were print products such as The Economist that had gone from strength to strength. He spoke about broadsheet newspapers on the Internet, and the audience dipping in and out of these forms of media. He also touched on free dailies across the world in 2010 and how that had increased the number of publications to 209 daily newspapers with some impressive circulation numbers.”

A point that emerged in Cooper’s address was that there was a clear link between high quality content, news and current affairs in particular, and the readership of that publication. Knowledge was rewarded, and trained silos and stereotypes were increasingly becoming irrelevant.

One of the key points that Cooper made was that the audience today was mixing and matching all kinds and forms of content, and consumed multiple media much more than ever before. He said, “Traditional barriers for media have broken down. What does this mean for clients and media agencies? Clients and media agencies will find a way to engage with consumers in any medium -- printed page, social media or outdoor. The key is to engage with them positively and enhance their media experience, not interrupt or bore them.”

He cited the example of the work that PHD had done for HBO’s series True Blood in its season two launch, where the media strategy included print as one of the most prominent mediums. The campaign was talking to vampires, and some innovations seen were the New York am edition, branded to VamP edition. The entire campaign used different forms of media with this central thought. Cooper ended his address by saying, “All media owners are in the content business, and we have to determine ways of monetising it. Some areas of print are thriving, and the quality of content has made the difference there. And from a media agency perspective, if the printed word does go away, it doesn't matter; we would find other ways to engage with consumers.”

The speakers discussed more on different mediums could be used better and how innovations such as the iPad would prove to be a game changer for the publishing industry that has taken a step back to rethink that this device can do for them.

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