“Print media is dead!” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

If you restrict your reading to online blogs and journalists, you might be forgiven for thinking that print media is dead. Many point to declining advertising revenues as killing papers (although conveniently ignoring the fact that advertising revenues have dropped pretty much everywhere online where jobs are also being shed.)

Back in the real word though, there seem to be more newspapers than ever in London and a surprising amount of innovation in the industry. There is no doubt that this is an industry that is facing massive changes but it is ridiculous to write it off. Print media people are highly commercial animals and while they may not ‘get it’ straight away every time, when they do, they will fight for it – hard.

A few years ago many commentators ridiculed the idea of the FT forcing people to pay for online content but it is a strategy that has worked very well for them. Many wrote the idea of free newspapers off when they were launched in London but there are a bewildering number, most leveraging existing publishing houses.

Of course there is no doubt though that print media has reached an historic but critical evolutionary point. Print businesses are severely pressured. Declining subscription and advertising revenues are becoming the norm across the industry. The growth of user-generated content, citizen-journalism, blogs, Twitter and the real-time web have all been responsible for forcing changes on the industry. While print media is under sustained attack from the web, some of the most popular web-based news sites only make a small fraction of their revenue from the web making any possible transition painful and complex.

The Daily Telegraph and Guardian are doing innovative things online that could position them as leaders of the emerging media pack and their unusual (non-public) ownership allows them to do things that public companies might find difficult.

While many on the web expound the virtues of ‘free’ news, Rupert and James Murdoch announces that News Corp will be going in precisely the opposite direction. You can guarantee that this is going to be the closely monitored moves in the print media industry in the next year. If this shows any signs of working, and helping a move away from advertising based business models, it will be followed rapidly by other players. The more that do it, the more it is likely to succeed although there is then a possibility that this will, in the UK at least, call into question the BBC News site which would not be able to charge or take advertising. It could then become a sort of government funded monopoly.

At the same time but at the other end of the spectrum, Y-Combinator, the best known and innovative incubator in the world, announces it is actively seeking start ups that can help redefine the future of journalism and media. The point where incumbents and upstarts meet is going to be a very, very interesting place to observe.

Interesting times, but a long, long way from being the end of the game.

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7 responses to ““Print media is dead!” “Up to a point, Lord Copper.””

  1. Alan Moore says:

    Traditional media must “engage” or die

    Half the country’s 1,300 local newspapers will close between now and 2013, destroying 20,000 media jobs. There will be a decline of original content across the board that will have enormous consequences for democracy.

    Its not that journalism, news and newspapers are redundant in this time of epochal change, but the people that run them are. Because they have failed to truly experiment, they have failed to ask themselves what is advertising in the 21st Century? Because that was the model supporting them. I meet the CEO of the Johnston Press in 2006 and implored him that, JP needed to do 2 things…

    1). Think hard about how to create more value for its readers and to invest in that

    2). Think harder about how in achieving [1] they delivered greater value for their advertisers

    This had to be done as a web/mobile – ergo ‘digital’ strategy. Unfortunately, this did not happen. And the net result is the parlous state of JP today. And frankly I think there is no going back. Which is in fact tragic, because it has significant ramifications.

  2. Peter Dawe says:


    Are failing papers the last ones serving a community or just the weakest of two or more?

    If it is the later, then there is definitely an opportunity to go in and fill the void with an integrated digital/paper offering.

    I know there is a need for local, I’ve just moved and need to find local shops and tradesmen, and it is near impossible! Only the national chains are easy to locate. and in rural Norfolk thats miles away!

    Contact me when you know of a paper going that is the last serving a community of >100,000

    Peter Dawe

  3. Hi Alan,

    I think that the reality is that there are many entrepreneurs and businesses that are or will be filling the gap in local and community information. This may be “Best of”, Yell.com, Google Local, blogs, parish websites etc. Once all of this local information is out there, it is easy to aggregate through mash-ups, search etc. so that Peter Dawe and others can find what they need.

    Nature abhors a vacuum. I think that filling this space is a great opportunity which the papers missed.



  4. Alan Moore says:

    Brewster you are right nature does indeed abhor a vacuum – and we shall see a complete reorganisation of media for hyperlocal communities, where being able to connect different elements of the community at different time that have different needs can be enhanced by new communication technologies.

    Peter, I don’t know if you have an iPone but you might find some useful apps that might enable you to better navigate and discover your new roots?


  5. Peter Dawe says:

    Those iphone apps really only locate local branches of national chains. Look for restaurants and you get MrD** and Pizza******!!

    They are neither editorialised nor accessible to independent businesses. When Yellow pages was a monopoly it was easy! Now a local business is invited to put their name in tens of directories, and hundreds of aggregating web sites. And us punters have to look in as many indices!

    You dont get serendipity either


  6. Alan Moore says:

    Point taken Peter,

    You then ought to take a look at True Knowledge