Media Magazine

Doing Print Happily? Some Don’t Agree

Posted on the 19 May 2016 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

I don't think that Clay Shirkyan author and a professor at New York University,  would agree with my Wednesday blog post. His comments quoted here were not specifically referring to my blog, but, instead, to a New York Times’ columnist’s claim about the enduring importance of the printed newspaper to The Times.

In her column, the Times’ Margaret Sullivan also noted that 70 percent of all Times revenue still comes from print (almost entirely from print subscriptions and print advertising), and she also quoted two Times executives — Roland Caputo and Dean Baquet — who believe that print will be around for at least 10 years, maybe far longer. 

Shirky disagrees about the importance and/or survival of print.

“Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism,” he writes, and we agree.  He also sees the end of print taking place faster than many in the business.

“I’d like to offer a considerably darker narrative: I think the pattern of print revenue decay will be fast, slow, fast. The original, fast decline was 2007-9, where two overlapping events — the Great Recession and the sudden shift to mobile consumption — created a vicious cycle, where your most adventurous readers and least committed advertisers both moved rapidly to digital-only, amid a period of general contraction in ad revenues. These were the years of double-digit decline in revenues.

"By 2010, most of the early abandoners had left and the economy recovered, leaving you with only secular decline in readership (down 5-6 percent a year) and only proportional decreases in advertising revenue. This is the slow period of print decay.


Fast decline for print

“ What I’d like to suggest is that print declines will become fast again by the end of the decade, bringing about the end of print (by which I mean a New York Times that does not produce a print product seven days a week) sooner than Baquet’s 40-year horizon, and possibly sooner than Caputo’s 10-year one. 


Advertisers and digital

“You observed that print is responsible for the majority of ad revenues at the paper, but the disproportionate importance of print is not a signal of the robustness of the medium, it is a signal that advertisers have not found a way to replace print ads with anything as effective in other media.”

“Both your Sunday and weekday readerships are already near important psychological thresholds for advertisers — one million and 500,000. When no advertiser can reach a million readers in any print ad in the Times (2017, on present evidence) and weekday advertising reaches less than half a million (2018, using the 6 percent decline figure you quoted), there will be downward pressure on C.P.M.s. This makes no sense, of course, since pricing ads per thousand should make advertisers indifferent to overall circulation, but marketing departments have never been run terribly logically.”

What next for print?

“So it seems likely to me that after the early, rapid decline, we are now in a period of shallow, secular decay, which will give way to a late-stage period of rapid decline. You can see something like this has happened already in your delivery business, when you read the comments on your piece. Several commenters would like a print copy, but don’t live in an area where it’s cost-effective to deliver the paper. This happened to my mother, in western Virginia; she is now digital-only because after years of gradual decay, the Roanoke, Va., market simply crossed a threshold where it became unprofitable, and all the remaining print subscribers disappeared all at once.”

TheMarioBlog post #2433
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