Double Standards - Is it finally time to stop claiming 'print is dead'?

campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:00AM

News brands are, in fact, doing well.

The Guardian: digital news doing well

The Guardian: digital news doing well

The challenges come from how they can boost digital revenues and how mobile can be utilised, two newspaper experts believe.

BEN HUGHES, GLOBAL COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR AND DEPUTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE, FINANCIAL TIMES

- It seems everyone has finally realised that newspaper brands aren't dead. Why the turnaround?

Newspaper brands have had to adapt to an increasingly digital world, and the Financial Times has pursued a strategy that prioritises innovation, flexibility and resourcefulness when it comes to meeting the needs of clients and audiences. A circulation strategy that focuses on profitability, combined with a successful digital access model, allows us to offer FT readers world-class journalism in print, online and on mobile, and we strive to offer our readers a choice in where and how they consume FT content.

- So while news brands are very much alive and kicking, will printed newspapers nevertheless soon be extinct?

We have always believed strongly in a healthy future for print, and we are committed to delivering the paper to those who are willing to pay for the high value our content delivers. Our strategy of pursuing profitable print circulation ensures we have a highly engaged base of print subscribers who value FT content. In senior business circles and key financial markets, newspapers are still seen as the most reliable source for business and international news, and many still prefer both the feel and format that a newspaper brings to their reading experience.

- While the audience is increasingly online, there is still little evidence to suggest digital strategies are returning daily newspapers to positive growth. How worried should we be?

Print advertising continues to play an important role to our business while our digital and mobile advertising revenues are growing strongly. With dual revenue streams and a successful digital subscription model, we are less dependent on cyclical advertising trends and can rely more on content revenues. In the first half of 2012, digital revenues (advertising and content) were up 17 per cent year on year and, by the end of the year, we expect almost half of total revenues to come from content, with digital revenues representing 30 per cent of the total.

- Can we be more positive about the long-term digital outlook?

Absolutely - digital platforms have opened up the media landscape to a larger audience than ever before. In July, the number of digital FT subscribers surpassed print circulation for the first time. By developing our own print and digital readership measurement, ADGA, we have demonstrated that advertisers that opt for print-only campaigns miss reaching 26 per cent of our total audience and that, using print and online advertising together, advertisers increase brand exposure to global business decision-makers by an average of 38 per cent.

- Is mobile a realistic channel for news brands to focus on, considering the screen is so small?

Mobile now generates 25 per cent of traffic to FT.com and 15 per cent of all new subscriptions, and almost 14 per cent of global FT readers use two or more channels to read our content every day. We are seeing strong growth in mobile advertising and, following the launch of our HTML5 web app, we have introduced a range of new initiatives to improve our service to advertisers, in particular the availability of rich-media advertising on tablets. For many of the world's populations, particularly in emerging markets, mobile is the biggest (or only) internet channel, so there is no question it's where future audiences will be.

ADAM FREEMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GUARDIAN NEWS & MEDIA

- It seems everyone has finally realised that newspaper brands aren't dead. Why the turnaround?

Newspaper brands are among the most vibrant, high-profile and clearly defined identities a consumer is exposed to. They offer everything that really solid brands are supposed to: a strong sense of what the product offers, trust in its delivery and execution, and a guide to the thinking behind its creation. These brands have been built over decades, even centuries. They are a part of the fabric of public life - the idea that they would be abandoned was always nonsense. In part, the problem for news brands in recent years has been the lack of meaningful data showing their reach and appeal. That's starting to come and the latest National Readership Survey PADD report reveals that news brands are flourishing.

- So while news brands are very much alive and kicking, will printed newspapers nevertheless soon be extinct?

If you are asking if we can see the end of print, then, yes, some day, print may well die. But, despite what you may have heard from some commentators, this is still a long way off. The vast majority of every newspaper's revenues comes from print sales and advertising, and no-one is going to want to walk away from that any time soon. At The Guardian, those revenues are funding the development of our digital-first strategy and, while digital revenues are growing rapidly, it will be many years before they are capable of supporting a large news organisation.

- While the audience is increasingly online, there is still little evidence to suggest digital strategies are returning daily newspapers to positive growth. How worried should we be?

There is evidence that digital strategies are beginning to make a meaningful contribution to revenues. In the last financial year, The Guardian's digital revenues grew more than 16 per cent and largely compensated for the decline in print revenue. Digital meant we held our total revenues steady, which I think is a remarkable achievement in a brutal market. However, digital revenues start from a low base and will take time to develop to the point where they can support large news organisations. We will get there over the course of the next five to ten years, and digital will equal print far faster than that as a source of revenue, but it will not be a smoothly rising curve: we are all exploring new business models and not all of them will work.

- Can we be more positive about the long-term digital outlook?

We can be extremely positive about the long-term digital outlook. The evidence is that, while business models need to change, there is no reason why digital cannot generate the revenues needed to support news organisations.

- Is mobile a realistic channel for news brands to focus on, considering the screen is so small?

It's not only realistic, it's absolutely vital. Mobile is not just the single fastest-growing platform for readership, it's also likely to replace traditional desktop and laptop platforms almost entirely for many readers. Not only does an attractive mobile presence give you a persistent relationship with the reader, it is also a terrific platform for developing new types of content. The latest mobile devices are shipping with HD screens and terrific audio - everything we need to create a compelling proposition.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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