Media: Print Vs Digital

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The decline of print circulation within newspapers and magazines shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have been paying attention over the past decade or so. We love our glossy and tangible paper experience but our reality now is digital.

Both digital and print have their pros and cons but the real challenge with both these industries is trying to maintain and build an audience as well as producing content that is engaging and relevant. With ever decreasing attention spans and even more content available people expect a constant stream of personalised engaging, short form content delivered instantly, most of which can be consumed on mobile and tablet.

Reading from print publications offers a memorable and leisurely experience as you fold page corners to save your favourite articles, tossing from page to page and digesting slowly. However, the problem with this is that once you’ve read it and tucked it away you’re likely to forget about it.

The beauty of digital publishing is that it makes it very easy to share your favourite articles to spark discussions on social networks that creates a much higher reader engagement, build community, and access a lucrative wider audience.

As newspapers and magazines circulation continues to shift from print to digital, the extent of this digital growth is not uniform. The overall print circulation fell 4% year on year according to the UK Audit Bureau of Circulation. In the digital realm, the true strength of digital growth is hard to gauge as several digital editions such as Cosmopolitan, Wired and Daily Mirror saw a decline in numbers. Whereas digital editions such as The Economist and Daily Mail have seen an increase year on year. Overall, the National Readership Survey 2016 demonstrates the consumption from mobile and online adds a further 107% audience reach to individual news brands and 68% for magazines.

Most print publications have already migrated to digital in the hope that it will overcome the long-term decline of print. The reading or user experience for the digital age has become increasingly more important as publishers are competing for audience’s attention. Although the digital platform is a relatively new concept for some publishers, digital versions are simply not picking up the slack for the decline of print circulation.

The key is establishing where, when and who you are reaching as well designed and packaged print content still creates a unique premium feel that digital content will always lack. We consume content differently on PC, mobile and tablet. Print provides a tactile human experience where the reader can sit back and enjoy “me” time in privacy, without being invaded by targeted digital ads being served up in real-time based on your browsing history or digital footprint. Mobile provides consumers on the go with short snippets of relevant news (content snacking) whilst tablets allow readers to manipulate the content in beautiful ways by touch to scroll and swipe seamlessly.

Shoe-horning a print design format across digital platforms is what many publishers are guilty of. This may be due to the traditional development of print being designed on platforms such as InDesign which is then simply replicated into multiple digital formats with perhaps some added interactivity as an afterthought. This is simply not enough to engage and build an audience that is saturated with content all the time.

Ultimately, digital magazines provide realistic benefits. The clearest benefit is the feedback that you get to help optimise your products and content. Analytics can show you what kind of articles and features are the most popular, how much time is being spent on a page, how they interact with it and how they share it. This gives huge opportunities for a better understanding on what sort of content to create, saving money and time to leverage that information in building and maintaining readership.

Publishers need to think about what their digital consumer wants, they need to create a point of difference between their various platforms. Just like print, there are many creative opportunities that digital brings – the challenge is playing to the platforms individual strengths.  If your digital magazine is just an electronic version of your print publication, you’re wasting a big opportunity!

Print will always have its place, but digital allows much more flexibility to reach the audience on their terms. It’s safe to say that print and digital will always co-exist together, seamlessly being integrated into our everyday lives. We now live in an “always connected” world where consumers expect instant gratification, and this is where print will struggle to deliver.