New hope for the print versus digital battle

Print and digital have locked horns in the media world for a long time now. They are both fighting for audience relativity and both struggle to meet advertising expectations albeit it at opposite ends of the curve. So says Jacques van Wyk, COO of Ricoh SA.
One of the most recognised media brands in the world, famous for its high-quality pink print product, the Financial Times, has been bought by Nikkei, a company renowned for its effective adoption of digital in the East, for £844-million. But what can this mean for print and digital media in the West?

The Financial Times’ digital readership was a big pull for Nikkei, as it represents 70% of the Financial Times’ readership and has attracted more than half a million subscribers. But what about traditional print as digital newspaper content continues to gather momentum? A white paper by Interquest, sponsored by Ricoh, offers an outlook for traditional print media in North America and Europe. It explores how the global print industry has proven to be resilient in the face of new digital challenges.

Digital is nothing new in this industry. Newspapers have faced serious challenges from online competition for lucrative classified advertising since well before the global recession. Both subscription and advertising revenues have spiralled downward in developed countries as a result.

Sales of European newspapers fell by nearly a quarter between 2009 and 2014 – more than in any other region. However, despite these challenges, magazines and newspapers remain immensely important media for news dissemination. Magazine circulation has stabilised in recent years, and newspaper circulation continues to grow in developing countries. Additionally, compared with computers, smartphones, and tablets, consumers find print a more relaxing way to read newspaper content. On top of this, 44% of consumers say printed newspapers have useful advertising, compared to computer (20%), smartphone (17%), and tablet (27%) editions.

It’s also worth noting the rise of mobile, which is reported as the Financial Times’ fastest growing channel as it drives almost half of total traffic. A white paper, entitled Making the most of mobile: what a ‘mobile first’ strategy means for your business, sponsored by Ricoh Europe and written by industry expert Cary Sherburne, emphasises how rapid adoption of mobile technologies can add new, profitable products and services to a company’s portfolio.

With Nikkei’s strong reputation and expertise in journalism, it will be able to bring a new level of Eastern innovation into this Western market, while also enhancing its pitch to advertisers. It will be fascinating to see how this will supercharge the Financial Times’ digital offering, as well as what it could bring to the rest of the market.

The likes of UK-based newspapers such as The Guardian and the Daily Mail, which are now running international operations, have been the successful early adopters of digital advertising.

Nikkei’s arrival could force their hand to create a new wave of thinking that will ripple through the rest of the market.

Publishers will also take the opportunity to look at their physical newspaper product as a way of driving revenue growth in addition to digital. Local magazine, FutureWave BusinessIT, published in traditional print for 20 years and electronically for two years, took to social media and the web last year with an electronic newsletter, and has now consolidated those channels.

Digital printing has so far played a marginal role in production, but this is beginning to change as publishers explore new ways to inject life into their printed products. It doesn’t have to be \ one or the other between print and digital; instead it has to be a marriage of the two as demonstrated by FutureWave BusinessIT -they can support each other in an enhanced symbiotic relationship that will herald a new era for the media industry.


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