In print media we trust, if it can keep pace with digital

Last year various publications reported a rise in the sale of hardback editions. Readers' desire to own physical books was one of the key reasons for this success.

By Majed Al Suwaidi (Different Strokes)

Published: Tue 15 May 2018, 9:56 PM

Last updated: Wed 16 May 2018, 12:07 AM

The print industry has undergone massive changes since the advent of the digital age, but projections suggest that print products will, in the near future, still retain the lion's share of the media market in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region. It will be up to the print industry to take control of what happens during the digital disruption, and print operators must carefully reconsider business plans that are currently deemed successful.
They should find ways to develop new capabilities to stay relevant and ensure their products remain current.
The Arab Media Outlook (AMO) Report shows that by 2020 print media will account for 31 per cent of the sector, as opposed to new media's 27 per cent, closely followed by television at 26 per cent. While new media's market share is projected to grow by 12 per cent from 2015-20, print media's share is expected to contract by 14 per cent, but for the moment, print remains in the driving seat, with the largest market share.
Elsewhere in the world, there is a similar story. Take the UK as an example - the media consumer market will be worth a whopping £33.5 billion by 2021, according to PWC's . Of this, the newspapers and magazines sector accounts for a combined total of £3.2 billion, and new media concepts such as video on demand (VOD) accounts for £1.4 billion. UK is trending towards new media, while old media such as traditional TV and video, newspapers and magazines is contracting. The exception is cinema, which is expected to grow by two per cent in the five years leading up to 2021. It is an example of how an industry challenged in the digital age should fight back, and can be a lesson for the print industry.
Cinema has continued to grow in popularity, despite the increasingly widespread use of online streaming of movies, and the rapidity with which films are available on iTunes or on DVD following their initial cinema release. The genre, too, has diversified in recent years to capture new audiences.
Promoting the cinema is in some ways is easier than it once was, with trailers and teasers available to viewers 24/7 on their smartphones or smart devices, allowing films to dominate social media feeds with news and speculation about the biggest releases in months, also years, in advance.
We have witnessed the collaboration between news publishers and social platforms to reach a wider audience. The 'news journey' that earlier started and ended with the newspaper or broadcast news, now has different touch points. Social media and apps of news providers have dominated the discovery of news and this is driven by two elements - notifications and the integration of social content. However, while social media are driving news discovery, users who are keen to make informed decisions tend to go to their own authoritative sources - a place still dominated by traditional media players who they perceive as the providers of authoritative content.
While some of this cross promotion and opportunity to use different formats does not entirely translate to the print medium, the concept of simply offering more to the consumer is relevant to all. While the word 'paywall' for online news is never exactly met with enthusiasm by consumers, some providers have found ways to make it work by including online access as part of their print subscription service.
The New York Times and Boston Globe both now wrap their online subscriptions up together with their digital access as one bundle, offering a degree of protection to their valuable print advertising revenue.
Print journalism may have experienced enormous challenges, fighting on all fronts, against online proliferation not just from existing publications migrating online, but also compete with purely online outlets such as the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed. But those that build their brand and invest in high quality and ground-breaking journalism are the ones that thrive. Again, The New York Times - a publication which started as a metropolitan newspaper - undoubtedly won a new global audience through its platform The International New York Times. Journalists and publishers are both more aware than before that content must be truly engaging, to capture the attention of consumers who can access information through a smartphone.
The need to simply tailor relevant and engaging content applies to printed books, which have faced challenges since the advent of e-books. In fact, there was good news last year as various publications reported that a rise in the sale of hardback editions. Readers' desire to own physical books was one of the key reasons for this success.
The message gleaned from that is clear - something high quality, tangible and beautiful to look at is still in high demand and is likely to give hope to the print industry for a couple of more years.
In conclusion, it is important that publishers connect with their customers in more meaningful ways. It can be done by creating unique products and services that revolve around the needs of the end-users or readers and can also be adapted effortlessly into the digital and online world.
Majed Al Suwaidi is Managing Director of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City, Dubai Production City

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