Print is here to stay for a bit longer than you think: Expert

 

Print is here to stay for a bit longer than you think: Expert
'Reader figures don't change much if a publisher converts to online-only, but 'readership time spent' does.'

Dubai - Taking the UK's Telegraph as an example, he said nearly two-thirds of its print audience read the paper daily.

by

Kelly Clarke

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Published: Thu 1 Mar 2018, 8:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Mar 2018, 10:28 PM

For several years now, daily print circulation has been falling with more and more publishers shifting resources away from print towards digital. But this idea is being challenged.
Speaking at the second day of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) conference in Dubai on Thursday, Prof Dr Neil Thurman, professor of communication in the department of communication studies and media research, LMU Munich, Germany, said recent reports seem to indicate that print is in better shape than previously thought.
Citing the study 'Reality Check: Multiplatform newspaper readership in the United States' by journalism professor Hsiang Iris Chyi in 2017, Thurman said it put the "cat amongst the digital pigeons" as it showed that despite investment in digital revenues, 51 papers in the US still have the highest audience reach with print over digital.
The results were questioned by many as the study didn't include the newspapers' mobile channels, and ultimately another study was conducted, this time taking mobile into account (measuring digital consumption passively).
Surprisingly, it once again showed that print performance was even better than Chyi's original study reported. What the studies reveal, Thurman said, is not that digital is dying, but that print still has staying power - for reasons that differ to online.
"There is an implicit assumption that print and online reading are the same, but they are very different activities. The audience is attracted and retained in different ways." 
Taking the UK's Telegraph as an example, he said nearly two-thirds of its print audience read the paper daily. 
"The print edition audience spends 55-86 minutes per issue reading the paper. They are loyal. But online readers visit the site just three times a month for 8.3 minutes. There is a huge difference in the frequency of visits, but both mediums have strengths."
Thurman's talk titled, 'It's time to talk metrics', focused on audience, attention and the persistent power of print. And he said that the time spent on a publication, whether print or digital, is the biggest predictor of whether readers notice advertisements or not. And advertisements is where the money lies.
"'Time spent' is the magic metric. News brands still get overwhelming attention from print channels and one study in the UK in 2016 revealed that the total number of minutes spent reading aggregated British print was more than digital. It was an 86 per cent majority for print. 
So, what are the consequences of stopping printing in terms of audience? "We see a very different picture in terms of 'time spent'. Reader figures don't change much if a publisher converts to online-only, but 'readership time spent' does," Thurman said.
Citing the same UK study, he pointed out that the time spent with several news brands that converted to solely online recorded an 81 per cent fall in 'time spent' on brand.
"Readers do not transfer their attention to online when print goes away. I am under no illusion that we will return to the golden age of print, but if we have new metrics, time metrics, it will slow the decline of print. These results are a reminder not to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
kelly@khaleejtimes.com
 


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