Is Print Media Dead?

Back in July 2022, we gave a shout out to our good friends at AMS Media Group for  providing the inspiration and facts for an early version of this article.  This updated story uses latest data on print media circulation figures.

As we said previously, We may be approaching the topic from different angles (paid vs earned media) but we share a fascination in trying to understand trends and predict the future of media.  Should we believe all the circulation and readership figures still being quoted by publishers?  As AMS says “Of course, we are sceptical, but no more so than the numbers quoted across multiple media platforms… analogue or digital. Media is NOT an exact science.”

Updated Print Media Statistics

In a 2024 article on 19 January, Press Gazette journalists Charlotte Tobitt and Aisha Majid reported on December’s ABC figures, writing that there were good month on month increases for the Financial Times (up 4% to 114,338), Daily Star Sunday (up 3% to 79,218) and the Daily Mail (up 2% to 733,577). It continued “The Sunday Post and Daily Express also grew by up to 1% while the Daily Mirror and the i fell by less than 1%. Decline continued across the board when compared to December 2022, however, but it was lower than usual at some titles.”

With the increasing popularity of digital media, many people believe that print publications are dying a death and are on their way to becoming obsolete. The reality, however, is that none of the ‘old’ media have totally disappeared. People still read newspapers and magazines.

While print media isn’t dead (there are still 10 million people that prefer to hold a newspaper in their hands each day), there are certainly some publications that have folded, and others that have made the switch to become fully digital. But one thing remains – there is still an abundance of newspapers and magazines in publication. Why? Because media consumption is based on many factors, including age and personal preference.

Younger generations have grown up in the digital age, unsurprisingly making them early adopters of the newer channels over more traditional formats, while older generations often prefer traditional media that they are familiar with, opting for media that is ‘tried and trusted’. This is illustrated by the gradient of decline in press circulations between the younger and older demographics and is especially apparent in print title closures over the past 10 years.

Which type of media reigns supreme? Spoiler alert: they all occupy their own unique place within the media landscape

We consume news media in many more ways than we did in the past. Modern consumers are used to (and expect) the ability to have a wide variety of methods via which they can consume their media throughout the day, thereby not limiting themselves to just one type of media. Think about your typical day. While getting ready for work, you might start off your day watching your favourite morning TV show or listening to your favourite radion station as you get dressed and eat your breakfast. Then, you head out the door and hop into your car or public transport and while driving or being driven, you listen to the news on the radio during your morning commute. On the way into the office, you might stop to pick up one of the free, local newspapers available at your local newsstand to scan the headlines for the latest news. During your lunchbreak, you’re likely to find yourself checking out your social media and glancing at Twitter to see what stories or trending or visiting your LinkedIn page to see what news other professionals within your network are sharing. All of these sources are different forms of media, and they all have a unique purpose in our lives.

Why is print still important?

One of the advantages of print publications is that they are seen as a trusted source for information. Given the rise of ‘fake news’ in recent years, many people are more likely to trust the news that they read in respected print publications, that they know have been vetted for accuracy.

Print media is also loved for its tangibility – with print media you can hold a newspaper or magazine, tear out your favourite articles, or file them away for future reference. With print, there is a feeling of longevity that you don’t get with online media, which is continually churning out the latest news.

Print media is also great for message recall. People tend to remember things better when they have something tactile as it involves using additional senses to absorb the information.

How does digital compare?

Simon English, Financial Editor, Evening Standard writing in a Roxhill Media email on Tuesday 16 January 2024 argues that while “The PR industry still, mostly, seems to think that the physical paper is the main thing, the real goal” PRs may have got that wrong. Instead, they “should be asking that the piece gets a prominent show on the internet, where it has a shelf-life – a decent search function allowing – of forever”. And explains “At the Standard, we want our afternoon web offer to be different from, but as strong as, what we did in the paper that morning. If we hold something over for the afternoon, that doesn’t mean we think less of it, it means we think we can give it a better hit on the web.”

We agree. One of the advantages of digital media is the wealth of options available.  When you browse online, there is an endless source of information that can be found on pretty much any topic you can think of – and all pretty much instantly. This is particularly great for finding information on more obscure or specialist topics.

One of the best (and some might say worst) things about the rise of blogs and social media is that it makes it easy for anyone to self-publish their content, allowing them to freely share their views/creativity with the world. Platforms such as Instagram allow people to in essence create their own brand and connect with and influence others who love their content.

So, what does this all mean?

The media, like many industries is in constant flux – continually evolving and providing with us new ways that we can consume content.  It’s likely (and inevitable) that some more publishers will fall by the wayside, while others transform. The only thing that is certain when it comes to media is that nothing is certain – it’s tough landscape to navigate, and in order to survive, it’s a case of adapt or die.