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Is there a future left for print media?

The recent years have been marked by various technological developments such as smartphones, smart TV’s, tablets, and e-books just to name a few. However, these advancements had a remarkably negative effect on the publishing industry. Declines in the revenues and budgets of newspapers, magazines and books made print seem old-fashioned and maybe even obsolete.

Nowadays, most content is created by the publics in the form of online (micro) blogs and videos, meaning the money has to be spread out over a larger group of ‘journalists’. The financial crisis also had significant effects on the profitability of publishing companies, as the money predominantly flows to the smartphones and iPads instead of the publications.

This print-to-digital movement calls for new businesses models for the print industry, yet developing such a model is easier said than done. Lower revenues are inescapable, no matter what. Even though all newspapers and magazines notice a change in revenues, some are managing to keep up. But for how long? Is there a future left for print media in a world where everything is already digitalized?

I am looking to write a report on this topic and analyze the opinions of others concerning this matter. Your feedback would therefore be very much appreciated. Thank you!

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    May 20 2014: for casual readers probably not, but for some freaks like me, who love to write on book pages, put notes on the sidelines and even tear some pages to hang on the wall there will always be a reason to chop a tree. Unless the tech gurus find a way to create a 3d, holographic and interactive media app to my smartphone. cheers!
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      May 25 2014: Well, well, now that is an idea that I might steal lol.
    • Jun 10 2014: Good thinking! Thanks Pablo.
  • Jun 4 2014: Hi. I have been taking part in this debate for decades - through the paperless office to the death of the book. Neither have arrived. Other stunning opportunities and ideas have come instead. Take a trip to the British Library 'Comics Unmasked ' exhibition.. The new generation of narrative crosses text with visual with gaming imagery in a subversive way. Everything points to books returning as "objects of desire". People still collect and always respond to great design ; we no longer have LP covers to display or even racks of CDs....and the book is so versatile; from spine to flyleaf, from inside page to back cover. William Blake got it right with words and images speaking as one in a (then) new form of lithographic work. My guess is that this will happen - setting up soon; new list of books under imprint angelsterritory to explore all this.
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    Jun 4 2014: I love the smell of books, so do my friends, and a few of my friends friends.
    If the radio could survive the TV and other competing media, prints will survive too.
  • Jun 1 2014: I like both paper and digital content, often reading something next to the keyboard while interacting with online content. I think a market will remain for books, magazines, even daily/weekly publications, but it will become much smaller. I believe the print industry will have a much softer landing than the guys who used to deliver ice to homes before refrigeration. The benefit of electronic media far outweighs the effect it has on paper printers. Research
    projects that might've taken years can be done in a few hours, in some cases saving lives. I suspect paper consumption of bureaucracies, both public and private have sucked up the greatest number of forests. I can't imagine anyone being reluctant to see that use of printed material cease.
  • May 29 2014: Maybe the media in print media will change. Digital paper reusable sort of a hybrid. In other words we still get a newspaper with a similar look and feel but the print is digital downloaded daily.
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    May 27 2014: Just as there are fanatics who still collect and enjoy vinyl recordings, there will always be a market for print media. While I myself enjoy the convenience of being able to download books onto a tablet, laptop, or eReader, there is something to be said about actually owning the physical book itself.

    The biggest problem is as many others have pointed out; it's not particularly cost-effective to produce and distribute print media. In these cases, it would be easier to give the consumer the option of both. Amazon already does this with offering consumers a discount on purchasing both a digital and print copy of books (via Kindle MatchBook). Also, numerous media outlets offer both digital and print magazine subscriptions, usually for the same standard subscription price.
  • A HR

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    May 26 2014: Despite everything that's being said, I think print media will never die. I agree with all the arguments in favour of its end, however there is one thing that has not really been pointed out : the fact that we, humans, are sensible creatures. As long as we'll have senses that we'll need to stimulate, I think print paper will live on. Not in the way we know or have known, these fastuous times are past us but...I'll never forget the look on my nephew's face -he's 15- when I gave him one of my old dusty books. He wasn't much of a reader as you may guess, but when I handed out to him, he checked the pages, smelled the cover and spent five minutes "discovering" it. And to my surprise, he actually read it and came asking for another. And on the other hand, I witnessed something rather scary that made me realize that print paper industry, not only won't die but may "rebirth" from its ashes. Last year or so, a friend of mine gave birth to a little boy, and at a time when you usually give your toddler some cubes or whatever toys to awaken his senses &c., she had him play with a pad and when I actually babysit him, I gave him what I had. Old-school wooden cubes...he tried to slide them.

    In other words, I think it won't die because the only way it will would be if suddenly we lost our senses. Printed books stimulate not only our sight -some covers are exceptionnally intricate and beautiful- but also our sense of smell, with all these "fumes" of dust, and wood, and humidity. And of course, our touch.

    I also wanted to say that I'm living in Paris -I'm not saying to brag or anything, but just to point out that I ride the metro everyday, and I've only seen -20 people reading on pads. And along the Seine, there are about 5km of little bookshops that sell old and used books, most of them out of print and they've got a huge success. They've been here since 300yrs old and none of them has closed yet. This industry will diminish, but it'll never truly die.
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    May 23 2014: There is an old story about not being able to line a bird cage will cell phones. I guess you could but it wouldn't work well....
    Having said this, I do believe that throw away reading material will be replaced with digital medium. I also believe that bound works of literature and art will endure for sometime to come. We know that scrolls have lasted a thousand of years and books have been around for hundreds and new technology could extend the printed page for a long time. But, digital storage seems to have a finite life. Hard drives fail, plastics in discs have a life measured in a few years, Even so called cloud technology is vulnerable to electrical failure or EMF saturation.

    HG Wells addressed the fragility of technology in his book the Time Machine.... A time machine built in the 1890s travels into the future with its evolution in technology into a future time when all technology had been lost to mankind and life is as was in caveman days.... the hero brought books with him to begin the recivilization of man.... Books....
  • May 20 2014: I think there are something special exists in print media. When we look for our jouneys written on paper in our childhood, which became faded, we feel something inside of us. Maybe it is just a few people like me, but, anyway, there are still some people who likes to read and write with paper. Also, I don't like the reality of now that everything is becoming dizitalized. I think paper is still very familiar to most of the people, and human will not be able to stop using 'paper' which has been used so long time.
  • May 19 2014: I think it seems to have died because of the craze but will resurrect itself. It's even kind of nice because after looking at a screen for so long to get your reading done, actually finding a printed book will be more exciting than maybe it was before. It will have more of a nostalgic feel (like lots of folks are saying about vinyl records) and will make it all the more special!
  • May 12 2014: I agree with others here that the days of print media are numbered, but retailers face the same threat from online shopping, and I think the former will continue to decline at a similar rate to the latter - neither is in danger of sudden death.

    The classic newspaper will be the first to go, I think, because it is the most vulnerable to digitisation. There are very high costs involved in producing a publication full of information everyday. Also, with the tools at our disposal today a paper produced around midnight could be considered outdated and static by noon, as digital editions can be updated with the latest information, satisfying our thirst for info ASAP.

    But of course it's not as simple as just migrating to digital and charging for it; in the digital world it is very easy to set up a media website at low cost, fund it through advertising and give customers free access to content. So if bigger organisations want to monetise content and charge users for it, they will have to have a strong USP, such as high-quality, 100% verified news, or top experts on the staff, or dealing with a niche market, etc. Then you have to choose your business model; one I like is Foreign Affairs magazine, who give one free article per month to everyone, 2 to registered users, but anymore and you have to be a subscriber.

    But while revenues will continue to decline steadily for print media, total death won't be for quite a while. For a start, it will require everyone to have portable devices to access this, and tablets are not THAT widespread yet, and smartphone screens are considered by many to be too small for this use. Also. in the grand scheme of things the digital era is still in its early days, so people are still attached to the look and feel of print media, and will resist digitisation as much as possible. Many people also favour the retail experience and the sociability involved. People will also want local papers in print form for a long time.
  • May 12 2014: I thought I had pointed to print becoming more inclusive to that generation. The ad buyers might not like the new format but print can still compete. What newsprint print media has done is segment it self out of a consumer. Sports, business, lifestyle, news in front. It has to mix it up. So if it's a non news day. The lifestye sports section or business section should be headlined. That is what digital media does. It doesn't lead with just news always and a picture to visit the section that is trending. It trends that section in it's entirety. The recent Apple offer to buy a rap star's invention is both Entertainment and Business but the newspaper will lead with the tragedy in Africa. That will be the first three pages. If you are riding public transit and can only read one segment during that time and want to read about the Apple buy it will be in the business section. Newsprint has to approach that story with the depth of story development you would with news of the day. That's how video is interacting with the consumer in the digital media format. You want your information in front of you not in the back pages. Also the current generation puts a huge emphasis on lifestyle and their relationship to that media. So what doesn't seem important to mature adults is the end all for the current generation. I hope this helps.
  • Jun 9 2014: There’re some things you can’t when reading something in your tablet, smartphone or anything you use that isn’t a papper.
    When your book fall on the ground. If that’s an iPad, it’ll broke and you won’t read what you was reading until you get other iPad or go to other gadget. Unless if you have these gadget with Sapphire Glass and all components made of diamond that costs more than U$ 300 000.
    But, there are health problems that come with the prolongated use of those gadgets. Recently, a chinese guy went to the hospital to have a cirugy to “fix” his eye. His retina was “taken off” because he was using the smartphone for hours in a complete darkness. With the book, you can develop myopia faster than who don’t read too much. With those LED screens, you have a lot more chance to develop other eye problems but myopia than the peaple who just read printed books and newspappers.
    So, there are more things that we particulary like with the printed newspappers and books:
    - Smell
    - The feel of touching in the papper, or the textured book cover
    - Would you lend your iPad? I don’t think so. The book you lend and most times you forget that lended it. The person who received it can read relaxed without anyone asking for the iPad.
    That’s it, if there’s anything wrong(with the text) please show me, I still learning the language :|
    And, if you agree or disagree with me or the other peaple, give your point, let us see what you’re thinking :)
    Cheers!
    • Jun 10 2014: Good points Victor, I agree on the health part and the lending out. Most people only talk about print benefits being the touch and smell, but there are indeed way more benefits! Your English is fine btw ;)
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    Jun 9 2014: Print Media is going to be like post which comes by post office. It has pros and cons. Printing media is not going to finish as not everybody use internet.
  • May 31 2014: I think it's an inherently hard question to ask. Is it not the case that each generation resists change? And that probably comes with a level of denial about the future. Certainly right now i can't see the trend to electronic media changing. And even though i like printed media, i think the generation that grows up with ebooks will see print as old fashioned & perhaps even wasteful(tree usage).

    Of course i think there will always be some small amount of print. After all, it doesn't matter if the power goes out when you have print
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    May 29 2014: although iam a teenager but still i like the old fashioned way of reading books. the hard copy the effect it creates of possessing, the royal feeling sometimes.
    it kind of gets boring reading on the pc, but when you read from the book the touch of the paper, the smell of the pages, and sleeping with it are completely different. i live in india not a country with much access to internet to everyone.,and i do believe for the next few years the graph will have a tremendous change in it. and one more thing although its a digital era and every one wants everything one the cloud storage and everything as a app or as software etc etc. but still there are people who wants a touch of originality, you know what i mean.
  • May 28 2014: The fluid movement of technological change shifts wealth to new ambitious generations. The power of the imprinted word eclipsed oral culture - Shaman in particular. I imagine digital devices will soon be eclipsed by embedded organic technology.

    I wonder at what point do we recognize the illusion of progress and start to recognize the quality of the choices we make?
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    May 27 2014: Yes, indeed, print media has a strong future, though it isn't seen by many geeks. The Internet techs and security types I know in the defense industry here in the US expect the Internet to crash and burn fairly soon, since cyber warfare is escalating exponentially.

    This is why US military and intel agencies have their own internal com systems - they clearly do not trust the Internet and don't expect it to last. If you take note of the new US Martial Law provisions being enacted - which some folks in the know believe have put us under Martial Law right now - you might realize that the biggest reason for the imposition of Martial Law here would be the Internet crashing. Think about it.
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    May 26 2014: I think there is still a use for print media amongst small user groups. I used to be the editor for the Adidas America in-house newspaper, L'adidas. We had a monthly global circulation of over 1200. We kept it fresh, informative and made sure we could laugh at ourselves. Every month when the paper came out it was swallowed up by every employee. EVERYONE read every article. But one of the bean counters decided that the $1200 print price was too much and they made us do a digital version. We released that and readership went to near 0. Not even the groups we did stories about read it. I'm sure there were plenty of $1200 errors made because groups inside the massive corporation did not know what was going on inside a department on the far side of the building/world.
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    May 26 2014: I've not bought a newspaper or book in nearly 2 years. Kindle and iPad give me all the reading material that I need. I am an IT Support person though so guess this might not be the same for the majority of the population.
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    May 25 2014: There is no future left for PRINT media. These links provide the number sets that we are dealing with:

    (1) http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/newspapers-stabilizing-but-still-threatened/newspapers-by-the-numbers/
    (2) http://www.naa.org/Trends-and-Numbers/Newspaper-Revenue/Newspaper-Media-Industry-Revenue-Profile-2013.aspx
    (3) http://www.naa.org/Trends-and-Numbers/Readership.aspx

    You will have to do a little reading in those links to get a better picture of the entirety of the situation. To summarize the articles, the circulation of print sources is down and online sources are up. However, that does not correspond to a rising revenue. In fact there is substantially less revenue from these online sources even though they are on the rise. Additionally, source (3) points out that there are still many readers, but clearly they are not buy subscriptions as demonstrated by source (1). So readership has not dropped, but subscriptions have. If we are to assume there is a correlation between readership and the amount of dollars used in advertising, then readership has increased.

    Even if readership has increased, subscriptions have not, and they show no sign of picking up either. In order for these companies to survive they must stop considering themselves newspaper companies, and view themselves as news companies. Meaning that they are not in the business of selling papers, but providing news, to consumers.

    The major downside in this transition is that these companies will become much smaller. There will be less need for these large paper companies as we transition to smaller news providers. Thus, many will lose their jobs because of this shift in consumer tastes and company needs. The companies will change or eventually die.

    My prediction is that we will no longer see these large news companies, but rather smaller more freelance based news providers that garner information from a variety of sources to put on their website and app.
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    May 19 2014: On this topic,
    I’m surprise that e-book and e-magazines have not made deals with internet TV providers.
    I think many would enjoy reading their favorite magazine on their big HD TV.
    AI: with your June’s TiVo subscription you get June’s “Better homes and gardens”.
  • May 19 2014: yes very Bright Future in Print Media
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    May 18 2014: The electronic document is easy to amend and destroy,it gives us a sense of unreliable.Although we are able to publish a certification or permit which is electronic,We never do that.Because print media is non-ignorable,it is true existence.Paper and ink is made from carbon.That's more formal than electronic document.If the technology of electronic ink screen isn't refined.The print media will still exist in education,and will also exist in some formal certification and permit
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    May 18 2014: I certainly hope not.
    • May 21 2014: And why is that, Keith?
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        May 21 2014: I find it an enormous waste of natural resources especially trees that could be out there doing what they were meant to do, provide food, shelter and community for the community. Not to mention they are responsible for the cleaning the very air we breathe and producing oxygen, without which we all die. Have you ever seen the waste products that are dumped into our water supply buy paper mills? There is simply no need for it and no excuse for it within a quasi intelligent human species.
        • May 22 2014: I completely agree with you, chopping our precious trees and dumping paper waste into the nature is not the way to go. However, how do you feel about the waste that is created by electronics? I think we have all heard about the 'Blackle' initiative (http://blackle.com/about/) that should save energy because of the black website background. Most of the websites these days are white, meaning energy is already wasted by loading a single website. Mobile phones radiate and being exposed to wifi signals everywhere you are can't be good for your body either. Do you still think print is the 'villain'?
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        May 22 2014: A couple notes for you: 1) White is the absence of color and black is a combination of all the colors 2) Go Xerox a page with black background and then check to see if you have any ink left? 3) copy and paste white print and see what happens. It disappears on a white background (the default).
        There are good reasons paper is white and print is black. Because information is transferred constantly back and forth, it makes a lot more sense they both are compatible. However the most efficient is to digitize all media.
  • May 18 2014: I have seen vinyl records for sale, as well as turntables to play them on. There is always a future.....even if it is diminished. It is often deeper than the prevailing media.
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    May 13 2014: well, there are certainly bookstores here in Southern California with loads of books and magazines. Why are they there if ebooks and magazines are all that matter?
    • May 21 2014: Hi Greg, thanks for your reply. It's more the question if those stores will last. Like I explained, profit margins are decreasing, which could be fatal to the print industry. I am from The Netherlands, and here, book store after book store goes bankrupt. So, do you think they will have a future?
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        May 22 2014: well, do you think people like to see books and magazines in their home, for instance, have a bookcase, or have magazines on a coffee table? If they do like it, why do they like it?
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    May 13 2014: I dont want to speack for everyone, but for a non-small group of people. In my immediate environment (I'm talking about Mexico , but from the city called the "one with most technology of Latin America" by the CNN magazine), I know many people that, even though there are plenty of newspapers and magazines that are available online and many of them are completely free , continue using the paper ... buy the magazines in convenience stores and acquiring local newspapers in the corner posts .
    I am aware that the group I'm talking about are people aged 45 to 60 + years, but by the time we (our generation) have that same age, it is going to be "fashionable " again to use the print media as it will be the "new" and the digital will be a stimulus too exploited.
    Currently (since 2007) there are selling Vynil Albums again, claiming to have better resolution (not sure if it's real or not) and always appealing to the nostalgic emotions that "old things are always better" or " in the past they really knew how to do things".
    Another personal example: my wife is a fan of the books. Of course she has an e-reader that in addition to having access to many free books and magazines, sometimes she loves to return to the bookstores to buy books that, in her opinion, are worth having , plus it is more comfortable make any quote or underline a phrase that seemed important; another of the reviews I hear from my friends is that there are times when you really need that "new book smell", enjoy the feeling of passing each sheet. I dont know...
    Summarizing, I believe that just as we believe that the print media are about to become extinct , the nostalgia and fashion will make it to resurface again , just like the Phoenix did.
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    May 13 2014: of course. in the same way vinyl has had a resurgence in music media in recent years.

    digital tech is convenient and has bells, whistles, buttons and doohickeys that appeal to the young and easily amused but that tends to be at the mercy of the whims of trend and fad.

    some print media has been elevated to a point that sits it closer to art than product because of the glut of screen-based gadgets.

    admittedly, it's going to become a 'boutique' market but people who like that kind of thing are quite fanatical about it.
  • May 13 2014: I was working in the computer industry and the concept of the paperless office was presented. The amount of paper used went up. The publishing industry was changing with the internet and the availability of instant access to articles and information.

    What will survive is the in depth analysis and opinion pieces. People will read it on the web or have mention of it and will want to have a paper copy. Books will also survive. There are too many people who like holding a book and reading it. Many people will use e-book/tablets while traveling but will buy a book to read at home.