PW Copy challenges the argument that print journalism is dead, as journalist Sharon Kelly explores why there’s life in the old print dog yet…
As a reader, I love spending Sundays surrounded by the newspapers, their numerous supplements and glossy magazines. A whole world awaits me and it’s a tangible experience as I flick through page after page of fascinating stories, lifestyle advice and impressive photographs. Then there’s me the journalist – and, to be truthful, there’s nothing like seeing your byline in a newspaper or magazine. So I have constantly resisted tablets of all types in favour of the ‘real thing’.
And I’m not the only one. A recent study of digital and newspaper readership figures for major UK newspapers and magazines, showed some surprising results.
For example, The Times was the most popular quality title in print with 5.52 million readers a month. But its website, which costs £4-a-week to access, had 295,000 monthly readers, according to the survey.
This show that’s there’s life in the old print dog yet. And it’s not just in the UK. In Australia, fifteen million copies of metropolitan and national newspapers are sold every week.
“Good journalism costs money and the best newspapers are those backed by successful commercial enterprises that fund the editorial costs in return for the right to make profits for their shareholders. Poor journalism . . . leads to loss of readers and, ultimately, job losses and lower returns for share- holders. Everyone loses.”
However, although many newspapers are holding their own, it does not mean that there haven’t been many changes over the last ten years or so. George Brock, former managing editor of The Times and now head of Journalism at London’s City University, says:
“They may cut staff, hollow out their content, be a shadow of their former selves and change their readers − but actual extinction, taken as a whole across developed societies, still remains rare.”
What about magazines? Magazines are thriving according to Bauer Media Group and this media company should know – it manages a portfolio of more than 600 magazines. In a recent statement, it argued that magazines are an active medium, with the reader in control.
And since different categories of magazines fulfil different needs they work in different ways.
Readers become deeply engaged with their magazine and therefore a bond grows between the reader and their chosen magazine. Copies are read repeatedly and this intimacy between readers and magazines benefits advertisers.
Here are some of Bauer’s figures to consider:
• There are 3,212 consumer magazines in the UK
• They reach 87% of the total adult population
• UK consumers will spend £2.5bn on magazines this year
• 15 to 24-year-olds are the age group most likely to read magazines
• 91% of this age group read magazines but are light users of broadcast media
• They read 24% more titles than the average British adult
So to misquote Mark Twain further: “The reports of print media’s death have been greatly exaggerated.”
“Most tablet versions of magazines these days, in addition to being more convenient . . . . also give you many things the print version can’t, and with the immediate gratification the print version can’t,” Zimmerman argues.
“A few examples: multimedia, the opportunity to provide immediate feedback, links to infinitely more information about a topic on the Web, including updates to the particular story itself. In short, a tablet magazine is interactive. Publishers have barely scratched the surface of potential ways to unlock content.”
But for now I am going to keep on reading the printed version and hopefully continue to see my name in black and white, because after all, vinyl is making its comeback!
Sharon Kelly has written for a variety of newspapers and magazines including Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Times, Independent, She, Company, Cosmopolitan and Arena. She is also the co-writer and creator of Brief Lives, a BBC Radio 4 drama now in its eight year.