The Future of Print in the Digital Age

When it comes to news, there can be no doubt consumer behaviour has shifted from print to digital.

Trashy headlines, comedy distractions and celebrity exclusives now belong to the likes of BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post & TMZ rather than the tabloid press. Twitter breaks news faster than any newspaper ever could, while engaged political bloggers arguably have more sway than columnists ever did. Legacy newspaper brands are struggling to make it pay online, whereas digital-first blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable thrive with the ability to satisfy its news-hungry audience multiple times per day.

So print is dead.

Or is it?

Wil Lee-Wright

Wil Lee-Wright

“There is a vacuum in print and it is open for entrepreneurial journalists to explore”, claims Wil Lee-Wright, Editor-in-Chief at The List, a new English language print magazine for Trondheim, targeting foreigners living in and visiting the town.

“Myself, our team, my friends and family all actively seek out print publications. Of course we’re engaged with digital content but print is something we all crave. A digital platform alone won’t satisfy the needs of our audience. New international workers, asylum seekers, business travellers and tourists won’t necessarily know about the digital platform, but they will see our magazine out on the streets. We also offer digital content and anticipate doing more in the future, but the print magazine will remain our way of introducing people to the brand.”

A sustainable business?

Even if there is a demand for print publications, is it possible to build a sustainable business given the powerful targeting available with online media? Wil is convinced it is.

“From our pre-launch research we found that in places with saturated markets like London, there has been a move towards the free press. The List is a free publication but with high production values, so much so that some people aren’t quite sure if our magazine is free! This quality, together with the fact that no other publication is targeting this audience, means we have a very attractive proposition for advertisers. We are already achieving sustainable advertising rates because we offer access to a unique audience, whilst remaining accessible to all.”

Tarmo Virki

Tarmo Virki

Tarmo Virki, co-founder of CoFounder magazine, agrees.

“The differentiator is being able to reach a very specific target group. Newspapers and general interest print magazines aim as wide as the internet does, but there is one key difference. On the internet you can target advertising, so today print has to target too.”

The Finnish-Estonian publication targets the thriving technology startup scene in Europe, and launched its debut issue at the Slush conference in November 2014.

“We have seen a lot of free media like the Metro newspaper trying to create a platform through distributing the paper publication to as many people as possible. We will operate a subscription model, but continue to distribute at industry conferences too. Issue 2 will be available at the CeBIT conference in Germany.”

A credible voice

Both The List and CoFounder are professionally designed, quality publications, the kind of magazine you’ll leave on your kitchen table and refer to again and again. This offers readers – and advertisers – something they struggle to find online, a long-term, permanent relationship. That print ad lasts forever.

Print offers journalists the chance to unshackle themselves from click-bait headlines and SEO keyword-driven copy, and explore topics with a depth and narrative that’s increasingly hard to find online.

This article from Niemann Storyboard suggests “Launching a print magazine today is courageous; some would say foolhardy.”

I say courageous, yes, but foolhardy, no. A future in which we consume news online but read more thoughtful, longer-form interviews and features in print is one I’m all for.

What do you think?