Why quality matters in media today

Print media quality CSC Blogs

Print is dead, right? So goes the common cadence.

But what if I told you that in 2015, The Economist magazine had a total circulation of 1.6 million, with paid subscriptions growing and gross profit from circulation increasing?

Changing your mind yet?

Well, what if I added another example: the Financial Times, sold by British media company Pearson to a Japanese publisher in 2015 for $1.3 billion – cash. The famous pink paper continues to reach a global business community of 780,000 daily.

And let me add that several booming online businesses have made the transition to print with success. Brands like Allrecipes.com, Politico and Net-A-Porter now have magazines coming to bookstores, newsstands and mailboxes near you.

Porter magazine CSC Blogs

In 2014, online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter launched a glossy magazine to rival Vogue.

Now it’s absolutely true that print is not the prodigal son for many media companies today. U.S.-based Gannett (owner of USA TODAY) and New York Times Co. face continued declines in print business while digital revenues grow – and those are just two examples.

But there does seem to be some staying power for the medium.

Why?

As Peter Preston from the UK’s Guardian wrote recently, it’s quality that counts.

“Who, in a globe of constant communication, any longer needs magazines that explain, dissect and debate the news? Answer: Apparently we all do. They’re performing as well as anyone can remember. Small and spiky and thoughtful is beautiful,” he says.

It’s the quality of the writing, the editing, the analysis, the beauty of the photography and design. Those elements – and the message they convey – matter, it seems. And together they create an experience that can’t be replicated in digital forms yet.

Preston’s is a heartening point of view for those in the industry; traditionalists often have a soft spot for the supposedly dying art of print. And while it’s clear the daily newspaper doesn’t always sell well in tree-killer form anymore (it’s so much easier to check an app or log on to Twitter for our news, isn’t it?), it’s good to know that quality and creativity are keeping the art alive in other ways.

As John Elkann of the The Economist said last year in explaining recent successes, “If you have a distinct journalistic offer, which is independent; if you have a readership, which is growing in the world… and if you have technology that can help you reach much more of them than you could in the past, the combination of that, if well executed, is pretty powerful.”

Hear, hear!

So how does a company, squeezed by financial pressures and a myriad of responsibilities, produce high-quality, cutting-edge print products? Well, automation can play a role. If creative minds are freed from the work a machine can do just as well, they can be focused on producing innovative print work. Big data and analytics are tools that can lend insights. Publishers now have deep data on what topics are hot and “selling” based on engagement with digital content.

In a lot of ways, the digital shift supports the old technology of print publishing. And that’s a story that may stop the presses!

How is your company maintaining a print presence? What ambitions would you want for your company in this digital landscape? How would you like to see digital tools support your company and your industry?


Scott Dryburgh joined CSC in 2015 as the Industry Lead for Media with responsibility for UK projects in broadcast, publishing, advertising and entertainment. Prior to joining CSC, he worked across a broad range of clients and was responsible for transforming multi-faceted businesses using a creative and entrepreneurial approach.

 

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Comments

  1. Media companies must immediately learn to “manage print for profit” at the first sign of a print decline. Take your print sales teams reports seriously at your own peril when they try to tell you that the 5% drop in revenues this month was an aberration. It’s the first sign of fatal hemorrhaging. Do the math… 12 months of 5% declines means you’re out of business. It’s at epidemic stages.

    Most media companies make the mistake of thinking that a move to “digital” revenues is the answer. Digital display is as risky as print and the margins are ridiculously low. Those experiencing a print (and subsequent digital) decline need to be moving as swiftly as possible to transforming themselves to a data business. In doing so they must explore how they can leverage their core expertise, content, to create an enriched data exhaust that can be sold as a core product with digital display and print as supplemental products.

    This turns upside down the old media sales proposition that if you buy a page of advertising I’ll throw in some banners and sales leads. In this era, it’s “if you buy a data program I’ll throw in some digital display and a page (if you still have a page).

    Only by reinforcing to your market that your enriched content can lead to enriched data will media companies be able to compete against the rapidly emerging data competitors who have no credible content offering.

    Like

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