Is print media dead?

When launching In The Know Magazine in the Summer of 2020, we had to decide if we were going to provide SME business owners with printed issues or an online magazine site.

Diane Hall

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Business papers that have been printed.

With print comes production costs and the burden of distribution. Most people seek information, and conduct their business, online in 2021. It’s easier to be topical when content can instantly be posted and put in front of an audience’s noses. We can measure if our content is being/has been read if digital. We can incorporate backlinks to third party websites and boost our SEO. We can enjoy immediate conversations with our readers online. Other forms of media can be digitally inserted into content, such as video.


Print media has seen a severe decline over the last decade, unfortunately. It faced a challenge in the sixties, when television was introduced; however, it managed to sail through this storm. The advent of the internet has proved a much bigger hurdle to overcome for the industry.


The circulations of once-popular newspapers and magazines have reduced greatly. During the fourteen years between 2003 and 2017, UK newspaper circulation fell from 30 million copies purchased per day to 12.4 million (Ofcom). Also in the UK, the number of journalists employed by publishers between 2007 and 2019 fell by 26%, according to PWC’s Media Outlook Report 2020-2024.


Whilst fewer journalists may suggest that fewer news stories will reach us, this isn’t necessarily the case. In effect, we’re all news reporters when we post our images, observations and thoughts on social media sites.


Print media doesn’t have the reach it once had. If more people consume their news via alternative channels and platforms, fewer will purchase a newspaper or magazine. With fewer eyes on the tangible content these media companies create, fewer advertisers will place their adverts within the pages they produce. Fewer advertisers equal a much smaller budget for the newspaper/magazine executives to play with, meaning fewer copies coming off the printing press and a much slimmer product for consumption. With significantly fewer issues to sell comes lower profits and staff lay-offs, hence the nosedive in the number of journalists. It’s the age-old formula of supply and demand in play. Money talks. These same advertisers follow the readers and now place their adverts on media outlets’ webpages.

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The internet has decimated a few industries, including the music industry and book publishing. The players in these industries don’t make anywhere near as much money as they used to from their original content and are forced to top it up with the revenue from musicians’/authors’ tours and appearances, merchandise and collaborative advertising. It’s difficult to see how print media could diversify into anything other than moving into the digital world.


It’s largely the older generation that’s propping up the industry. But, as time moves on, their numbers will naturally reduce, and we may eventually see print media disappear altogether. 


Currently, news outlets are adapting to these changes and diversifying, placing most of their content online, with only the larger, or specific/niche, stories finding their way onto a physical page.


I personally enjoy reading tangible items, such as a book or magazine, over their digital alternatives (and I’m not that old). I buy one or two magazines a year, though I never purchase newspapers, whereas I used always buy a daily paper around 20 years ago. I seem to recall that it wasn’t the internet that caused me to stop buying print media, it was more to do with the fact that I was a mum of two young children and I didn’t have time to read them. When I had more time, once the kids grew up, the internet was here, which seems to deliver everything I need to know. The purchasing of a magazine for me, in 2021, is simply to give my mind a break from a screen and the constant scrolling through the feeds on my phone. I suppose I should follow the mantra ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’ and ramp up my purchases of print media if I don’t want the industry to disappear.


So, that’s why In The Know Magazine is a digital site…a digital magazine. We did actually create a few printed issues, but it’s not a cost-effective nor warranted strategy to get our content before readers. However principled it may be to try and keep something traditional, if it doesn’t make good business sense, it simply doesn’t happen.

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