The ad-free renaissance of print media EJINSIGHT



The tidal wave of free online blogs and news portals, which began a decade ago with massive Internet penetration, has prompted some industry analysts to spell the end of print media.

Indeed, we have seen a wave of newspaper and magazine closings over the years.

But this is no longer the case, at least in the United States, where the market is experiencing a revival of the written press.

Over 200 new publications have sprung up in the past year and even some “digital natives” such as Pitchfork, a music portal, and The Tablet, an online platform for Jewish news and commentary, have started to appear. sell hard copies.

That’s not all.

Several revered media outlets like The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have quietly increased their retail and subscription fees, but their readership continues to expand nonetheless.

There is no free lunch. The news industry should never take their work as a gift. People have to pay if they want to read quality news and commentary.

Interestingly, the apparent renaissance of print media is occurring despite the influx of advertisements on the Internet.

Also, for the first time in the last century, we saw last year Overall print media circulation revenues in the world exceed advertising revenues, which were once their main source of revenue.

Figures from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers show that newspapers and magazines around the world earned more than US $ 92 billion from retail sales and subscriptions in 2015, or US $ 5 billion of more than their advertising revenue.

Larry Kilman, general secretary of the association, said the tradition of subsidizing the distribution of advertising may be coming to an end.

One of the pioneers in adapting to the new order is Rodale Inc., a Pennsylvania-based publisher of health and wellness magazines, books, and digital properties, including Men’s Health.

Its management has announced that from July its flagship product Prevention, founded by Jerome Irving Rodale and currently one of the largest American magazines in terms of circulation, will break through the clutter and move to an ad-free business model for its editions. printed.

The tablet-sized magazine currently offers a premium price of US $ 24 for an annual subscription – an industry high unmatched by many other rivals; this price will increase with the launch of the new ad-free edition.

The new Prevention hits newsstands in June with a one-time copy price of US $ 4.99, up from its current price of US $ 3.99.

While boldly raising rates, the entire magazine advertising service will be cut to save resources amid dwindling advertising customers.

The magazine is expected to experience a sharp drop in circulation following the price adjustment, one million copies less than the current 1.5 million, but the strategy will also result in reduced paper consumption and costs. printing and logistics to compensate for distribution and advertising losses.

Overall, profitability will largely not be affected, the magazine’s officials say.

The New Yorker is more conservative in comparison: it always seeks to seduce advertisers while increasing its price.

“Print is the new medium,” reads an article published by the Columbia Journalism Review late last year; The title says it all.

In-depth commentary and stories – fiction too – are what give print media a distinct advantage over their online competition.

While the latter may now attract more viewers, a newspaper with a circulation of just 10,000 copies may still be larger than a free news blog that gets 100,000 hits per day.

These observations are also echoed in a survey by the Pew Research Center which found that Internet browsers are just “flyovers” or readers who access a news website through a link on a social networking site.

He also finds that people spend just over four minutes on average browsing news and articles online.

Articles read so hastily can hardly leave a lasting impression. This leaves ample room for the print media to disseminate serious information and views.

Like everywhere else, the print media in Hong Kong are also struggling with declining ad revenue and their websites are largely unable to compete for ads with the pure online media.

The woes facing the city’s free newspapers are especially dire, as advertisements are their only source of income, and now, in order to survive, they may have to start charging their readers.

Print publications have to get more expensive to make up for lost advertising revenue, and the only way to do that is to have an editorial team that can get the scoops and ideas that meet the needs and tastes of readers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 20.

Translation of Frank Chen

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Read more:

Why money keeps pouring into Hong Kong’s media industry

Why Hong Kong is the only Asian hub for global media

Lam Hang-chi

A famous writer from Hong Kong; founder of the Hong Kong Economic Journal


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