THE DIGITAL FUTURE OF NEWS MEDIA

(The article was written for Rasala Publications Brand, PCWorld Pakistan)

The news print industry was believed to be doomed from the very onset of the online media but somehow it survived the decade of the new technology. But now it seems the print end is imminent when the social media and other online tools have taken the news industry by storm. The instant and instantaneous delivery of the online news has made it more better choice than the print. Even the popularity of the print edition seems to be on the decline in the newer generation where the cost of the print edition plays a major part also. After all, who would go for subscription if the same news is available online from some other source?

These factors have influenced some of the big guns in the print industry to finally abandon their traditional means of news and embrace the new media which could eventually earn more revenues for them, and at a better cost. If not, then they will soon face bankruptcy. Similar, is the case with the magazine industry.

The magazine industry has been struggling much more than the hard print copy because of the less targeted audience and user preferences. So, will the new era usher an end to print copy for the magazine industry.

Let us dig out what the future prospects are for the magazine industry after one of the very old name in such regard Newsweek announced earlier this month to say goodbye to print after almost eighty years of publication. The ultimatum set by Newsweek for its hard copy quiet tells the story of the struggling times for the once established player. But is the case exclusive only to Newsweek or for the entire industry. We will find out below.

Is the future all-digital for magazine industry?

When Newsweek Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown and founder of The Newsweek Daily Beast Baba Shetty announced this week: “In our judgment, we have reached a tipping point at which we can most efficiently and effectively reach our readers in all-digital format,” the decision did not come as a surprise for many who considered the magazine to be lost in its direction for quiet some time since Tina Brown took control of the publication. Although the magazine overall subscriptions were not at all impressive before Brown was assigned the higher role but it even got worse after her appointment, instead of showing some improvement.

Since Newsweek is one of the oldest names in the magazine industry, speculations are high that not much scope has been left for the printed word. But on the other hand, some spectators from the industry believed that the decision is all exclusive to the magazine and will not affect much of the industry. Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University Of Mississippi School Of Journalism believes that the merger of the print edition with the news website Daily Beast has led the publication in its present state, as he said: “Tina Brown took Newsweek in the wrong direction. Newsweek did not die, Newsweek committed suicide.”

The problem with the publication seems to be entirely its own and not of the whole industry. This can be very well justified from the following facts:

-The ad revenue for the industry has risen by 2.6% in US, according to eMarketer.

-In US, about 181 new magazines were launched this year while only about 61 were closed.

The above mentioned facts reflect very well that despite of the decline in the readers’ subscriptions, the magazine industry is still booming. Moreover, the other established players in the industry are not considering any near possibility to completely end their print present.

Contrary to this, the new media is embraced by the established and emerging players for generating more revenues while reaching out to a wider audience who could not avail the print copy in their respective environment. The provision of digital format along with print version will help them keep their traditional as well new channels intact.

Although there is little denying in the fact that the print industry has been severely affected by the new media, it has also gained a lot from it too. The new smart devices and applications have made the publication target the Smart users and reach out more to the ‘once non-readers’. Moreover, the older readers still very much have their preferences for the hard copy, despite having the information available on hand.

Even more importantly, since we are talking magazine industry in specific which provides the analysis and commentary that people like to read in their leisure time and to gain a better insight about matters at hand. In these circumstances, the hard copy can be easily carried while travelling –it is not always feasible to carry laptops and smart devices along.

Hence, ushering an end to print copy is still very much early because of the presence of the magazine in the industry globally. The case for the Newsweek and the rest of industry seems to be less connected than what is thought to be. Therefore, the decision by the publication to end its print presence can not be replicated for the rest of the industry until and unless other prominent players like TIME takes such initiative. Will all the other follow Newsweek in this regard is something premature to predict, but still it seems less of a possibility if one look at the dynamics of the industry at present.