10 Reasons Newspaper Revenue Is Gone Forever

If you’re in print media, hemorrhaging revenue and done nothing you still need to rethink your business model. The iPad, DRM or other closed platforms are not your savior.  And merely putting your content online is hardly enough.

Revenue for ad supported, text-based news content is not coming back at all.  At least not in the same formats it was in previously.  That party is over and the only answer is to retool and design for a connected world.


1.  Print media was designed for a society that no longer exists

Now we have an open information society where anyone and everyone can produce content.  With that, it’s no longer special or unique to be organized around making text-based content when we’re all organized around it.  Now what becomes special and unique are people over brands, community/connections over raw numbers and influence/authority/trust.  Print revenue, at least acquired through their current lens of the world (eyeballs!) is done for.  They lost the game to companies like Demand Media who are organized around a web-powered world and have a model that’s fast, cheap and profitable as hell.

2.  We are already too used to free media

Especially future generations – they are trained to get it free.  Print publications which try to charge for apps that are the same content as their free versions are trying to make you pay for something unnecessary.  Consumers will see through this.

3.  iPad or other closed devices don’t suddenly change the economics of free

They merely succeed in creating their own walled gardens of content.  What’s so frequently forgotten is these still exist within a larger system that is open and free, and do not change the fact that consumers (and basic economics) gravitate to this price point.  Early data is saying successful iPad paid apps aren’t coming from big media and it’s not really a surprise.

4.  They’re going to keep being aggregated, abridged, remixed and copied

Digital publications that are open/free are going to run with stories and content, whether original or published elsewhere.  So even if someone is profiting from control (such as a walled garden) many are going to profit from it regardless of that, if the information is worth spreading.

5.  Everyone is now competition

When every company is a media company and all people are media, pure media businesses have a lot more competition.  It’s not that their product is bad, the problem boils down to the reality of an attention economy.  Aggregate attention is finite, yet companies and even people are getting more aggressive, creative and active in their content marketing.  That is stealing time and attention from pure media players.

6.  Advertising on the web was devalued from the start

At the start of selling ads online, most media set a price points for ads far lower than print.  This trained everyone to expect online ads to be cheaper to purchase.  This, combined with a long tail of media helped push price points down to the point media need absurd amounts of attention to equal respectable revenue.  What they should have been doing all along is treating digital as the master copy.

7.  App stores supporting the newspaper/print industry are a fallacy

While print media seems much more eager to embrace things like app stores than record labels initially did, I don’t think they’ll see anywhere near the success the music industry has in this playing field.  Society views and values forms of media differently due to what we’ve been primed for.  We were trained for years to carry music around with us in a mobile, electronic device long before the mp3 player (hello CDs and Cassettes).  Mp3 players offered true portability, and we embraced them.  Eventually Apple made one that was too easy to mess up (many of us had mp3 players prior to the iPod) and they become the de facto choice.  iPod + App store is a great formula for most people who probably don’t listen to independent artists/creative commons music anyway.  They won that game.  But that does not mean the design is perfect and just replicates into other forms of media.  We’re trained to carry news and digital content with us already – in the forms of PDAs, cell phones, hand held devices and even laptops. Yet even with that many still cling to paper, and many of us don’t touch paper and stick to digital.  More devices doesn’t change this, and just because a new device is created doesn’t shift the power balance.  We have a fragmented device and fragmented media world when it comes to text:  one new device or store by itself is not enough to shift the power.

8.  Digital advertising and media have already gone through multiple phases of maturation

And did so without a nod to the past.  The split happened years ago with entrepreneurs developing systems seeking relevancy to consumers through things like contextual and search advertising on the sales side and SEO and social media on the media side.  Those media entities which retooled are succeeding, however those who cling to the past are already obsolete.

9.  Sophisticated marketers and advertisers demand seeing detailed metrics from ad spends

When we can target ultra-specific groups, witness conversions, have accountability for our spends and the ability to refine campaigns — all in real-time — it seems archaic to advertise with print media.  The dusty old brands of yesterday may still be throwing money into print to reach CPM goals but I question when we reach a tipping point globally of tech savvy CMOs who see the absurdity of it.  That type of advertising is failure.

10.  Print is passe’

This may be a bit more subjective – but the idea of “printing news” is as passe’ as the notion of the milkman.  Simply put, there is no relevance of printed news in a digital society.  Books aren’t going away, but printed newspapers (within our lifetimes) will become extinct.  That’s why today it’s one of the 7 living artifacts still walking among us.  But not for long.

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