Jason Price | Seattle, Wa

Management Consultant, Entrepreneur, Urban Farmer

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Why Print Media is Doomed

Print Media, in its current form, is doomed - here's why

by Jason Price, Seattle, WA

Longing for Simpler Days…

I have a passion for news, history, current events and information in general. And, I'm also an old soul who yearns for things that remind me of simpler times when the world didn't move nearly as fast as it does today. I like things like baseball cards (before kids and adults started collecting them because they might be 'valuable'), making my own food from scratch, listening to LP's on a turntable, and watching cartoons that don't look like they are going to jump out of my TV. I also like picking up a newspaper and reading it. There's something about the time it takes, the tactile nature of holding it, the ritual of reading it with a cup of coffee and the connection to a mix of local, national, and international news all in one tidy package that is appealing to me. All that being said – I'm in the minority as a dying breed when it comes to my desire to pick up an old fashioned newspaper and read it from cover to cover.

Fast Forward to the Digital Age

In this 'Digital Age', many anachronistic industries are evolving and being replaced by better technological solutions driven by consumer demand. We see this time and time again with simple, familiar themes such as the evolution of music media from Vinyl to Tape to CD to .MP3 in a relatively short time span – especially on the back end of that evolution. We're also seeing an analogous transition in publishing with books and other print media which are rapidly moving from the 'old-school' handheld books being replaced by pod casts and digital devices such as the Kindle, iPad, Nook and Smartphones and Tablets. It only stands to reason that print media, such as magazines and newspapers, will rapidly follow suit. My Immersion into Print Media Recently, I was fortunate enough to have had the experience of working with a real-life print-focused news print media company. It was enlightening on many levels and I enjoyed learning new things about what goes into producing the newspaper that I so liked to read. The passion of the people that worked at the company also impressed me a great deal. They truly believed in what they were doing – providing a public service for the community. However, the fault in this commendable but flawed approach was that no one seemed concerned about the revenue side of the business other than a select few. It reminded me of walking into a non-profit that had a mission to do good and a focus to establish a donor base to justify their 'cause'. In the case of newspapers – subscribers and advertisers were the 'donors' and producing journalistic content is the 'cause'. The problem was/is that however noble their cause may have been, you can be assured that the Publisher was quite interested in turning a profit. Or at least breaking even. And the employees didn't seem to care much about this small but important facet of the business. I observed a pervasive feeling of hopelessness among the group. Ideas and potential solutions to stem and reverse rapid declines in advertising and subscription revenue were not readily available. Nobody knew what to do. Nor did they have the means to do it.

The Music Industry as a Precursor to Change in Print Media

I believe that the music industry struggles in the late 90′s/early 2000′s can serve as a forewarning of the future of print media. Remember the time when there were file sharing platforms like Napster? While these were easy to use and not yet illegal, they were eroding revenue and royalties for artists and music labels. People freely shared .mp3 files and were able to easily access music without paying for it. The band Metallica famously fought the inevitable transition to digital music and filed a lawsuit vs. Napster in 2000 trying to stem the tides of transition and public desire. The eventual ubiquity of platforms such as iTunes and Amazon as 'go-to' distribution centers for music and digital media in general was unforeseen and principally hated by the band. That said, after years of struggle, lost revenue, and even being lampooned on South Park; the band acquiesced and joined the digital fray realizing as many do that money beats romantic longings for the good old days. The good old days being the romantic notion that people want to consume music in album format vs. purchasing singles. We now see that this is far from the truth as singles revenue iTunes have significantly increased but the adverse impact on the music industry as a whole has been devastating. In this excellent graphic from RIAA via CNN Money; we can see that units of singles sold via digital platforms makes up ~80% of the total while album units lags far behind.

collage of different print media types by jason price seattle

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