Print isn’t dead, its just that digital is first says Guardian
This is a week in newspapers to remember. Yesterday Guardian News & Media announced a new strategy that it is calling “digital-first”. It is the strongest admission we have yet had that the newspaper industry knows that it is moving ahead to a future where print is receding in the rear view mirror.
Losses are mounting, the Guardian reported they hit £33m, more cuts need to be made, in the order of £25m says Brand Republic, and significantly an admission from editor Alan Rusbridger that readers no longer read newspapers in the same way, that leads to the question: why publish them in the same way?
Rusbridger, who two weeks ago admitted to no “credible” five year business plan, said: “Half our readers now read the paper in the evening. They get their breaking news from our website or on mobile.”
That’s what “digital-first” means. We turn first to the web and the social web and the newspaper comes later. It increasingly, on weekdays at least, an enjoyable afterthought. For a medium built on breaking news this is a major break.
Rusbridger said the aim was to create a title that would be “as relevant at 9am as 9pm” and would emulate “Newsnight not News at Ten”.
Print (still) isn’t dead, the Guardian said print remains “critical”, but the condition of print news is terminal if not close to terminated. Rusbridger said that “every newspaper is on a journey into some kind of digital future. That doesn’t mean getting out of print, but it does require a greater focus of attention, imagination and resource on the various forms that digital future is likely to take”.
The leap from there, from Newsnight, to a future that includes, for instance, a reduced publishing schedule is not that far away. Newspapers are daily as they were founded to be news-based. If that is no longer the case, why the daily schedule?
Losses of £33m and shrinking revenues, down by 10% to approximately £200m, on the back of the shrivelled print recruitment market, almost guarantee some kind of fundamental change to print along the road.
Interesting, but not a surprise that the Guardian remains committed to remaining free and chief executive Andrew Miller remains opposed to any kind of paywall. We all knew that and at least for now no amount of success by the Guardian’s spiritual fellow traveller, The New York Times, will influence this.
Instead the Guardian is pursuing its open web strategy that Rusbridger recently expanded upon at #BBCSMS when he talked about “open media”.
We are seeing very interesting developments starting to emerge in this area such as the launch of the Guardian’s Comment Network, which aims to bring a range of bloggers to the Guardian.co.uk. Smart move and very much the way forward: expanding its reach, its community and pushing itself out into the web.
As to survive and prosper media companies like the Guardian have to become more social and take on the attributes of social media; become social news networks fuelled by content that they both own and create and other content they adopt or co-create.