For Earl J Wilkinson, the Executive Director and CEO of International News Media Association (INMA), the future of print in a digital world is prosperous. Mr Wilkinson’s confidence stems from the thought process that technology may have changed everything around it but the fundamentals of the media business, which is still about quality journalism, storytelling and story generation, is the same.
“We are in a place where a third of the world is digitally disrupted, another one third cannot get enough of newsprint and one third is stuck somewhere in between,” he observed. In the next six years, the business can expect to see exponential increase in device processing and internet connectivity. By 2020, over 3 billion people are expected to be connected for the first time through mobile. Media consumption habits would be impacted in such a future, and the only choice newspaper publishers will have is to evolve or die.
“That being said, there are many iterations of print and digital in the decade ahead that cannot be predicted. Hence, it becomes important to look at things that won’t change, and use that to determine what the future course of action should be,” advised Mr Wilkinson.
The ramification for news publishers is that while there is a role for print, there is no exclusive role for it today. The opportunity ahead is the integration with digital, where print can be a lead or a support medium. What cannot be discounted is that print brings legacy, differentiation and would continue to be the medium of high engagement, loyalty, passion and emotion.
Digital’s dynamism with print’s experience
“There are experiments happening globally to make the most of print. Digital choices augment the innovative streak of print. Print audiences remain strong in foundation. We are talking of qualities like older, richer, better educated, habitual and brand loyal — everything that brands are looking for,” Mr Wilkinson asserted.
The combination of print and digital is driving new value as reach extender, complementary combination and dimension builder. This is making place for optimising what print and digital do best and helps creating awareness, emotions, frequency and sustainability. The industry, according to Mr Wilkinson, would appear to be less motivated by research and more by perceptions. But publishers are changing the rules. Newspapers have reinvented themselves and they are leveraging the voices of the loyal audiences they have into the brand.
“The proliferation of media and the abundance of messaging have given birth to an incomprehensible noise around us. Print will become the signal in that noise,” Mr Wilkinson said, and added, “News brands are the trusted voices in the noise. We are seeing the established and future preparing newspapers transition to news brands and become content marketers.”
For news publishers, the time has come to shift from linear to exponential expectations. All publishers are going through same funnel to multimedia.
“Advertisers don’t want advertising, they want solutions. Print is the beginning that leads to a trusted solution provider. Think of us not as print brands but as solution providers, the only ones, by the way, that have print as an option,” Mr Wilkinson concluded.
Mr Wilkinson was speaking at the sixth edition of the APMF held in Bali on September 19-20, 2014.