Although the “battle” between traditional print media and social media is one that many folks on both sides of the table don’t always love talking about, it’s still a very real occurrence. Old powerhouses of print media are struggling, while new media outlets seem to be taking off. But what exactly is the state of media in 2014?
Let’s start with newspapers. Put shortly, it’s not pretty:
As Slate recently pointed out, newspaper ad revenues are down more than 50 percent in the last five years alone. More importantly than that, though, print ad revenues are now the lowest they’ve been since 1950, when the Newspaper Association of America first started tracking data. If ever there was a giant sucking sound in media, this is it. Some newspapers are still doing well. Unlike large outlets like the New York Post, which loses $50 million a year, many small, niche newspapers are continuing to thrive. Niche newspapers, especially ethnic ones, like the Urdu Times and Queens Latino, are seeing better (print) readership than ever and are continuing to find success in the wake of a much larger shift in media. These papers do realize that they’ll eventually need to go digital, but at least for now, they’re managing to succeed where others aren’t.
On a different front entirely, we have outlets like Vox, an online outlet for Vox Media that has become widely read in the last few months by offering concise, punchy summaries of the most important things happening in news. And in an even more unique case, we have Buzzfeed, which started as a viral content sharing site and has evolved into a media platform for people to get news in the same way they get their viral content. Buzzfeed has found a lot of success with ‘native’ advertising, so much that it’s starting to be viewed by some as a case study in industry disruption.
And then, of course, we have social media. While not completely immune from problems, social media is efficient for advertising, but companies can’t charge as much for social media ads as they could for print ads, leaning to shrinking ad revenue across the board. Still, many companies are finding success on social media. Don’t get me wrong. We’re still in very early days for social media, and some are finding success while others continue to struggle to figure out how best to use it.
Even so, the biggest change in this era of social media is that anyone can publish (see Medium for an excellent example of this model as a business). People just don’t need to go through a big publishing outlet to find success like they used to. Anyone can set up a website, Facebook page, or Twitter, and get posting immediately. The dynamic in media, especially here in 2014, is different than it’s ever been, and that’s certainly not doing traditional media any favors.
Does print media still matter? Absolutely. Will it matter as much in 2020 as it does here in 2014? Probably not. If anything, looking at print media’s reaction to digital disruption should be a case study for folks on digital media, a lesson in how to avoid the same fate that they’re suffering now. By the time newspapers realized digital and social media were a threat, it was already too late.
We’re still in early days for social media, and we shouldn’t yet count out old powerhouses entirely. But here in 2014, the publishing model is different. It’s about time we all start looking for better ways to make use of the incredible tools we have at our disposal.
Image Credit: CC by Everjean