Hole in one or game over?
It’s golf versus the newspaper when it comes to understanding the crux of the dilemma facing today’s newspaper industry, writes Marcela Garza-Barba.
At 8am on a Sunday morning, you are running late to meet your mates at the golf course. You stop for a coffee and realise you have enough change to buy the paper. It’s been a while since you last bought one because you have a tablet to read news online.
After arriving at golf, you read through the newspaper before getting out of the car. Nothing new comes to your attention, you’ve read it all on the internet and you struggle to cope with the unwieldy pages and excessive content.
You leave the newspaper in your car and, instead, continue reading the news on your smart phone as you walk over to the golf course. After all, there’s more recent news online than in the paper.
According to Jim Chisholm, consultant to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, despite the digital revolution, 96 per cent of a newspaper company’s revenue comes from print. Digital and other content styles form the remaining four per cent.
Why is the newspaper business struggling? Why isn’t print attractive to readers anymore? Is it because of the content, the style or the digital revolution? Is the newspaper dying?
The media industry has been trying to answer these questions for years, and Mr Chisholm advises print and production businessmen on how to solve such problems. In a nutshell, he says that newspapers should do “less” and do it better.
He said that as people get older they don’t read as much. These days, newspapers are competing with the golf course rather than the internet.
It seems that the newspaper industry has had a handicap in recent years.
The list of disadvantages that print faces because of the digital revolution is long and the disadvantages are becoming increasingly challenging.
Recent cuts at News Limited and Fairfax Media have shaken journalists, advertisers, and readers alike. However, innovation and creativity are the path forward, according to Mr Chisholm.
“People don’t want a 64 page paper because they get bored. They read only 25 per cent of the content,” Mr Chisholm said. He added that if 75 per cent of a newspaper is staying unread it means content need to be all about quality, not quantity.
“People are looking for products that are tailored,” he said.
Somewhere along the way newspapers fell out of step with their readers. Readership numbers started to decrease and consequentially advertisers decreased as well.
The mistake newspapers constantly make is to focus on the analogue market and not on the young market, Mr Chisholm said.
“We read more when we are youngest and then we give up. We go off and get a career, have a family, and suddenly we don’t have time to read. Young readers is the best it’s going to be,” Mr Chisholm says.
Mr Chisholm said that, in order for newspapers to continue to grow, they need to redesign their visuals and content.
“I would be thinking about an A5 style, something you can carry around in your pocket,” he said.
Chisholm also highlighted that digital printing is part of the newspaper business’ future.
“Digital printing is a massive opportunity. The future of this business is in digital printing. Imagine getting the Sydney Morning Herald in Glasgow!”
Ultimately, newspapers must immerse themselves in the readers’ minds and ways of life. Readers have to be engaged enough not to leave their Sunday paper sitting in their car instead of reading it.
After all, Mr Chisholm said, “We don’t compete with the Internet, we compete with the golf course.”