The debate rages on. Will digital media replace print? No it won’t, is the glib answer to this perennial favourite. The print industry is, however, going through structural change, no doubt about that. But this massive adjustment in print’s fundamentals, being brought about by the digital driving force, is not about obliteration, but rather how it will impact on the changing landscape of traditional versus new media formats.
Clearly the internet across its many manifestations will continue to dramatically alter our lives as time goes by. Chris Anderson, Wired editor and author of The Longer Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand, puts it thus: “In the day of the internet, we’re in the first five minutes”.
It’s therefore hard to comprehend exactly what the practical long term impact will be and how it will manifest. Whether this will include the non-existence of print media in our lifetime is unlikely.
What is happening worldwide is print media is adjusting to a different, lower level of production. Paper companies everywhere are consolidating and the trend is continuing. European paper makers, especially, are closing production facilities and merging with others in an effort to drive paper prices up by constricting supply, due to contracting demand. These are normal market forces at work.
What will probably happen in the media world is that increased choice will carry on to lead to increased fragmentation. It seems likely printed media will be part of the overall mix. But it is as likely for print to be less dominant going forward, with fragmentation ever increasing choice.
Print media has a lot going for it. Its tactile nature and “always-on” physicality means people love interacting with printed products, in all its formats.
From a marketing communication and therefore brand content perspective, it means digital, print, video and a variety of other media platforms will each play a unique role in a brand’s owned media activities. It’s really due to the fragmentation and wide-raging availability of fragmented media that brands can own their own media channels.
This is great for marketers, who are no longer beholden only to external media, but who can create and maintain their own media channels, for in-context brand communication.