Disruption Will Only Get Faster… and Print Will Remain Vital

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nailed it when he spoke these prescient words at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos last May:

“It’s incredible when you think of it, that this very moment right now, the pace of change has never been this fast, and yet in the future, it will never be this slow again.”

Not quite a year later, change came at breathtaking speed. And the publishing world, which has worked so hard to find their footing in the new digital landscape, was knocked around again.

Yet Trudeau’s statement didn’t end there. He added:

“The speed at which we will continue to innovate, solve problems, and advance our societies will surprise us in a good way.”

Part of that “good way” is evidenced in how this industry has adapted to the pandemic, aligned closely with their audience to deliver the kind of content we need right now. And they are leveraging the tech that initially disrupted everything to do so. Through it all, we see print remaining absolutely vital, with a new kind of importance.

“The reach of digital change and development, it seems, knows no bounds,” writes Jon Watkins in FIPP. “Yet, despite these leaps forward and the opportunities created by the digital revolution, one thing remains true: that rumours of the death of print media have been vastly exaggerated.

“In fact, far from ‘surviving’, there are examples from all around the world of print thriving,” Watkins continues. “The fact is, 58 percent of subscribers still describe themselves as primarily print-oriented, and 60-80% of publisher revenues are still generated from print.”

The continued strength of print doesn’t come from fighting digital (it’s not a war, folks), but from their ability to use digital in partnership with print.

“Successful magazines have reinvented themselves as brands that serve their audience via a range of channels, of which print is just one,” Watkins continues.

At first, publishers began sharing the same content across all channels, print and digital both. They quickly realized giving away their best content wasn’t working as a revenue model, and the industry woke up to the real possibilities of paid content strategies.

As Watkins reminds us, this allows publishers to leverage each channel to “play to its strengths.” For print, that strength is its curated nature, its deep coverage, and the “lean back” experience we cherish – especially important now as we all search for sources of news we can trust.

“While Justin Trudeau may well be right that the pace of change – including in the publishing industry – is unlikely to slow,” writes Watkins, “magazines it seems have found themselves a place within the publishing ecosystem to really add value and play a continuing vital role in the print/digital mix.”

This added value is where we need to continue to focus, no matter what the world throws at us next.