We Have Seen Print’s Enemy …

… and it’s not digital. Some intriguing ideas on resurrecting print circulations.

The survey How Millennials Consume Content was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Publishing Technology. The full results can be accessed at www.publishingtechnology.com/research

Smartphones are not to blame for all of print’s losses.

That’s the overriding message from Dr. Leslie C. Norins, writing in Association & Media Publishing. The good doctor, a 40-year veteran of the medical and scientific publishing trenches, knows of what he speaks.

Dr. Norins takes aim at the publishers who claim that the enemy to print is digital, and is confident the situation can be turned around with the right approach.

“What have most publishers done so far to help their print editions repel, or at least hold the line against, the incursions of digital substitutes? Candid answer: nothing,” he writes. “It’s been one abject surrender after another. Slash, not the attacker, but your own print staff and budgets. Corporate seppuku.”

“The new goal is not vanquishing digital, but a prosperous modus vivendi: regain sufficient print circulation to restore print’s respect and finances,” Dr. Norins continues.

Digital, of course, is a convenient villain, but focusing attention and blame there keeps publishers from the difficult and “incisive inquiry into the weaknesses in marketing the print enterprise.”

In other words, it’s been easier to blame the other guy rather than fix what’s really wrong with their own approach.  Fortunately, Dr. Norins has a hugely optimistic view of the current role and possibility of print. As he explains, print conveys an image of success, and it’s this new paradigm that publishers need to embrace to reinvigorate circulation. He cites an example:

“You’re seated at your flight’s gate at O’Hare. Across from you are two casually dressed men of similar age. One is reading the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. The other is scrolling and clicking on his iPhone. If you had to bet, which one are you more certain is a person of substance? Which one would you ask to watch your kid while you run to the restroom?”

“Print is positive,” he maintains. “Digital is iffy.”

So how can we leverage this to raise print subscriptions? He says it comes down to basic marketing, leveraging print’s “insider club” status. He’s got an interesting three-part strategy to engage Millennials and Boomers:

  1. Find a dozen successful readers who demonstrably benefit from your print edition. Share their stories.
  2. Hire a panel of Millennials (Millennials? Yes, Millennials) and Boomers to read and report on their experiences with your print edition for 90 days.
  3. Find and engage key market influencers … politicians, entertainers, athletes… to honestly endorse the print edition.

It’s work; lots of good old fashioned marketing legwork. But it sure sounds better than chasing a future that doesn’t exist.

“Imagine a year from now: One successful Millennial, holding your print edition, says to his employee, ‘Are you still using that iPhone for news? Isn’t it time you graduated to the print edition?”