Where is print heading? What future lies ahead for the newspaper? Is it all over and should I put on a respectable black dress to mourn the inevitable death of the press? These are questions that I have been asking myself for a while now. Last year, I was the Editor-in-Chief of my student paper, The Badger, and was constantly worrying that students weren’t engaging with the print version of the paper and that the end was nigh. Now, in my job at PHD, I have had the privilege of attending talks given by some of the largest names in press and no longer fear that print is a dying medium. Press isn’t dying; it’s just evolving – and that’s okay.
The talks that I went to were given by Trinity Mirror, The Metro and The Guardian; an eclectic mix of papers. It wasn’t until after I had attended the three separate talks that I understood that they were all telling me the same thing – press doesn’t fear the Internet, as I had previously thought – in fact, they love it. News is now increasingly both digital and social. Trinity Mirror explained that they have a team dedicated to dealing with the stories that people submit online via social media. They spoke at great length about how the need for digital content has changed what it means to be a journalist. It is not enough just to attend an event and write up the story; the journalists of today must be live-tweeting, live blogging and taking video footage all at once to stay ahead of the game. Audiences want to be fully immersed in the content and experience an event through a variety of mediums, not just the written word. The traditional print readers are still out there, but in order for press titles to compete with each other, they also have to appeal to a wider audience; the people that consume bitesized chunks of information in video and 140 characters or less, the cow-like readers of the world, grazing away at the news. This is why press needs the Internet to stay relevant.
The Guardian also mentioned their love of technology when referring to their mobile app. The average monthly dwell time is two hours and 50 minutes, which is an impressive seven minutes longer than Twitter. The Mirror have nearly 15m Facebook interactions per month, making them the 7th biggest publisher on Facebook and the app for The Metro has an average visiting time of 15 minutes per visitor. These figures amazed me because I had no idea that print titles did so well on other platforms. I only really perceived the internet as a threat to print, but it became clear that the print titles were immensely proud of their digital reach – and rightly so. As a speaker from the Guardian mentioned, we live in a world with infinite content and finite attention and the only way to survive in this world is to make content worth paying attention to. Attention is the real currency here; papers would be nothing if readers didn’t spend time and pay attention.
Lastly, as print and digital fuse together in the evolution of the press, one key fact remains the same: the news never stops. Trinity Mirror explained that they thrive on late submissions and meet several times a day to completely rewrite their news agenda. Similarly, speakers from The Metro added that their Editor-in-Chief sees the paper like a version of the internet that is handed out to the public – it must be a product that people are willing to pay for, but don’t need to in the case of The Metro. Interestingly, very little was said about censorship, with most print titles agreeing that they employ their own kind of censorship by printing articles that fit with their own image. They were all passionate about having the freedom to write and publish the news that they want, which is vital to the survival of press. This is very refreshing to hear as student journalism is not always very flexible, in my experience.
These three talks have taught me a great deal about press. I no longer fear for the future of newspapers and their pending demise at the cruel hand of the internet. Press isn’t dying, it’s just evolving and I, for one, hope that it never stops.
This post was written by Debbie Bachelor, Media Assistant in PHD’s perfomance team. Follow her on Twitter @dbatchelor94